Grief is a funny thing. Initially after losing my Dad (what a silly term – we didn’t mislay him, like a missing phone or a set of keys), we were all in shock. I’m a terrible cryer at the best of times (RSPCA adverts, Cinderella Castle, fireworks, Disney songs, people singing in choirs, people singing Disney songs in choirs, puppies, sad films, stubbed toes…) so the first few days were just basically spent surrounded by a sea of soggy tissues. We would all be okay then one of us would start and set all the others off again. After a while, though, I kind of felt like I was all cried out, and we could think and talk and reminisce about him without as many tears. And then the weirdness set in. I’ve found myself obsessing about teeny, tiny details: exactly what flowers and foliage are going to be in our wreath (pale yellow roses – he loved a bit of yellow – lots of eucalyptus, please, and absolutely none of that frondy asparagus stuff) and – here’s the big one: what do you wear to a funeral? If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll know that we’ve been having chats about it online, and people have been so kind and helpful, giving me all sorts of suggestions (which of course set me off crying again), but I still can’t make my mind up.
I kept a list of some of the weird things that happened (well, I knew I’d want to share it with you), and the weirdest things were – in no particular order:
- There were odd moments, just after I woke up in the morning, when I would forget, and then it would dawn on me that he was gone. Tough one that.
- Similarly, the first time my phone rang and it said ‘DAD – HOME’ and there was a split second when I thought ‘oh, it’s Dad’. Then I remembered. It took me a couple of days to change it.
- Everyone except me seems to be absolutely sure of things he would have wanted, whether that’s sandwiches at the funeral to hymns to burial vs cremation. Maybe it’s just that my memory for details isn’t that great, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to guess the opinion of my living relatives on half the things that have been discussed, let alone the newly dead one.
- I’ve bumped into people I know and been puzzled by their expressions. It’s taken me a minute to work out that it was sympathy, and then another to remember why.
- I like our postie, but for the first couple of weeks I dreaded his arrival. I love that people were kind enough to send cards, but reading their lovely words would make me cry all over again.
- Amongst all these moments of sadness, something silly will happen and we’ll cry with laughter for ten minutes solid. A recent moment of hilarity was with Charlie, when we remembered the time Dad came to dinner and got so drunk, he fell out of the door and cracked a rib. Another was with my brother, discussing how ridiculous it would be for the men in our family (ranging from 5’7 to well over 6′ and pretty clumsy to a one) to carry the coffin together. We literally howled with laughter, tears ran down my face – it’s incredibly cathartic, actually.
- People are extremely kind. I’ve had so many lovely messages from people that I chat to online, from lovely friends in Canada and Orlando, and of course my mates have been amazing, as have my wonderful cousins and my Mum (how weird must it be for her, losing someone with whom she shared so much for so long?). They’ve listened politely (just like you’re doing now) to my grief-induced crazy ranting about yellow trousers (wait for it), sandwiches and eucalyptus and never, ever told me to pull myself together. Not even when they probably should.
- Dogs are incredibly perceptive when you’re upset. Lyra has been cuddled and snuggled and covered in snot and tears and never once tried to wriggle away (especially kind of her since my Dad was furious with me for buying the runt of the litter and once said that she had ‘no redeeming features’).
- I would give anything, anything at all, to experience some of the things he did that used to drive me crackers: his awful shoes, ringing me to tell me something he’d told me ten times already, ringing me to tell me something that he’d seen on the news (that I’d also seen on the news already), ringing me and then spending half the time talking to Allison rather than me, or telling terrible, inappropriate Dad jokes to the waiter when we were out to dinner.
And so, what do you wear to a funeral? It looms large and terrifying and forever away (next Saturday – a burial, and then afterwards at his beloved Cricket Club – and yes there’ll be sandwiches). I think the obsessing about clothes is probably some sort of internal coping mechanism designed to take my mind off my other fears: not being able to keep it together, blowing snot bubbles, that sort of thing. Now you know me, I’m all about the thoughtful spending. I like to buy classics – mostly black, which it seems is fortuitous – so I probably have something I could wear. But then because I want it to feel special, and not like I’m bunging on old clothes, I’m tempted to buy something new. So far, I’ve ordered three or four black dresses from various places but sent them all back: too frumpy, weird slimy material, waaaay too tight (the Christmas chub is still in evidence and I refuse to go up a dress size), you name it. Every one has been wrong for some reason. Then my friend Erica suggested black trousers and I realise I don’t actually own a pair. But then I saw a gorgeous pair of yellow trousers in Next (I know, but he was fond of yellow), and I thought paired with a black polo neck and some black boots, plus my black teddy bear coat, they would be nice, and I’d wear them again in a cheery, thoughtful way, not in a depressing, ‘funeral clothes’ way. It could work, or I could look like a wasp. Either way, I’ll let you know.