Cemetery Gates

Dad, circa 1968

I visited my Dad’s grave alone for the first time last week. It wasn’t something I specifically went out of my way to do … I just felt compelled to go there one cold morning.

I had just dropped Hubby off at his new place of employment and had nothing on my own work schedule until a 12:00 pm meeting. And since I had been in Chicago, I hadn’t had a chance to visit Dad for the past two weeks.

I don’t know what the “etiquette” (if there is one)** for how often one should visit a loved one’s gravesite. I’ve never had to deal with a direct relative’s (let alone a parent) passing before; never had a relative buried in close proximity to where we lived.

The closest experience I had to losing someone I felt incredibly close to was well over 20 years ago. And when I look back now, I have to believe that being part of my Godmother‘s journey — especially that last year when I was a Senior in High School — is what pushed me to believe I could make a good nurse. Or at the very least, she taught me to be compassionate in the midst of pain and sorrow.

After her passing, my Mom and I made it a point to visit her at least once a month. But as I had started university that fall, I must admit that the visits started to become more scarce. In fact, the last time I visited her grave was 11 years ago during the funeral of another close family friend. Even after all those years of not visiting my Godmother, I couldn’t help but open those floodgates once I saw her gravestone.

Hubby clears a path to Dad ...

Since my Dad’s passing, I’ve made it a point to try to visit him once a week. Usually it’s on a Sunday after Mass with my Mom, followed by brunch and a trip out to the cemetery. Regardless of the weather … and believe me, there were those horrible Snow-maggedon days this past winter … I’d be at the cemetery. Hubby even went with me during the three weeks my Mom was in the Philippiness, just so that I wasn’t alone.

It’s now been close to 4 months now, since my Dad died. Every time we’ve been to the cemetery, I still feel the unexpected loss of my Dad. I might not shed a tear when I’m physically there at his grave site (perhaps to appear “strong” in front of my Mom?), but once we’re a distance from the cemetery, I still break down in tears. I still feel the intense sadness I did the first time I visited Dad’s new living quarters; which happened in the dark of night, less than a week after his burial.

This week I believe that I was compelled to go to the cemetery on my own; not because I hadn’t gone in two weeks. But rather, because I wanted to test how strong I could be; if I could survive going at it alone. I wanted to know if I could be strong enough to cry in front of him and still be able to pick myself up and drive away. After all, if it wasn’t for my Hubby during that first late-night visit, I might have spent the night on top of Dad’s grave.

So with a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee in my hand (it was 20-some degrees outside at 8:30 am, after all), I walked from my car to Dad’s grave. I told him some funny stories and told him how much I missed him. And I cried. And cried. And cried.

Afterwards, I picked myself up, said a few prayers, and walked back to my car. I sat in the car for a bit, warming myself up and drying my face off from my frozen tears. And after a few minutes, I drove away.

So now I know: I am strong enough to go to the cemetery on my own. However, I also know that I’m still raw inside; I’m still tender around my heart.

And I wonder if it’s ever going to go away***.


** What do you think, oh Internets? Anybody who has had experience in losing a parent … how often did you visit them in the beginning? And …

*** Will the intensity of how I feel right now ever go away?


One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands. EVER.

5 Replies to “Cemetery Gates”

  1. I feel your pain Em..and I’m sorry for your sadness. Though my experience isn’t of losing a parent but rather a son, the pain/sadness takes some time to go away. Wish I could say there was a set amount of time, but there just isn’t…and does it truly go away?-not completely, It just won’t hurt as much and the tears will be present but less frequent. Each of us has to grieve in our own way.
    For me, in retrospective, I dealt with the loss silently. I was angry and sad at the same time that Liam was taken away too early from us. At 4months, he didn’t even saw the outside of the hospital. Sigh. Anyways, I’m ok now and am able to talk about it..but when it happened, I can’t say for sure. It just did one.
    I do keep one picture of Liam, the way I wanted to remember him, with a blue rosary surrounding the frame. We would visit him at the cemetary every chance we get, but mostly on the important days to us. So I don’t think there really is a set rule of how many times you visit a loved one at the cemetary. It’s what you feel and decide.
    Losing a loved one is never easy, for sure, but know you have others to lean on to help you through. Sending hugs…

  2. Hi,

    I happened upon your blog while reading an old post from Luna on her journey through infertility treatments to adoption. That is where I am now. I am currently in the midst of a chemical pregnancy after having transferred a chromosomally normal embyro. I am crushed and I was looking for blogs of people who’ve been through it. We are considering adoption and this latest happening seems to be what will propel me forward.

    So, somehow I got to your blog (from your name link in one of your posts on her blog), and now I KNOW THE EXACT REASON FOR MY SEARCHING THIS MORNING!!!

  3. Oh dear….must have hit a key that posted my post too early….anyway….here’s the reason….

    I lost my Dad tragically 5 years ago. He and I were so very close and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of him. I still seek his advice and his love from Above. I also go to the cemetary sometimes and you know, you make me think that today may be the perfect day to go, considering the state I am in. I also have a poem in a frame that I have attached at his grave, but it fell off…I need to get there to put it back on.

    I just wanted to share my experience with you. When I was early on in my grieving as you are, I was physically sick. I had chest pains for over 4 weeks. I couldn’t breathe well. I stayed out of work for 3 weeks. I didn’t call anyone back. DH and I moved in with my Mom and my brother was there, too. My Aunt stayed a week or so to help us. She cooked and cleaned and did the basic things that you just cannot do when you are that deeply devistated. I bet you know exactly what I mean. As time went on, I was able to learn how to live with the grief. I read 3-4 books on grieving a loss like that because I wanted to know what I was getting myself into (I recommend this for you). There are several stages of grieving. You are in the first, maybe getting into the second stage. All I can say is that it will get better with time, and only with time. There is no other cure. You can’t force yourself to feel a certain way. You will breakdown when you least expect it and will be surprisingly strong when you least expect it. You will be able to smile again and you will have fun and won’t feel guilty. You will continue talking to your Dad as you do now. You will always wish he were there even for a day. I have dreams of my Dad (and recently posted about it briefly) that make me think he really is watching me and guiding me from above.

    I am so sorry for your loss. Keep visiting the grave if that makes you feel best. Keep talking to him. Not everyone can truly feel that they’ve been blessed with such a supportive, caring Dad. We have to really cherish that and be thankful that we were lucky enough to have them in our lives.

    Wishing you peace and love!

  4. I can only speak from the perspective of a parent who lost a child. It’s almost 13 years later & we still visit our daughter at the cemetery every week. Aside from being away on vacation & bad weather, we’ve rarely missed a week. It used to be unbearably sad. I don’t cry very often there any more, just on significant “anniversary” dates, Mother’s Day, etc. I know some people find it strange/sad that we still go every week, all these years later.

    I still cry every time I visit my grandparents’ grave. But I’ve only been there a few times since they both passed away (1998 & 1999).

    Dh lost his mother in 1982, when he was 25. She’s buried in a cemetery in the city. It’s about a half-hour drive from here but while we visit Katie every week (& I know he visits by himself sometimes when he’s home by himself), he rarely, rarely visits his mom, even though he knows I’d be happy to go with him any time. I think he just finds it too unbearably sad — although why he can happily visit our daughter every week & never want to go to his mother, I don’t know.

    I guess the point is, everyone has their own comfort level — & it may change over time. You’ll find yours, eventually. (((HUGS)))

  5. I visit my mom every mother’s day. My grandparents are right by her. She found comfort visiting them and I visit all of them because of her. It has been almost 11 years and I still miss her everyday. It gets easier as time goes on, but not less sad. I hope you get comfort from visiting him.

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