Not long after my Dad's death a person I'm not very close to said, "You seem to be handling it well." I don't know what she meant by that, I certainly didn't ask, but what I took from it was that I wasn't acting like someone who had just experienced a great loss. Quite honestly, I wanted to punch her in the nose and scream, "what do you know about how I'm handling this? You don't know me; you don't know anything about how I'm feeling or what I'm going through!" But what came out was, "I am right now." Because in that moment, in the company of a relative stranger, I WAS handling it well. It's the mind's protective strategy, I think - to only let in a little grief at a time in those first weeks. There were times when I was so consumed with sadness that I almost couldn't breathe, and other moments that nothing really felt different. Maybe it was just denial.
Becoming a mother made me much less judgmental. I don't think I was super judgmental before that, but now? Well, unless you're putting your child in legitimate danger, there's no judgment here. Why? Because I don't know you. I don't know your situation, the kind of day you've had, what your life is like. I think I'm a good Mom, I certainly try, but there are also plenty of times that the way I handle certain situations is less than perfect, and I wouldn't want anyone judging me in those moments. No one is perfect. If I see a parent struggling with a child now, rather than judging, I sympathize, and offer help if I can.
And if being a mother made me less judgmental, losing my Dad has made me kinder. Why? Because you never know who or what someone else has lost. Last December, to a stranger, I seemed fine. I didn't have a special badge or signal that let people know my Dad had died. We all know people who have lost Moms, Dads, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, children, unborn babies. Still others who have lost jobs or homes.
You wouldn't know it just looking at them. You wouldn't know unless they told you. So I choose to err on the side of kindness. I try to be more patient, more understanding. I try to smile more, help more, connect more. Because I'd rather be kind to someone suffering than add to their misery. I'd rather help than hurt.
Losing my dad was devastating, especially while pregnant with a child he'd never meet, but I choose to be grateful for the time I did have. I choose to focus on the moments and memories that exist instead of lamenting the ones that never will. I miss my Dad terribly, I always will, and of course I'll always wish I'd had more time with him, but in the words of John Lubbock, "What we see depends mainly on what we look for."
Instead of looking for darkness, I choose light. Instead of hurt, I choose kindness.