We were forbidden from moping and instructed to wear bright colours to his funeral. This is what he told his sons, my ‘brothers from another mother’ before he died, shockingly quickly, from cancer. To say we’d lost a family friend just didn’t cover it. My sister and I and our ‘brothers’ had adopted each other after spending our teenage years hanging out for hours at each others’ houses and dancing the weekends away in the indie and rock clubs in our seaside town. His prohibition on grief and dark colours seemed brave, optimistic and strong. To me now, it seems typically Irish, corresponding perfectly with attitudes from my biological family.
‘Life goes on.’
‘What can you do? We just have to get on with it.’
While this attitude ensures that you can survive the toughest times, grief and heartache, it also fails to prepare you for the future. When, months down the line, after coping incredibly well, you inexplicably feel sad and angry, crying every day for a week with no reason. You start to question yourself, wondering if you are going mad because you do not know what to do with the anger that has crept up on you and tapped you on the shoulder. If, by some miracle of self-awareness you realise the root of your tears, you feel guilty and ask yourself “Who am I to cry? He wasn’t my father. What about his widow and sons? Imagine how they feel.” And that brings on the flood.
It’s a strange, new experience for me, to feel guilt about grieving. For some reason, I feel that I do not deserve to grieve; it is not my place. ‘Getting on with life’ may get you past the worst of the initial shock, but it doesn’t get you over the loss. Somehow, we have to do that for ourselves. I have long agreed with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam: The sorrow grows bigger when the sorrow’s denied. I think, almost four months later, I am through the worst of it. I still indulge my tears when they leak, as long as I am not at work, and try not to feel guilty for feeling sad.
This is all I can do; that, and get on with life. We have to go on living.