7 years ago my father died after a second bout of cancer.
From time to time the question of dealing with death, living with grief comes up – usually, after someone experiences loss of their own. I get asked how I’ve dealt with grief, how I lived through it, and my honest answer “I didn’t” baffles everyone.
Most assume I simply wasn’t there, so wasn’t severely impacted – that easily could have been true, as my father lived in Khabarovsk and I live in St.Petersburg since 2003 – but this wasn’t the case. I was there.
I went to Khabarovsk in late 2014 to take stock of the situation, visit doctors with him, prepare documents for future estate management if prognosis would be bad. Prognosis was bad – there were no treatments left to try, my father’s health was rapidly deteriorating.
I went back to St.Petersburg to deal with my own life in preparation for putting everything on hold for my return to Khabarovsk, this time with trip duration completely unknown, and then came back once again, to stay till the end. I stayed a month, administered painkillers, spoon-fed my father, walked his dog, waited and watched him slip into oblivion. I was there for 4 days during which I cleaned up his apartment by myself – tossing everything unusable, packing everything worth preserving to be hauled away. Then I was there for the funeral preparation and the sombre event itself. I was there.
But… Then I came back to St.Petersburg and it’s like this distance – all those 7000km between cities – exists in my mind too.
7000km and 7 hours of time difference made communication tricky ever since I moved here.
You can’t just go and visit – tickets are expensive, flight time is impressive.
You can’t just pick up your phone and make a call – there’s time difference you need to account for.
You learn to live with that distance and lack of communication no longer hampers your relationships with anyone – you are prepared to pick up right where you left everything, no matter how much time has passed.
My father’s death, in my mind, is no different than this distance, that existed between us before for 12 years.
I can’t call or visit – so really nothing has changed, it’s like he moved away too, and this is NORMAL for me.
This perception only lifts during moments, for which I know that my father would have tried to be there in person.
So, I’m set to experience grief during those milestone events: weddings, funerals, birth of kids…
Small bouts of acute understanding that he’s dead, and not just somewhere across the world with limited connectivity and this will make for some ugly crying in future for certain.
But that’s not all.
This works both ways.
I myself died a little for everyone I knew, when I moved across country.