Life has brought me into a new season. A five letter word. A season of grief.
Previously, I have experienced loss in several capacities. I’ve said good-bye to my grandfather, and watched my childhood friend say good-bye to her father when he lost his five year battle with cancer three years ago.
Never have I experienced, however, the crippling shock that results from loss on a deeply personal level. When I received the call that my dad had passed unexpectedly, the first thing that came into my mind was the song lyric from Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.” Well, maybe not the first thing. But these words were certainly rolling around in the mess of thoughts and emotions that flooded my brain.
Luhrmann says, “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday.”
For me, it wasn’t a Tuesday. It was a Friday, and it was 3 pm.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last few weeks, talking about death, loss, and grief can make people feel pretty uncertain. I know this is about them, and not about me. However, it doesn’t feel great to watch how your own pain makes others twinge in discomfort, or inspire fear in how they, too, could experience such an event. Grandparents, those we expect to lose. Not your dad, at the age of 58, when he was seemingly healthy the night before.
As the weeks and months move forward without my dad, and I continue to process this change in my life, it is not my intention to make others uncomfortable or to be seeking sympathy.
Rather, I choose to dwell on the fact that stories of shared experience bring me comfort. Over the past few weeks I have had several people share with me that they, too, have lost their parents unexpectedly. Co-workers and high school classmates have shared their hearts and insights as to how they have moved forward to survive without their loved ones. And so I am choosing to share tid-bits of my experience here. Maybe my experience can bring you some comfort or something to relate to in your own journey. I now know that even in the midst of terrible loss, there is beauty to be found.
Rewind to two weeks ago. Thursday night. I had planned my meals for the week ahead as my mom and dad sat on my couch. We shared glasses of red wine and caught up on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Jotting down what I needed to get at the grocery store on Saturday brought comfort and a small sense of accomplishment in getting ahead on regular tasks.
This damn grocery list has sat on my kitchen table for the last two weeks because with a flood of funeral obligations, family time, and throat-aching sobs, I did not find the time to make it to the store.
Plus, the outpouring of support from our family and friends allowed our freezers to be full of casserole, lasagna, and breakfast burritos. Chores as mundane as grocery shopping quickly fell to the back burner.
However, as we marked the two week anniversary, it became pretty apparent that grocery shopping was necessary. Yet, the list continued to sit on the table. It can be challenging to return to routine after such a shock. At times, the thought of every day life just feels like too much.
On Friday evening, I had the blessing of two girlfriends coming down to join me for a meal out. After eating and drinking and discussing our lives, we decided to skip on dessert and make brownies at home. We had to stop at the store to get a boxed batch of promised, gooey, deliciousness.
Both of my friends insisted on returning to my house to get my list – the neglected reminder of my last night with my dad. I hesitated and said I could manage by myself, later in the weekend, but they insisted. Pissed, I grabbed my grocery bags and got back in the car, quietly feeling scared of undergoing such a task. My dear, gentle friends followed me around the brightly-lit aisles, put items in my cart, and helped me complete one of my first attempts at returning to normalcy.
Because that’s the thing when you lose a loved one – life continues, trash needs to be taken out, and you return to work, but picking out peanut butter can be a gut wrenching experience. The presence of these two women in a King Soopers on a Friday night was the most beautiful example of ‘showing up’ and letting me be me I have witnessed in my experience with grief.
Thank you to my dear, beautiful friends who have shown up in so many ways over the past few weeks. Thank you for wiping my tears, reminding me of love through candles and journals and phone calls with sobs, for bringing us Easter hams, and sending chocolates from across the world. For the cards, the flowers, the sentiments, and the continued communication of love and support as we move forward. Friends are the most beautiful things.
What are your experiences with grief? How have you moved forward? Do you find sharing your stories is comforting, scary, or even allowed?
Katie – my heart is broken for you. I wish I could be there to give you and Dylan a big hug, but instead I’m sending XOXO’s from Atlanta. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories because even in the saddest and most frustrating moments you always seem to find the beauty and grace.
Katie – thank you for sharing. My dad passed yesterday, also at 58, and we’ve know it was coming for 16.5 months. I’m pretty sure I’m still in shock. I kind of dread the funeral part. And I don’t really want to have to return to normal – because the normal can never be what it was. I feel the grief stirring and swelling. I am not alone, as you are not alone. Hugs.