The Second Time My Dad Died

Michele Merritt
9 min readDec 11, 2020

A eulogy for the both of us

All day, my stomach did somersaults. I couldn’t even go for a jog because my intestines would not allow it. A familiar, creeping, unnamed anxiety washed over me, and as usual, I tried to drown out its empty voice with wine later that night.

There is always a reason why our bodies protest our own existence like this.

I awoke the next morning with the news in an email from my uncle, the subject line reading, “Your Dad.” The body of the text, I hardly recall reading, except the first sentence, “Andy passed away yesterday.” The juxtaposition of the subject line indicating a person possessed by me — my father — and the first sentence, which referred to him as the stranger he had been to me for 39 years of my life, were all I could focus on in that moment. Andy, my biological father, whose last name I had only learned 11 months ago, whom I had only ever spoken to 10 months ago, and whom I had searched for my whole life, was gone. Again.

“Well, that explains my weird anxiety yesterday,” I thought.

As Bessel Van Der Kolk reminds us, The Body Keeps the Score.

Van Der Kolk forgot to mention in that book, however, that the body predicts the score, too.

Still lying in bed when I read my uncle’s message, I silently wept while my partner slept beside me. Two minutes later, I was up, preparing for the day, trying to shove it all down until it was an acceptable hour to drink more wine.

The façade only lasted so long. My partner and my children — even my 18-month-old — can see right through me when I’m sad. When I could no longer hold back the deep stabbing pain in my chest, I lost myself entirely for a good three days. It was a dark, tear-filled, and wine-drenched three days until I finally emerged and could begin processing. It’s now been nearly two months, and I suspect I shall be processing for the rest of my time on this planet.

Three days was incidentally the length of time between when my labor with my first child began and the time he was born. Like all the feelings I had bottled up my whole life and the true self I had hidden behind so many clever disguises, my son was stuck inside me and was not coming out without a fight. Once he did, it released the…

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Michele Merritt

Philosophy professor. Adoptee. Advocate. Activist. Marathon swimmer. Cheese consumer. I write about dogs a lot. michelemerritt.com