My notes on grief

Teju Adeyinka
3 min readMay 21, 2024

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I knew I wanted to write something today. It started as a painstaking account of the day I learned of my dad’s death, but that was difficult, and so I let it go. Writing can be challenging and painful memories make it even more so. I considered writing about how my mum and I held on to each other in the middle of the night after he was buried. About that hug that felt like an unspoken acknowledgement that while our house was filled with family and friends, we were alone. Unique in our grief — mine as his only child, hers as his only wife. I abandoned that also because I kept procrastinating making the time to write it.

So, I decided to write something that feels much easier and in a format that I’ve come to enjoy writing in — a list of my notes on grieving one’s parent. The last time I read someone else’s notes on grief, I closed it in annoyance and jealousy. They had gotten to do things with their father that I would give almost anything to have done with mine. So, I apologise in advance if this brings up similar feelings for you. Unfortunately, life is unfair and grief is unfair and we have to play the cards we’re dealt.

  1. It does get easier. Or at least, it has for me. My grief has felt less raw to the touch over time. At first, everything triggered deep pain for me — Father’s Day, birthdays, emails, textbooks, spreadsheets, scents — everything. While the pain still exists when I’m triggered, over the last nine years, fewer things have become triggers. The first few years were objectively the hardest.
  2. It hits you in stages. I remember realising with fresh shock months after he died that my kids wouldn’t meet him — I’m not sure what I thought before then.
  3. Find all the pictures, videos, voice messages, texts and pieces of media, and save them immediately in a secure, accessible place. Digitise physical copies of media and make them easily searchable. I wish I had done this much earlier.
  4. Forgetting specific things about them as time goes on is normal. It hurts like hell and evokes guilt, but it is normal. Hence, point 3.
  5. Don’t give in to “they would have wanted you to…” as a guilt trip tactic from others. For one, there’s no way to truly know what exactly they’d have wanted in the specific situation. And two, even if they did want it, it’s fine to disagree with them — their absence isn’t veto power.
  6. Like others who got to build relationships with their parents into adulthood, you’ll eventually discover and realise different ways in which they were imperfect. Unlike others, you will not get to hear their side of the story. Make your peace with it and know that the halo you’re intent on fitting on them isn’t human anyway.
  7. People aren’t more entitled to grief than you because they ‘knew them for much longer’. Your relationship with them was likely unique. It deserves its own place of honour.
  8. It might take a while, but you’ll probably find a lot of joy in learning about them from people — siblings, parents, friends, co-workers — who knew them in other contexts.
  9. Sometimes you have an experience that make you feel like death is truly not the end. Like your loved one is simply on another plain and the physical barrier is a joke. They are few and far between for me, but I hold on to them with all my heart. I don’t try to make sense of them with anyone. They’re mine to hold and cherish.

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