My father had been sick for years. There were lots of times when he was almost on the brink of death, but pulled through because he was a fighter like that; I get that spirit from him. He finally passed away the day after Thanksgiving, which ended my holiday and post-vacation high.
I was never a daddy’s girl, but we had a relationship. It wasn’t the best relationship, but I loved him and I know he loved me. He’d been to graduations and recitals, and visited me at home. We’d spoken on the phone from time to time, but I wasn’t as close to him as a daughter should be to her father. Based on that information, most might assume that his death didn’t affect me, but it did.
The mistake that my husband made was not recognizing when I was grieving and what I needed from him to make life easier. Losing a parent is traumatic. It’s inevitable for most people and I don’t wish that pain on anyone, but such is life. After I got the news, I sat on my sister-in-law’s bed and cried, and Mr. Rocque walked in on me. I cried off and on for most of that day and the following day, and couldn’t really talk about how he passed without getting choked up. Grief is strange that way. You can be fine one instant and on the brink of a meltdown five minutes later all because someone looked at you.
I appeared to be fine after the first couple days of tears, but only because the grief hadn’t really settled in yet. And then there was the memorial service.
I thought I’d be done mourning after the service, but again, grief works on its own time. I don’t like to be hugged when I’m sad. I prefer space, but I still need assurance that the people around me will be delicate. I need to know that they will try to understand my mood swings and understand that any distance that I create isn’t personal. I created distance between my husband and I because I was still sorting out my feelings (and he left me too much alone).
We continued on our normal routine and he didn’t check up on me to see if I was okay. All I would have needed was a verbal, “How are you feeling?” I didn’t get that because he assumed I was fine—due to the nature of my relationship with my father—and because I pretended to be okay.
Meanwhile, I was experiencing several emotions at once. Anger, because we could and should have had a better relationship; sadness, because it will never happen; gratitude, because I have learned invaluable lessons from my father; relief, because he’s no longer suffering; and sadness all over again.
Then I had the day where I couldn’t function at all. That day was layover from a night I spent crying instead of sleeping, and Mr. Rocque didn’t seem responsive. In hindsight, I found out that he didn’t know how to handle it. Because while he understands what it’s like to have a complicated relationship with his father, he doesn’t understand how it feels to lose a parent. And it’s like, what do you say to someone outside of the cliché “my condolences” in that situation?
I felt abandoned and alone and it caused me to be angry with him. Eventually we talked and smoothed things over, and I’m confident he has a better grip on how to deal with me in future similar situations. And I hope I’ve learned how to deal with him when he gets to that path. This was another test of who we are as a couple and I think we passed.
What I’m doing now to take care of myself is keeping busy with my passions and working on setting up therapy (with the encouragement of Mr. Rocque). My message here is that it’s important to take care of yourself if you find yourself in this situation, and for those on Mr. Rocque’s end, don’t underestimate how much your spouse is hurting. Check in with them and find out what they need. Communication is key.
Mr. and Mrs. Rocque are the couple formerly known as Anslem Samuel and Starrene Rhett, Chicago-based journalists who found love in between bylines. Follow the newlyweds’ musings of a marriage in progress here, on Twitter and via their joint blog.