This post stirred my heart today and inspired me to write about the same subject. It's called "The Necessity of Forgetting (Or: Losing a Father)" by Jane Friedman.
I never met my father and yet he's been a distant character hovering at the edges of my life. I've wondered about him and wished I could know him, especially when my mother would tell me, "You're just like your father!" I would wonder what he was like, how am I like him? Then, several years ago, I reunited with my family on my father's side. I got to meet all the people who knew him intimately and loved him. I found out he died when I was only eight. The loss, even though I never met him, was staggering. I visited his grave with my aunts and saw where he has his final rest. It's on a beautiful hill overlooking the small Colorado town of Wray. It's a peaceful spot. When I stood over his grave, tears filled my eyes. The inscription read, "A Friend to All." I am so happy now that my mother said I'm like him. He was kind, loving and people were drawn to him. It makes me proud to call myself his daughter.
I learned that loss is something you can experience even when you didn't have personal knowledge of the thing you've lost. Maybe you only had a whiff of it, maybe just a dream of it. But, when it's gone, you will still experience loss. Just like Jane Friedman said in her post. She only knew her father until she was 12, but his passing has affected her entire life. How we deal with loss is a personal thing. A reader commented that she has to cry for days before she can pick herself up and move on. Others are more outwardly stoic, but do they deal with it any better? I'm of the opinion that letting it all out is better for our emotional and maybe even physical health. Bottling it up sounds to me like a pressure cooker. I tend to keep things inside with a stiff upper lip. Maybe I'm like my British ancestors. At times my Italian heritage shows its face and I let it all come out. I'm not as comfortable with that, but I always feel better after.
One thing I do know, loss is a part of life. The better we learn to deal with it, the happier we are. We can't avoid it. We especially can't avoid its effects on our lives. The things we learn from it can enrich us, however. Life is about learning and growing and each piece that adds to that is important, even loss.