I read an article this afternoon that seemed to speak to our experiences of untimely loss, an answer to her repeated plea, "I need my dad." Rabbi Noah Weinberg often said, "When I'm gone, you'll grow up." When our parents die, we have no choice but to stand on our own feet. There's no more leaning against someone, no fall back, no one to tell us how to fix our mistakes or keep us from faltering. This article, written by R. Shraga Simmons for Aish.com, states: "The Talmud says... 'The entire world was created just for me.' We each must be willing to stand up and declare: 'I accept full responsibility for my life.'" But that's hard.
It feels like a secret club, not unlike puberty. Those friends who have already experienced the reaving of self and family that is the loss of matriarch or patriarch are inextricably changed. Those who have not yet run that gauntlet wonder what lies on the other side, but have no wish to find out first hand. The last vestiges of childhood are stripped away: there is no Easter bunny, Santa Claus, or Tooth Fairy, because the most legendary being of all has gone the way of every hamster, fish, and cat we laid to rest in a shoebox. The source of wonder, comfort, and knowledge; the filler of stockings and kisser of boo-boos; the cool hand on a fevered head and bleary-eyed guardian at the kitchen table after curfew.
Losing a parent carries with it extra burdens of grief. We have to parent ourselves. Others look to us for the guidance and unconditional acceptance we've lost. Stepping into Wisdom is painful; when others look up to us we can feel resentment toward our elders for leaving us before we've learned what we think we lack and toward youth for putting us in a position to feel our loss so keenly. We take on the onus of Knowing. It becomes suddenly, terrifyingly clear that those who went before were no more certain of the answers than we are. That's the secret no one tells you: everyone is winging it, all the time.
Stand up, my friend. He's still there, he will always be there inside you. You're not supposed to know what to do right now. All you have to do is breathe and grieve. In time, you'll hear his voice, and you will know exactly what to do. Right now, know that I love you. Know that you're not alone. We're all growing up together.