I've been grieving for a while, and it seems like everyone expects me to be okay by now. I'm not.
“What’s wrong?” One of my friends looked at me, concerned.
I wanted to say: “What isn’t wrong? My dad is dead. Like, dead, dead! How can anything be right?” I didn’t though. Instead, I said:
“I’m not sure what’s wrong. I think it’s just a random sad moment. I’ll get over it soon.”
That wasn’t the first time I had done that. Been upset about my dad’s death, had a friend ask what was wrong, and pretend like it was random sadness. And it wasn’t the last time I would, either.
Right after my dad’s death, I felt like my friends expected me to not be okay. When I was upset, they all knew before asking that my dad’s death was upsetting me. It made sense to them that I was still really upset, and because of that I felt like I could talk to them about my grief whenever I was upset.
Now, though, it seems like everyone expects me to be fine.
It’s been quite some time since my dad has died. I’ve had multiple birthdays, holidays, important school milestones, and more. Before I knew a lot about grief, I would’ve thought that I would be okay by now. That I’d just miss my dad occasionally and be fine 99% of the time. That’s not the case, though.
I miss my dad every single day. There are days that I still feel as bad as I did right after his death. Grief feels overwhelming at times for me. Even though I’ve realized that grief lasts a lot longer and is a lot harder than I had thought before his death, I feel like my friends haven’t. And because of that, I feel like I can’t admit how hard grief still is.
It seems like a lot of people expect me to be fine now. While I know that is a very unrealistic expectation for me, I still start to think sometimes that I should be fine now. This feeling makes me tell my friends that it’s just random sadness instead of grief, because I know they may not understand how hard grief is, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t still be grieving so much.
Here’s what I’ve learned: I’m still grieving. I’m still upset. And that’s okay.
Grief doesn’t just vanish one morning when you wake up. I’ll grieve my dad for the rest of my life. Yes, that grief will get easier over time, but it’ll still be there. No matter how much I try to hide it, it’ll still be there.
A lot of people don’t get grief. That doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to be fine, though. You don’t have to pretend to be okay to make others feel comfortable. I’ve been working on telling people more that it’s my grief and not just random sadness. I know that a lot of them don’t understand, but the only way they can even partially understand without experiencing grief themselves is if people like me tell them what grief is like.
Don’t be ashamed of your pain. Even if the people around you can’t understand, there are still millions of others around the world who can.
So, next time someone texts me and says, “What’s wrong Natalie?” instead of making up an excuse, I’ll tell them the truth.
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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Korney Violin.