Friday, July 10, 2015

The G word...

Hello, world....


What is it? The ugliest thing a human being can ever go through. I thought I knew grief before. I thought I would never feel more heartache and sadness than I felt last spring. I thought wrong.

In the 31 days now since my dad passed away I've been pushed into denial, dread, depression, rage, pain, woe, regret, bitterness, anxiety, confusion, panic, dismay, apathy, sorrow, anguish, disappointment, emptiness, resentment, fear, yearning, envy, jealousy, helplessness, loneliness, betrayal, sadness, rejection, relief (what?!) hurt and distrust. That is essentially everything tangled together in that ball. Have you any idea how completely and utterly exhausting it is to experience all of those things over the course of 31 days?! It's maddening, especially when all of those feelings are so far outside of your norm. That's not to say that I feel those things 24/7 because I don't, thank God, but several of them I cycle through on a daily basis.

I'll say it again, grief is ugly. It's nasty. It doesn't care who you are. It hits you harder than anything you can comprehend. You can choose to let it take you over and work through it, or you can ignore it and hope it goes away. The thing about grief is that you can only keep it at bay for so long. The longer you ignore it, the harder it becomes to deal with. Grief shows you who you really are, what and who matters most in your life, which as you're going through it can feel like both a blessing and curse.

In his Book Don't Take My Grief Away, Doug Manning described grief as feeling like this:
"Right now your chest hurts--the numbness has worn off and real pain has replaced it. You wonder if you will ever be well again. A thousand questions flood your mind. A thousand hurts pop up every day. Every day you find a new thing to cause memories and bring tears. You find it hard to sleep. The awful loneliness seems to be there every moment of every day. The finality of death leaves a hollow feeling all over your body. Loneliness comes in only one size-- Extra Large. "

I would add to that that it's a feeling like your world is spinning out of control. No matter how much I know or believe about death and eternal life in Heaven through my beliefs in Christ, right now, it doesn't help my pain or sadness. It doesn't stop the sometimes all consuming pain that rushes through my entire being. It doesn't stop the nausea that I battle all day long and have for 31 days now. It doesn't help me sleep any better at night. Regardless of the fact that I know I will see my daddy again someday, the fact is that I will likely live another 50-60 years without him. That devastates me. It sickens me. It angers me.

When my dad died, dreams I've had since I was a little girl died, too. I read something earlier this week that talked about grieving for all that is lost, which includes the future. I've had multiple people comment to me that I need to not focus on those dreams, implying that dreams and plans fail anyways. When I was 8 and thought my dad would die any day, I suppose I started having anticipatory grief then. He wasn't supposed to live another 21 years like he did. I spent 21 years thinking he would die every single time he got sick, with every single heart attack or bad test result. My biggest dreams have always been that I would be a wife and mother someday, a wife like my grandmother was, and a mother like my own. Within those dreams were ones that my daddy would walk me down the aisle to my husband, that he would hold my babies and watch them grow for as long as he could. Those dreams died with him. I will never have that.

Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, disappointment and sadness have all hit me hard because of that. I love my sister more than I could ever express but I'm jealous that she has those memories to hold onto for the rest of her life and I'll never have them. I resent and feel anger towards people who insist that my dad will still be there with me for those events, especially if they are already married and/or have children. And then I feel  bad for feeling that way but I can't help it. It feels like a slap in the face for people who still have their fathers and got to experience those things with them (or even for those who have lost their fathers later in their lives and experienced those things) to say that to me. I want to yell at all of them "Tell me how you would feel if the roles were reversed!!" Of course, I don't. I grieve for the things in the future I so badly wanted to share with my daddy and telling me he will be there in spirit does not help me.

I've seen lists of things you shouldn't say to someone who is grieving and most of them are spot on. I am so tired of being asked "How are you?" Earlier this week I had an exchange with someone who I hadn't spoken with since four days after my dad died. I was asked "Well, are you feeling better?" Immediately I felt enraged. I actually said, "You mean am I feeling better about the fact that my dad is dead than I did the last time we spoke, four days after he died? No. I don't feel better."What I've come to learn is that people who have never lost a parent think there is a timetable for grief, that you should feel better within x amount of days. Just because I'm not curled up in a ball, in my bed all day every day crying doesn't mean that I'm not absolutely heartbroken. I go to work every day. I laugh and I smile often through the day (thanks, H). I go out with friends a couple of times a week now. I manage, but a part of me is broken. That doesn't mean that I want or need to be fixed either.

I've been told by several people that I should be stronger for this reason or that reason. I've been told that crying won't help. I've been told too many times to count "I understand", again by people who have not lost a parent, which means they do not understand, in fact, they cannot even come close to understanding.

I generally don't know how to tell people to stop asking me seemingly stupid questions right now. I don't know how to tell people that I would rather them not try to make me feel better because inevitably, more often than not it makes me feel worse. I get that people don't like to see other people sad or hurting, and that it often makes them feel inadequate. However, there is no magic word or phrase that anyone can throw at me to make me feel better. What makes me feel better is simply talking to me and letting me cry if that's what I need at that moment. Talking about things that don't relate to losing my dad at all, doing something fun even just for a little while to distract me helps.

In her book, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler Ross says "The reality is you will grieve forever. You will not "get over" the loss of your loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to be the same." Life doesn't stop just because my dad is gone. Day to day, my life looks pretty much the same as it did the day before he died. Inside of me though everything has seemingly changed.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Truly, no two people can grieve in the same way. For some it takes much longer than others to get through. Some people need to talk about it, some people don't. Some people need to be left alone and some don't ever want to be alone. Grief comes in waves and it has so many different facets that I learn more about every day. I've read several books now about grief and from what I've experienced for myself in these 31 very long days is that you do have to acknowledge your pain and your grief in order to start to heal. Some days I cry a lot, some I cry only a little. Some days I laugh a lot, some days I can't imagine finding anything funny. But I talk about all of it because there is a healing power in words.

I miss my dad. I miss him more than I ever knew it was possible to miss another person. I miss his laugh. I miss his smile. I miss his corny jokes. I miss his posts, comments and likes on facebook. When I'm in my hometown and I wake up in the morning, it takes me roughly an hour to garner up the strength to walk out into the living room and not see him, and even then, I still cry because it seems so unreal. I miss hearing him say "I love you, Sweetie" or "I love your face". God, I miss that. I miss the jokes we would make about my mom being left-handed. I miss talking about the Cardinals with him. I miss telling him funny stories. I miss calling him in the morning on my way to work just because. Every fiber of my being misses him.

Grief. It's ugly. It's all consuming. It makes the most unselfish people the most self-absorbed and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. You just have to let it happen.


  1. Yes...all of this. I lost my mum over a decade ago now, and my dear mum-in-law this past winter. The pain is raw and real with every passing. xoxo

  2. I'm so sorry to hear of your losses, as well.