My uncle died recently. It was a very sudden cancer diagnosis, and then just like that, he was gone. I would say he was a “distant relative,” but I knew him. I wish I could be there with my family in America for the funeral, but there is no money and no time for grief. I think my company perhaps gives grieving leave (I haven’t checked) but I think that’s only for immediate family and needing to leave the country.
My uncle was a good grandfather to my cousins. He had a sense of humor I really couldn’t quite get, honestly. I chuck it up to a generational gap and non-familiarity, since he lived states away when I was growing up in Kentucky. I’d been to his house in Oklahoma more than once when I got older. We had a big family gathering there once, the typical Southern way of playing games and eating WAY too much food.
I like to respect him by remembering him fondly. Although, it feels wrong of me to grieve, being so far away? Having not seen him in years? But I do feel bad for my aunt and uncle losing someone, along with my mother who will be attending the funeral. I wish I at least had the money to send flowers, somehow.
These kinds of griefs are hard to explain, because I’ve had a few over here. Second year into the JET Program, Gabby -the family dog back home in the U.S.- died. I was very glad I went back home for Christmas so I could see her one last time. Jack, my mom’s cat, died around or before that same time.
It all hurt, but there was nothing I could do except tell my Mom, “I’m so so sorry you’re going through this.” Because she was really there dealing with it all, while I was miles away in a foreign country.
It feels wrong of me to mourn when everyone else is there, actually having to deal with the funerals and arrangements. I know, logically, that’s not the healthy way of thinking about it, and that these feelings are all valid.
I guess though that means my guilt for being abroad when things like deaths in the family happen is also valid, too. I don’t want to make it about me, because I’m not even there. Does that make sense? And I really just want to be there to support the people I love who are hurting more than me, no doubt. So I just don’t say much of anything about my own grief, because it really feels so small and insignificant in comparison to someone who just lost someone right there. What kind of asshole monster would I be if I said anything?
Also, sometimes my grief is a bit ridiculous. When my mom decided to move out to Oklahoma permanently, and the house I lived in for most of my life was put on market. Even though I was only going to visit that place once a year, it cut deep to think I’d never see it again.
I got over it, eventually, but I still have these dreams of being in my old room sometimes. Not all of these dreams are super fantastically detailed, but I wake up feeling like I left something behind. It’s a strange disconnect for a few seconds until I remember, oh right, it’s not there anymore. Well, physically it is, but I can never go back to it.
A lot of grief disconnects, and then has to get reconnected for me. Before my uncle, there was actually another loss I really haven’t processed, and maybe I never will. A friend from high school died, and once again, there was nothing I could do but send Facebook message condolences. I couldn’t believe it, still kind of can’t. I still see her in my mind’s eye as someone alive, smiling, laughing.
Once again, we hadn’t seen each other in years. I liked her a lot in high school, though. She and I had a very similar sense of humor, and she was one of the people I could just talk to easily. It was a small school, a small town, we grew up together. But we weren’t super best friends, too, and I’m not family. Again, this grief feels wrong to have when I am disconnected in so many ways.
But I remember staying after school with her, and we roamed the empty halls just talking and laughing about things. I remember how we both complained about a certain teacher, and we couldn’t wait to get out of high school. There are things I’m going to look back at now and have to remind myself that she’s really gone. It feels impossible, somehow.
In the past, I have lost other people, but these recent ones came right on top of each other without a year’s break in between like the others. I lost another uncle about a year ago, and he was a lovely man who bought me literally the best beer I’d ever beer I’d ever had in my life. An ex-boyfriend from university died in a car crash. I had bought him a Japanese manga version of BLEACH for him. It’s still on my bookshelf.
All of it happened, and they are all gone. Grieving is different for everyone, I know, and for me each grief carries its own set of a different sort of aching when I think about them. My latent Christianity hopes that everyone is alright, blessed and at peace where they belong. I pray that all my family members find their own closure, that everyone gets through it with the support and love they need. I do what I can from far off, but it never feels like much or even near enough.
The best I feel I can do is honor the memories I have and carry them with me. I don’t know what to do with the grief that accompanies them and when it hits me at the strangest times, but I’ll carry it all along anyway. And perhaps if I share a little bit of what I’m feeling maybe that’ll make it a little easier. Maybe one day I’ll be a little more emotionally mature, and I can properly process how I feel.
Until then, I’ll just remember them all fondly, with love.