When I was in my third year of medical school, my Dad asked me to feel a lump in his armpit. Seven months later, he died of the melanoma that had metastasized from a tiny mole on his arm.
Surviving my Dad's death was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I wrote about it here once, in the part of the blog that was lost in the great purge, and I described it as being like walking around without skin. Everything hurt. I made it through my last two years of medical school only thanks to some very supportive friends and terror at the thought of not matching to a residency program.
And then my Dad was gone and medical school was over, and I thought that I had left grief behind. I didn't think of him often; I could talk to patients about death without crying; and I started to feel happy again. (Or, as happy as a neurotic first-year Internal Medicine resident is capable of feeling.) I was moving on, and grief wasn't coming with me.
Until it did. When I matched to fellowship, I grieved the fact that my father would never know what specialty I had gone into. When I started dating my first girlfriend, I grieved the fact that he would never see me dating a woman, even though he'd reached a tenuous peace with me being bisexual. And then again, in the middle of my last and longest relationship, I grieved that my girlfriend would never get to see firsthand how much I am a clone of my father.
I have been surprised over the past eight years to realize that grief never goes away. It lies dormant for a while, sometimes long enough that I can forget it was ever there, but it inevitably returns, each time just as painful as when it was fresh. Every time it comes back feels like a surprise hit to the chest, knocking the breath from my body.
The same thing is happening right now with the semi-recent end of my relationship. A few weeks ago, I found myself humming happily at work, and I distinctly remember thinking about how nice it was to be so happy. I was even going to write a smug blog post about how good life was and how bloody happy I was, but I was enjoying my happiness too much to bother.
And then my ex-girlfriend started dating again.
And posted pictures of her new girlfriend on Facebook.
And now I feel like I'm 14 instead of 40, because I am hurting over my ex-girlfriend's social media activities. I am supposed to be over her, and yet I find myself barely able to drag myself through the day. I cry on my drive into work, because I have to pass the coffee shop where we waited while we got winter tires, followed by the restaurant to which we took her friends from Egypt to try schnitzel. Grief redux.
And it is completely irrational, because there is no part of me that wants to go back to the relationship. It's not even that I want her to not date, because I do want her to date and to be happy. I'm not a horrible person wishing misery on her just so that I won't be miserable. And yet, I am sad. Horribly, inexplicably, unexpectedly sad.
And I can't even drink, because I'm still on call for eight more days.