I Say I’m Fine, But The Truth Is Grief Has Changed My Whole Life

June 2, 2022 will mark the second anniversary of my father’s death. I think I can – rather, I want to – admit now that I still haven’t processed his death. I haven’t grieved yet. Properly.

For me, it is difficult to do things that don’t come with a manual – one of the reasons why I haven’t learned cooking yet and why I learned to drive so late. I’m scared to death of doing something wrong. I hate people pointing out my mistakes. If I’m not good at something, I won’t do it. It’s as simple as that. But that’s not how life works.

My dad had blood cancer. We found out in 2017. I remember when my mom told me over the phone. “Myelofibrosis” she had said. I didn’t know what it was. I googled it and all I could see was the word cancer written in different font styles and sizes across the internet. It broke my heart. I didn’t eat anything the whole day and kept crying. I remember my dad calling me and saying that it was fine, that it was nothing. The man had just been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and it was as if he didn’t even care; he held a strong front for his family because if he broke down, none of us stood a chance.

It was a four-year long battle. Multiple stays at the hospital, sometimes even a month long at a time; visits and consultations with different experts in various parts of the country; all through agonising pain. He never gave up, even when he knew there was no way out.

I guess I get that from him, that deliberate need to be strong and sensible in times when you know nobody else will. That’s why, as soon as I found out about his death, I wanted to know what there was to be done. Everything follows procedure, some procedures just happen to be sad. I drove my family to our ancestral village – more than 500 kilometres from where we lived at the time, almost a six-hour drive. In my 22 years of existence, I’d only been there once before, also for a funeral.

To go further into the story, I would like to establish that I’m a little weird. I like asking things that aren’t generally asked. Not because I find them amusing but simply because I want to know things. Every time I asked a person if they’d seen a dead body, I never imagined that the first one I’d ever see would be my father’s. There are a million heartbreaking things that happen to you in life, but losing a parent is a million times worse than any of those things.

Never had I felt worse about being a daughter than I felt at my dad’s cremation. I couldn’t be there with him for the last rites and I couldn’t light his pyre. I wasn’t a part of any ritual and I couldn’t even be there when his ashes – the last of his being – were being spread across the holy Ganga. Never has my religion or my country made me feel worse about being born a daughter. Never have I ever felt more worthless.

But this isn’t about that. This is about my grief. How for the last two years, I’ve only lived in denial, saying that I’m fine and that I’ve moved on. The truth is, I’m still stuck in that year, that month, that day and that hour. That drive from home to the hospital. Could I have done something?

I usually wouldn’t admit this, but I miss my father every single day. I miss his advice. There is nobody else I would rather go to. For me, he was the wisest man on the planet, and now he’s gone. The strongest man I knew is gone, and with him, he’s taken away hope.

Grief is a funny thing. There is no cap on how long the process will last. There is no method to the process. To each his own. Personally, I am a hoarder. It is impossible for me to get rid of cardboard boxes and paper bags and old photographs and text messages from people who aren’t even in my life anymore, so it is only fair that I hoard memories too – both good and bad. I’m like an infant who just won’t open her fist, afraid to let go of the air inside.

This grief has made it hard for me to live. It’s made it harder for me to be loved. It’s made me afraid that anything bad could befall the people I love, and it’s made me believe that I am the only one who can save them. In 2022, I hope I can overcome all of this and be the person that my dad would’ve wanted me to be.

I miss you.