In Which I Deal with Death Doubled
This week my essay on grief was published on Modern Loss, an online journal containing resources and personal accounts about death, loss, and grief. It’s a piece I’m proud of, and I’m delighted it was published, but it’s also a piece that causes such turmoil in me.
So, a little background. In 1997, a little over a year after the CEO and I married, my father died. My father was a man who exuded joy, radiated kindly intelligence, and adored people. My memories of childhood stories, and perhaps my ability to tell a story, come largely from him and my sister. I remember sitting on his lap, while he told stories of his own childhood. I have a vault of carefully curated tales, of when the kulam in the yard at his family home would be treated yearly with iodine, turning it purple, of when he captured a squirrel then tamed it and kept it in his pocket as he went to school, of the snake worship rituals practiced by people in the village, of his college days protesting unfairness and playing hooky, of his wide-eyed wonder when he first left India, of his learning “proper” English pronunciation of words from the phonetic guides in the Unabridged Random House English Dictionary, of his bachelor-days’ adventures hunting, fishing, and crabbing, of meeting my mother for the first time, of teaching in the prisons in Brunei. So many stories play on a continuous reel in my head, narrated in his sonorous voice, punctuated by his booming laugh.
He was a man who managed to connect with all four of his deeply individual and very different children, in meaningful ways. When he died, he left a gaping father-shaped hole in all our lives. Over the years, we have each picked and worried at the edges of that hole, missing him in our own ways, mourning his loss and celebrating his life.
The impact of his passing was magnified for me. I was pregnant at the time. My first pregnancy. I didn’t know. When I found out, there were already extenuating circumstances that made seeing that pregnancy through untenable. We decided to terminate the pregnancy. This is something the CEO and I have discussed with our children. We have always felt that shielding them from grief, from difficult decisions and circumstances, doesn’t teach them resilience or coping skills. We don’t tell them everything in our lives, because, well, they’re our children, and children shouldn’t know everything in their parents’ lives. But this was one of the things we believed they needed to know.
However, we didn’t, at the time, or afterwards, ever discuss my pregnancy, or our decision with either of our families. It’s a decision we took, and we live with. The CEO has reconciled it better than I, and I live with the complex emotions of that choice, and others, every day. For the last week I have stewed over whether to announce my essay, or not. Now feels like the right time. This feels like the right place.