Grief is complicated. What if you miss the relationship that could have been? What if your relationship was not easy? It’s hard to put into words, this taboo side of complicated grief.
Most of my blog posts I paint a picture of how great my dad was. And how much I miss him. And how grateful I am for the values he taught me. While this is all very true, the dark and taboo side of this complicated grief is missing the dad and the grandpa that I wished he was.
It’s hard to write about this. But it’s also a side of grief that needs to be said. Because those suffering with this type of taboo feeling shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.
I’ve talked about all that my dad was, now I want to talk about what he was not. He was not affectionate. No hugs ever happened in my family growing up. Maybe a soft, tense hug when leaving family we would visit once a year. He was not a happy person by nature. He would never ask how my day was or what I did that day at school. He always grumbled about work and politics. His blood pressure was high because of all the yelling at the tv over politics or the stress from work. We was so moody. He had no patience. He did not play with his grandkids. Honestly, I don’t think he knew how to form a bond with them, sort of like how it was hard to form a bond with his own kids.
Bonding. That was hard for my dad to do. He didn’t know how. He didn’t have any examples of what it’s like to bond with your children. He didn’t have any good father role models growing up. The ones he did have, weren’t in his life much or just didn’t want to be bothered. So when I came along 12 years after my sister, I think he wanted to change that bonding experience. My dad worked nights when my sister was young, so it was hard to build a relationship. I realize that the bonding he did with me was maybe not normal. I laugh when I think about it. We bonded over reloading bullets at a young age. We bonded over shooting in the desert. We bonded over working on cars. Even though I cherished those times we had together, those were things HE loved. He didn’t try and understand what I might like or what my hobbies were. But he tried to bond with me regardless.
The point here is not to tell a story of all the things my dad didn’t do. We all have things we don’t do or wish we could do. It’s just who we are. It’s hard to change the generational chains of trauma when it’s engraved in us. It’s learned traits from our childhood. I struggle as an adult with things I learned as a child. My dad taught me, by example, to be impatient. To be negative. To be angry. To stress over things I can’t control.
One of the most important things we can do in our grief journey is to learn forgiveness and how to incorporate that into our lives. It’s an ongoing process. I have to intentionally forgive my dad for all the things I wished he did for me. But I will continually praise him for his efforts. He was present, and he tried.
Everyone is on their own journey in life. We will never be good enough for other people. And that is ok! Love yourself, love your journey, and keep trying!
Do I wish my dad was different? Do I wish we had a better relationship? Yes I do wish those things. But I am still so grateful for him.
So that’s the thing. Give people credit for trying. Are you struggling with a family relationship? Work on forgiveness. Check your expectations. Are they too high? Having high expectations put on any relationship (friends, family, spouse, kids, coworkers….) will just leave you with sorrow. We are human and we are trying. Some days are better than others. Give each other grace.
I used to grieve all the things my dad wasn’t. I expected him to be a fun grandpa who would play with my kids, take them places, read to them. But he wasn’t. Did he try, even if it was just him pushing them on the swing? Yes! He tried and that’s what matters. So don’t get angry at others when they aren’t doing good enough in your eyes. I have a strong testimony that my dad in Heaven is free to be who he really wanted to be. How do I know this? While visiting the temple, I had a vision that my dad was laughing and playing with his grandchild. A grandchild that wasn’t able to be born on this Earth. He was holding her and laughing, looking back at me saying, ‘I’ve got this. I am taking care of her’. ❤️❤️