Thursday, May 3, 2018

Some grief truth bombs

I feel like I need to address something. This maybe should be one of those things that I keep private but I just worked 14 hours, I’m feeling tired and spunky. So forgive me for how this may come across.

I don’t have kids. And I know the responsibilities, worries, schedules, etc that come with having kids are incredibly tricky to manage. I can’t pretend to say I understand, or that I know all about it, or that what I’m going through compares to life with kids because frankly, I won’t know until I do have kids.  And also, my friends with kids are my heroes. I look up to them so much, because I know they are giving their all to those little humans.

But here’s the thing. I may not have kids, but I have an incredibly busy, demanding, and emotional draining schedule right now that leaves little “free time”. My one hour st the gym is usually my only hour dedicate solely to my own thoughts. Otherwise, I’m either working, getting errands done, or helping my mom. I am not complaining about helping her. Truthfully I love spending time with her and when we finish doing her laundry and cleaning her dishes I love to just sit with her. She’s one of the best things in my life right now and I love how our relationship is growing.

But, all that being said, I am balancing a very busy job, helping my mom, taking care of my own house, being a newlywed, and oh yeah- grieving the loss of my favorite person on this planet. I feel like I am walking up a mountain with a backpack full of the heaviest rocks you can imagine. All I can possibly do is take one tiny step forward and try to hold on so I don’t fall back. 

The loss of my dad is something I think about every single day. I want to call him to talk to him about all that’s going on in my life. I want to hear his voice. I want to hear a dumb dad joke. I want him back, with us, where he belongs. But he’s not here and I have to accept that, and get through that, every day. Sometimes I wonder if people think that because we knew my dad was so sick and because at the end we were praying for him to let go and make it to Heaven that maybe his death isn’t as tough. No. That’s not how it works. He’s still gone, and truly nothing could have prepared me for that feeling. And yes, I was praying for his suffering to be over. But thinking of that makes me feel guilty, and angry at myself, which just adds to the grief. So yeah, I’m still really sad. 

Something that I am not sure other people think about is that all of this happened just weeks after tom and I got married. Our “newlywed” phase has been one that meant I was away for days at a time to help my parents, and when I was home I was in bed, in a dark room, trying to find a little peace. Once my dad passed away, it wasn’t exactly like I could just jump in and say “okay, that’s done, time to get back to married life!”. Nope. It’s been really, really hard. I feel we’ve been a little cheated in the newlywed department. So when you ask me when we’re having kids, I get defensive. Let us live. We need like a minute or two, Please.

I don’t know what the future holds for Tom and I but I know I picked an amazing partner to walk through life with. He’s been so understanding and supportive of my family and of the person I am. I know my dad loved him too, and that brings me great pride. 

Please know that I get that everyone is going through hard things. I want to thank my coworkers who listen to me talk about my dad and tell the same stories over and over. This grief thing can be very isolating, but you all make me feel a little less alone.

I’m going to end this now, pray that I didn’t upset anyone with my honesty, and crawl into bed. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dear Dad

Dear Dad;
I am missing you big time today. So many people have told me that grief comes in waves. If that’s true, today’s waves were the kind that take you down with them, swoop you under the water so that you can barely breathe. It would have been a Red Flag warning on the beach in Fort Walton, for sure. As I sat in my cancer committee meeting I thought of you, and got this pang in my chest of missing you. After I saw the memorial for Laurence I so badly wanted to call you to tell you about it. As I sat in a talk on fighting for cancer treatment fairness I thought of you and your fight, and how I wish you could be sitting next to me in those types of talks. I also had a deep desire to know if I am making you proud. I just want to hear you say those words again. Then, I got a phone call from one of the hospital staff that I work with and he said “I sent you a note...” that’s what you used to say! You always said note in reference to an email or a text. I found myself starting to tear up just hearing the word note! When I got to my workout class I tried to see if I had any old voicemails from you just so I could hear your voice again, talking to me. I don’t. I do have the last text you ever sent me, which is your response to me saying “love you”. Your answer was “right back atcha”.

I just miss you, dad. I miss your hugs and encouragement, I even miss your silly jokes and puns. I miss telling you about my day, making you dinner, taking you to church. Maureen recently said that she finds herself wanting to tell everyone about you. I didn’t realize it until she said it, but Ive been doing the same thing. It’s important for me to tell your story. I want people to know what a wonderful dad and human you were. You were truly the greatest.

I have recently found myself having a very deep desire for connecting to others. Finding common ground. I’m not sure if it’s from your influence, or feeling something missing in my life, but I have been wanting to find and connect with people like I never had before. You were such a natural at that. I’m not so natural. But I’m trying.

I mentioned earlier that I want to make you proud. I want to be as kind and fair as you were. I want to make people feel as welcomed and loved as you made them feel. I want to fight hard because you fight like hell. I want to stand tall, breathe in your confidence and compassion and put it back into the world.

I know there will be more days like this, where I’ll miss you so much it hurts. And I know you’re here with me, but that doesn’t always take away the hurt. So I will carry your spirit with me as best I can and be ever so grateful that I was lucky enough to have you as a dad.

Love you.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Get some Sleep

Last night, as I started to head up the stairs of my sister's house to go to sleep, I heard myself yell "goodnight, get some sleep!" to the dog.

I told a dog to get some sleep.

He's a dog.

He sleeps on and off all day.

I started to wonder why I said that. I must need some sleep. I'm loopy.


It's the exact sentiment I used to say to my dad when I would stay at their house when he was in hospice. I would pray with him or give him his medicine or give him some yogurt, and then tiredly march up the stairs and say "get some sleep", knowing it would only be a few hours until one of us checked on him again.

It is the moments like that where the grief overcomes me. Where my heart begins to ache again. Where I remember that he is missing.

And those are the moments that I hate. But I have learned from my grief group that they are inevitable and that they are healing, as hurtful as they can be. So I soak up those moments. I use it as time to think about my dad, to be grateful for my dad, to talk to him. I know he’s listening to me and that he is here with me. In the craziness and busyness of life, it’s rare I get moments of silence to reflect. So perhaps these painful moments are actually little nudges.

Grief is similar to the cancer itself in that it is uncontrollable and unpredictable. There is no set path, checklist, or map. Grief is messy. It is surprising and it is lonely. It is an invisible load I carry with me daily. It is a balance beam. It comes at you fast and engulfs you, before you get a chance to catch your breath. Grief is giving me a thirst for faith, a longing for empathy, a cry for compassion. My grief wants to be seen and yet hidden. Grief is painful. But with all of these, comes gratitude. I know that the pain I feel is a representation of how deeply I loved my dad, and the very important role he played in our family. I am mighty lucky to have someone like him to miss.

Get some sleep, dad, for I am sure your duties in Heaven are exhausting. I love you and miss you so much.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Grief is lonely

I am on a tightrope, taking one tiny step at a time. My legs are wobbling and I am holding my breath, hoping it will steady me just enough that I don't fall down.

I am somewhere in between wanting to be human and show my grief to wanting to hide my emotions and carry on as if nothing has happened. I am stuck between wanting to yell "don't you know my dad has died?" and wanting to yell "please don't ask me about my dad". I am riding the line between wanting to be surrounded by people to wanting to be in hiding.

I never knew it was going to be like this. I never knew that my emotions, wants, and needs to drastically change from one moment to the next.

I did not realize how lonely grief could be. I knew that it could be painful and sad. I knew that it would challenge me to not turn to food for comfort. But I did not realize the loneliness.

It is not that I am completely alone, and it is certainly not that I am the only one grieving. All of us are hurting. It's just that I am not living side by side with my mom or my siblings every day. Plus, grief is personal. We're all feeling different things, at different times. So even though I am not "alone", I am lonely. And I know I will not find a person on this earth who is feeling exactly the same way that I am.

No one is telling me to "move on" or "get over it". But LIFE is telling me to move on and get over it. I HAVE to keep going. That's where it gets difficult and frustrating- that there is no pause. I sometimes feel as though I am acting in a movie, pretending as though everything is just fine. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job and that has not changed. But having to be "on" all the time, when I don't want to be, is exhausting. And it's not just at work. It's at the grocery store, the gym, church. I feel like people are looking to me to be okay, and I hate putting people in awkward situations, so I try to just put a smile on, muster up all my positive energy, and forge through.

Everything I've read says to not be afraid to ask for help. But I hate shedding the burden of my grief onto others. It feels super awkward to text my friends and say "hey, I'm super lonely! fyi!". Especially when my friends are going through their own challenges. It also feels weird to say to a coworker "I'm having a rough day today, I may not be my best". I know that those are things I CAN say, I just don't feel like I should.

And so I start to look for ways to help to heal. I listen to music and podcasts, I go to the gym, I try to eat healthy (have to work on that a bit). I make jokes, I write thank you cards, I look for activities like yoga and prayer services that might quiet my mind. I spend time with my husband. I call my mom. I talk out loud to my dad, knowing that he can hear me. But still, I cry. I hurt. And then, it repeats.

I don't think there will be any one single thing that heals me, and I need to remember that. I think it might get easier, but with hard days mixed in. There will be no magic potion or no spectacular yoga class that will suddenly bring clarity and healing and take away the sadness.

Instead, I will continue on the tightrope. I will dip here and there, I will find highs and I will have lows.

And I will know that when I do fall, there will be people down below to catch me, and to get me back up on the tightrope. It may not be the same people every time. It may not even be the people I would expect it to be. But there are people there, because I am not alone. I feel lonely, but I am not alone.

And I have hope.