I recently came across an email I wrote to my eighth-grade homeroom teacher several days after my dad died. Retrospectively, I can’t believe I was as open as I was about it. Were I to write the same email today, I would have withheld all of the details and given very little information about how I was actually feeling. Perhaps that’s the product of age, or mistrust, or embarrassment; regardless, at thirteen, I was willing to render myself completely vulnerable and spill the contents of my heart upon the page.
Upon rereading this email, I find many of the messages we here at SLAP’D try to get across written in simple, honest terms. I thought it best to share it with all of you, to give you a glimpse into a first-hand account of the raw emotions of grief. My hope is that some of you will see yourselves in what I wrote, and understand that the feelings you have are normal.
Here are some excerpts to give you a taste:
“As for sympathy, I'm very grateful for all the kindness people have shown towards me, but honestly, it upsets me the most when people make a big drama about it. It freaks me out, so I don't need or expect anything big or emotional from my classmates. However, I'm thankful for anything people do for me, and realize that it's difficult to know what to say to someone going through what I am, so I don't want to pressure other people with criteria and stuff they feel they should cover in approaching me. It's really ok.”
“I can't really explain exactly how I'm feeling right now, nor do I need or expect anybody to ask, but I want you to know that I'm ok, and I'm glad for my dad that he doesn't have to fight anymore. I'm most saddened by the reality that he won't be here to see the play, or to see me with my braces off, or to see me graduate, or get married. I know he'll be there, but like any other human being, I'm disappointed that I won't be able to see or talk to him.”
“It didn't happen as I'd expected it–finding out I mean (because I knew in my heart that this was how it would end). I expected it to be very dramatic, that I'd get a call from the office and my mom would tell me and I'd sob and scream and run back to class and tell everyone. In reality, I was walking down the stairs of the gym, and I saw my mom and brother there, and I knew. Then she told me, and all the air went out of my body, and a single tear went down my cheek, but that was it. I clenched my teeth and nodded. I was expecting it.”
“The pain wasn't like a stab in the heart, but rather like I'd been being punched in the stomach in the same place for a year and a half, and this was the biggest one. It hurt more because it was beating raw flesh, but less because I was so used to the pain.”
“Now it's over, and I have to heal. I'll miss him forever, and I'll love him forever, but to wish he were still here would be selfish, because he was so sick that he could never be the same as he was before. It would be asking him to suffer for even longer.”
“I'm not sure I'd be able to explain this to you in person at school without starting to cry.”