Tag Archive | loss

Moving On

Somewhere, in that space between the loss and the letting go of it, you must feel its whole, heavy, crushing weight.  That’s what grief is. No one prepares you for how heavy that weight is, how hard it is to carry, or how long it will linger in your heart.  But you have to feel it in its entirely, in order to feel the light begin to peek in the cracks on the other side of grief.  It will never go away completely; you will always carry some of it with you.  It changes you, but in time the light will come back and you will see the road forward with new eyes.

My last three years have been largely about grief.  The end of my marriage, a job with a toxic environment, the loss of two beloved cats, and having my life upended by my father’s sudden death.

There were nights I cried myself to sleep, and days I felt so numb that I thought I may never cry again.  I walked with that weight pressing me down, invading every inch of my soul.  I walked even on days when I thought I couldn’t possibly have any more strength.  I lay awake most nights at 3 am, turning over every word, every feeling, every look I had received, trying to make sense of what went wrong.  I did this even when I knew logically that I did the best I could, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, I upheld my end of the deal.  Not perfectly, but I did the best I could.

I lay awake with the weight of knowing that you can’t make somebody else step up to the plate, or keep the promises they made.  Knowing that sometimes you just run into assholes, and kindness won’t make them stop being assholes.  Knowing that sometimes we all get the shitty end of the deal, no matter what we do.  When I did sleep, I had vivid nightmares.  My brain is very, very ruthless. For me sleep came and went, with the insomnia returning with each new trauma.  At some point, the sleepless nights once again became nights where I slept more peacefully.  It creeps up slowly, so you aren’t really sure exactly when it happens.  I still have those nights that I wake up at 3 am and turn over everything in my mind; they are coming less often now though.

The light seeps into the cracks, and you find your smile returning.  Sometimes other people notice it before you realize it’s there.  You find yourself laughing where you faked it before.  You find yourself looking forward to things again, instead of seeing each day as something to be endured.  My road trip helped me immeasurably.  With each mile that I drove, and each place I visited, and each kind person I met along the way, the weight lessened.  My heart lightened.  But time played a part too – and the distance that time creates.

No, it never really truly goes away.  You still have the memories.  The good memories, that bring you joy and peace.  And the bad memories hit you like a gut punch when you least expect it.  They also remind you that you can get through it, as long as you don’t give up.  You change.  The grief will still be a part of you.  But it will no longer define you.  So yes, somewhere, in that space between the loss and the letting go of it, you must feel its whole, heavy, crushing weight – there isn’t any other way.  I’m not quite there yet, but one day, it will feel lighter.

 

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Numbered Days

Grief is a funny thing.  I read somewhere that you don’t work through it; that it works through you.  I read that it is a manifestation of love; there is no grief without love.  That sounds about right.  It comes in waves.  Some days you can feel remarkably alright.  Other days it is all you can do to take a shower and eat enough.  It would be easier if you could have some advance notice on which days would be which.

I never really thought about my dad dying.  I mean, I guess I did, in an abstract sort of way, the way that all adult children know that that their parents won’t live forever.  But not in any real, tangible way.  My grandmother had other heart attacks before the end, and my grandfather had other strokes before the end, so I guess I was just expecting some sort of warning before it came.  I don’t know which is easier, having no warning but knowing he didn’t have to suffer through some long, sad decline – or having the time to get used to the idea, but knowing he was in pain.  And we don’t get to choose…  You just get what you are given…  That doesn’t stop us from going through all the “what-if’s”, does it?

Dad’s service was nice.  “Nice.”  That word we use to describe things that we have no interest in participating in, but no choice but to do.  The pastor asked how many of us would rather be sitting at a wedding instead of Dad’s service, and I counted myself among that group, even though I don’t really like weddings much at all.  But on a scale of weddings or funerals…  I’m not a fan of baby showers either, if you must know the truth… I would rather have been anywhere else though, instead of listening to people talk about him in the past tense.  I’m not ready for the past tense.  Yet another thing about which I have no choice.

“You gave me a forever within the numbered days.”  John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

My Father’s Daughter

I am my father’s daughter.

I have his analytical mind, his skin that resists sunburns, his love of peas and his awkward smile in photographs.  I also have his asthma, his allergies and his appendicitis at the age of 27.  Our eyes both crinkle when we laugh. Just like him, I can save money like nobody’s business. We are both Virgos. Plain yellow mustard is where it is at.  I have his nose and his love of snow, although he loves driving in it and I don’t.

Dad and me in Michigan

 

I was one of those children who grew up with both of my parents, married for my entire life.

We went camping when I was a kid in the maxi-van that was converted into a camper, seeing Yellowstone and taking the ferry up to Alaska before driving back down to the states.  We went to Hawaii when I was 8, and Mexico when I was 9.  Like me, he remembers dates. We spent Christmas in a snowstorm in Michigan the year I was 13.

I was an insomniac at an early age, and my dad would lead me through an exercise of tensing up all my muscles in turn, and then shaking it off, so I could relax enough to fall asleep. He would get up in the middle of the night when I had nightmares, and soothe me back to sleep.  He let me sit on his lap in that big black Naugahyde chair while he watched the evening news and read the paper.

He taught me to play chess, checkers, Chinese checkers and Score Four.

He shared my love of photography.  On a trip to Yellowstone when I was 6 or 7, he let me use the camera to take any picture I wanted.  I couldn’t decide until I found the perfect subject.  An elk carcass.  He never told me no.  I still have that picture.  In high school, he gave me his old SLR camera and showed me how to use the timed exposure to photograph nighttime landscapes.

He cheered at my swim meets and hauled my horses to horse shows, even after he developed allergies to horses.  He caved when I wanted yet another cat, even though we are both allergic to cats. He petted them when we weren’t looking.

We went for bike rides on the weekends.  He and my mom grew a garden and dug potatoes and planted beets because I wanted them, even though neither of them like beets. He loved the corn.

Dad on a bike ride in Michigan

He got up at 5:20 am every day of his working life and made fried eggs for breakfast. In middle school my bus came early so we ate breakfast together in the mornings. I wasn’t allowed to come to the dinner table in my pajamas.

The day my horse was so badly injured when I was 16, he cried with me, and never made me feel badly when I vomited all over the floor of his classic 1968 Cougar.  He bought that Cougar new in 1968.  When I was young we pretended that the map light switch was a turbo thruster.  When I flipped it he would gun the engine up the hill towards home.

He needed routine and spontaneity made him uncomfortable.  I am my father’s daughter, although I am a bit more flexible.  If you needed him to do something, a few days’ notice was ideal.  The teenage years drove him nuts, when I wanted him to drive me somewhere on a moment’s notice.  He liked to do his Sudoku, read the paper, and watch his shows.  Clockwork.

He tried to tutor me on my math homework, even though he could never understand why I just didn’t get how multiplying two imaginary numbers made a real number.  He delighted in solving my extra credit algebra problems in college (you could use any and all methods at your disposal), and even cracked the one with ten variables and ten equations.  I was the only one who came in with the correct answer.  That said, proofreading my English papers was not his thing…

When my mom battled colon cancer 21 years ago, I saw a man who would have been devastated to lose her.  It was the second time I ever saw him cry.

He was proud of me when I got my Bachelor’s degree, even though he didn’t really understand what I would do with a degree in Spanish.  He was proud of me when I got my Master’s degree in business, and relieved that I had decided on something more practical.

In preschool, I sprouted a chestnut seed, and we planted the seedling in the back yard.  When my parents moved away from that house I grew up in when I was 25, and they had to cut down that now big tree, my father had a wood turner make two bowls from its trunk.  He gave me those bowls for Christmas.

He and my mom came to all my parties, met all my friends, and were always kind to them all.  I had the kind of house growing up that my friends wanted to hang out at.

My parents and me at my Aunt Elaine’s

He always made me laugh in those days before caller ID when I called and said, “Hi Dad,” and he responded with “Who’s this?”  I am his only daughter.

My parents and me at my wedding

When I got divorced, he quietly supported me, listening as I ranted and cried and broke.  It was the third time I saw my father cry.

When I told him that I wanted to build a bed in my car and camp in it for several months last summer, he designed a platform bed with legs that swung out of the way to access the storage underneath, and slide out shelves to hold my camp stove.  We took the seats out of my car and we built it together.

Dad and the Car Build

I am now a fatherless daughter.  My dad died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning, February 5.  There is no word to define a daughter who has lost a father, but I now join the ranks of all those other daughters who miss their dads.

Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I am blessed to have had him.  It wasn’t enough time.  It was too soon.

I feel selfish; I got more from my dad than many daughters will ever receive.  But I still wanted more.  I am devastated to know that I may very well live more years without my dad than with him.

My heart is broken.  I will miss you forever, Dad.