We are approaching the four year anniversary of my father’s passing. I haven’t posted here in a while because, well, life has gotten in the way. Weeks have been filled with life; karate practices, meetings, laundry, mowing lawns. You know… life. I rightfully should have been on here posting about all my parenting (mis)adventures, but I haven’t.
I intended for this blog to be an outlet for my observations about life and motherhood. In a way it still is, but it really became a major outlet for me as I navigate(d) my way through the grieving process.
In a nutshell, I’m a bummer and this blog is depressing. There, I said it. The wonderful thing about cyberspace is you can simply click the x in the right upper corner and be done with me… OR you can continue reading.
Usually we associate a four-year period with some sort of graduation. We spend four years in high school and then we graduate. Four years in college and then we graduate. On April 24, it will be four years since we lost my dad. I feel as though I’ve been attending a very depressing school on grief for the past four years, and I’ve completed a graduate degree on how sudden loss changes you.
Since our world, as we knew it, stopped around 3:00pm, Tuesday, April 24, 2012, life has not been the same. That was the day I began my navigating my way through Grief 101.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my family and people in general. Please note, the following epiphanies will be rather cliché.
I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever knew. I’ve learned about the power of prayer. I’ve learned how precious life is. I’ve learned how to be gracious, grateful and compassionate. I’ve learned people are assholes. (well, to be fair, I always knew that, but I really saw the backside of some people over the past four years). I’ve learned how to explain (albeit not very well) death to a very young child. I’ve learned to wonder and appreciate. In essence, I’ve learned a lifetime of lessons over a short period of time I’m grateful for… but I just really wish it didn’t come at the price we paid.
It’s really hard to ignore my dad’s absence at family functions. It’s hard to ignore him not being there to delight in watching his grandson achieve milestones. It’s really hard to watch other people essentially waste opportunities (their choice) knowing how fleeting life is and how, in an instant your world can be turned upside down.
It’s really hard to have sudden waves of sadness and gut wrenching grief wash over you (sometimes in the wee hours of the morning for no reason, or while you’re in the hot dog aisle at the grocery store…weird, I know).
It’s really hard to explain to your spouse, who has never lost a parent that somedays you’re just sad, and that it will pass, but that he really needs to call his parents because, well, he can.
It’s really hard to put on a brave face for your kid when you’re choking back tears knowing his grandfather will never ever see his next big achievement. It’s really hard explaining to that same kid who his grandfather was, because he was so little his only memories are those we’ve planted in his brain.
It’s just really hard.
And what is really hard is letting it all out. After the sympathy cards are sent, no one wants to hear this crap anymore. Sadness makes people uncomfortable. It’s not polite workplace or dinner conversation to talk about how your father had a heart attack and drowned and your poor mother found him and dragged him ashore while trying to revive him. No, that’s not really good party conversation.
It’s hard to pull yourself out of the spiraling hole of grief. I vaguely remember the days and weeks after my dad died. I had a two year old to take care of. I had a job. A house, a husband. I could barely shave my own legs let alone pull myself together to be ‘on’ for other people; but somehow I managed. I’m not sure how. I’m pretty sure it was by the grace of a higher power.
A line from James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” became (and still is) my daily mantra.
“Won’t you look down upon me Jesus, you gotta help me take a stand. You just gotta see me through another day….”
I still cry in the shower. I still get up at 3am and pound out my grief on the keys of my computer writing a post, much like the one you are reading. Those days are fewer and further between, but they’re still there.
The waves still come, but not as frequently. Usually they come around holidays and anniversaries. You know, the typical stuff when families gather. But sometimes they just come.
I delight in getting small signs from the universe that my dad is actually still with us in spirit.
My anger has subsided and I think I’ve moved on to acceptance. But, to be honest, somedays I still get angry. Very angry.
I haven’t ‘finished’ grieving. You never do. But four years ago when people told me it would get easier, it felt like an impossible far away place I would never get to.
I may not be completely there, (and I doubt I will ever be) but I think my point is that things are a little more manageable now. And that, is something I never thought would happen.
Yes, I’m still sad. I still have breakdowns. I still worry about my only living parent. But the past four years have changed me for the better too.
I work harder to appreciate, notice, validate and be kind. I work harder to notice what I’m ‘putting out there’ to the universe. I am gentler in my views, more accepting of what doesn’t agree with me. I am more compassionate toward people who have started on their grief journey and feel compelled to reach out to them, to let them know that yes, they will be ok and yes, it’s ok to cry.
It’s a work in progress. I’m not perfect. My life is not perfect. But I’ve survived four years of life ripping changes.
And for that, I deserve a diploma.