Grief Sucks Part I: The Grief Grammar of “Parents”

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***DISCLAIMER/TRIGGER WARNING*** The “Grief Sucks” series is an ongoing response to my experience of a recent loss. As such, it may contain things that could serve as triggers for people who have also experienced loss. Finally, I respect that there are as many ways to grieve as there are people and I mean no offence to those who process grief differently than I do. Should you choose to stay and read, I ask only to be met with that same basic respect and understanding. 

My father passed away this summer. As my choice to call this “Part I” suggests, I will one day wade into some of those stories, but today I cannot.

For the record, and because I know the writhing global interwebs care passionately about my wellbeing, I am telling the stories when and as I need to. To friends, to my therapist. I’m taking further recommendations for by-donation grief counselling into real consideration. I’m meditating when I can and just reminding myself to take long, slow deep breaths throughout the day. Also, to chew my food properly before I swallow it. I’m exercising regularly. I also take short walks outside almost five days a week because of this awesome pooch pal I walk for my friend. I am finding my way to my journal more. I am maintaining regular forms of human contact which, I must own, has never been my strong suit.

I am beginning to write again.
I am – with loving and brilliant help – building this website which has been my goal for almost a year now.

Ultimately, I am a mess but a healthy kind of mess.
And, the messy issue of the day is the word “parents.”

Say it with me kids: “PARENTS”

It’s a plural noun that one uses rather a lot if one has had the privilege of maintaining fairly close relationships with two parental figures into adulthood.

Now, imagine talking about anything involving both of those parental figures, who in my case did 90% of everything together (don’t romanticize it, please, it wasn’t always a good thing), and when one of those “parents” is now deceased.  By the rules of English (that I tend to break whenever I feel like it and which are often quite ridiculous and fickle) the deceased parent is often supposed to be referred to in the past tense and the living one will still often be referred to in the present tense.

So, every single time I wind my way to saying the word “parents” things get sticky.

I get tripped up on the grammar, for example, because the story does genuinely involve both of them, but one of them is dead and one of them is living and I’m just not sure how to wing out the balance of some sentences because of it…

Any sentence that starts with, for example, “My parents have always prioritized _____ …”

Well, no.

“My parents used to prioritize _____, but now it’s just my Mom because my father has passed away and I have no idea what she will prioritize and I should really check in on her about it because it’s been a couple days and the last time we spoke she couldn’t find another Korean drama to watch…”


“My parents travelled a lot to Europe when they were young.”

Well, yes, they did and that sentence can stand in some ways just as it is.

But, I live now – in the present tense – and in the now my beloved Pops is dead.
So, and here is the heart of the matter, I don’t actually have “parents” anymore.

I have a “parent.”
Singular noun.
No ‘s.’

So “parents” is a one word grief attack.
Over and over and over.

My sister shared with me how someone had thoughtfully, and from experience, warned her that every holiday, every birthday becomes its own fresh wound for a while. And, that makes perfect sense to me.

I just hadn’t realized that one simple word could have the same effect.

I probably should have. Given how I have long felt about power of words.

Oh well.
Mourning is, indeed, a process.
A grammatical mine field?

po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to…

Grief sucks.

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