My Journey Through Grief

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 , 16 Comments

I took an unplanned break from blogging in June of this year. Some of you may know that I started this blog around the time that my dad suddenly made his exit from this world. It's been almost two years now, but it still affects me every single day. There was a weird combination of feelings for me when I lost my dad. There was the simultaneous urge to both seize every single moment and make my life count along with the overwhelming depression and inability to do just about anything. There is an emptiness that comes with grief and it seems like nothing you do can fill that emptiness. Yet even in the darkest times, there were moments of profound joy.

I will never forget when two of my closest cousins, whom I call my sisters, came over and went through pictures with me to make a picture board for my dad's funeral. Although I was partly still in shock and denial, the pain that I was trying to deny was all-consuming. Yet, for the brief time of looking through those pictures, we shared a few of the best hours of my life. I felt so alone and empty and like I had lost a piece of myself and my childhood and could never get it back. But, for that short time the three of us spent looking through photos and remembering all of the wonderful times we had long forgotten, I didn't feel so alone and I felt more grateful about the things that had happened rather than sad about the giant, gaping piece of the past that was now missing. For a moment, I forgot that my heart was ripped into pieces and I felt as if my sisters' love and the blessed memories from the past were gluing some of the pieces together, like a shattered vase glued back together where you can see all the broken pieces, but it actually looks a little like a vase again when you ignore all the cracks and glue.

Dealing with this grief has been the most difficult yet most transforming journey I have been on so far. I realized that I couldn't keep doing whatever I was doing because it just wasn't going to work anymore. Things weren't the same. I wasn't the same. I looked for something more meaningful, but with this demon of grief and sometimes debilitating depression weighing me down. Losing someone close to you suddenly makes you realize how little control we have over major things in life. My dad's parents and grandparents did not live a particularly long life and my dad was always worried about dying young himself. I was hoping that he would break the mold. When he died at an even younger age than his parents, it hit me that this could be my fate as well. Yes, I try to take good care of myself, but really you just don't know when your time will be up. This is a fact I have had to face head on over the past couple of years. I do not believe that I will die young, but I can no longer live as though I have an infinite number of days. I have learned that my time could end in the blink of an eye and without any notice. I've also come to realize that, though I still consider myself young, my life is more than half over if I don't outlive my father. I think of the time I have wasted, the hours, days, months doing the same old, same old. I am haunted by the hours in front of the television watching pointless shows, oftentimes shows I did not even like. All of the time I spent checking my facebook newsfeed even when I knew there would be nothing new because I had just checked it. I reflect on all the times I didn't take a walk with my parents when they asked me to, the times when I was with people but I wasn't fully present. So often I was in the middle of a really great experience spending time with people I loved, yet I was focusing on the future or the past. It's so much easier to see how wonderful things were and how much you should have enjoyed those moments when you look back.

The day my dad died and the day before, there was an inner voice screaming at me to go over my parents house and visit, but I did not listen. My logic told me that I would see my parents on the weekend, that I had to get some things done at home and that I didn't want to use too much gas on all of that driving. Although my brain was telling me that visiting didn't make sense, that voice kept getting louder and louder and the feeling kept growing stronger and stronger. I almost felt as if I was going to have a panic attack. A deep sadness had come over me and I couldn't make sense of it. Not listening that that inner knowing was the biggest mistake of my life. If I would have listened, I would have had a chance to say goodbye to my dad. I would have been able to clearly remember the last time I saw him. I would have been able to hug him and tell him I loved him one more time. I can't even say that I was clueless because something told me to do this and I didn't listen. Instead my last words to my dad were 'I'll see ya when I see ya.' Although I can see now how ignoring this inner knowing has taught me one of the greatest lessons in my life, there is a part of me that struggles with regret and this is the #1 regret I have when it comes to my dad. I didn't want to have regrets again when I lost someone I loved.

But then in June this year, my aunt who was truly my second mom passed away and I realized that I had been so wrapped up in dealing with my grief over the loss of my father, that I hadn't spent the time with her that I knew I should have and that I really wanted to. I spent pretty much every day with her when I was growing up, but for the year and a half before her death, I often felt like a ghost or a hollow shell of a person. Instead of really remembering the last Christmas I spent with her, I only remember bits and pieces because I was so overwhelmed with grief and missing my father. I should have appreciated the people I was with rather than thinking about how sad it was that others were missing. I guess that at times like those my brain should have won out over my heart.

There's something tricky about deep grief though. As terrible as it felt, there is a part of the grief that is comforting in the beginning. The pain is the only thing you CAN feel and in this way it is a comfort. It's also the only living, breathing thing you have left of the person who died. The hard thing, though, is that even when you feel you have had enough of the pain and the sadness and you just can't take any more, it's not something that you can just turn off. It hangs around and you feel like it will never go away. In the beginning, people told me that it gets better with time and, though I trusted and believed these people, I could not imagine how this deep sadness could go away or get better. But I hoped. Sometimes I wonder even now if it really does get better, but then I think back on how it was when I couldn't get out of bed and this former health fanatic would only eat vegan brownies and french fries and cry all day long. When I look back, I realize that it really does get better. There will always be bad days when the difficult feelings will overwhelm me, but I keep reminding myself that it gets better.

I was actually really starting to feel like a whole, almost normal person again just a few days before my aunt passed away. I felt like I had a breakthrough and that I could be normal again and be present to those around me. I was sick of having a cloud of sadness and grief over me all the time, but then I lost my sweet aunt. She was one source of unconditional love when I felt like there was so little of it in the world. Although in many ways we were alike, we were also very different in a lot of ways, and this never bothered her. I feel like so many people in life want you to be who they want you to be. She didn't want to be me, but she wanted me to be me and all of my decisions were just fine with her if I was true to myself. It wasn't just me either. She had many nieces and nephews and felt the same way about each and every one of us. She may have tried to guide us as she felt she should at times, but ultimately wanted us to be happy and loved us even if we threw her advice to the wind.

Having this loss occur just at the time when I started to feel like myself again, has forced me to face those old familiar feelings once more. At least this time it is easier. I already know that I am capable of overcoming this, which is something I wasn't sure of when my dad died. I don't just have to put my faith in others who say it will get better even when I don't see how this is possible. I know that it will get better, and just knowing this, has made it better.

I have taken my time to reflect, feel, and spend time with my family during this break and I may have to do it again. I know enough now to know that grief is sort of an unplanned journey you take. You don't always know when it's going to start and once you're on it, the road can suddenly veer off in an unforeseen direction or send you right back to the place where you started just when you thought you had made progress and were somewhere else. Like life, grief is a journey, not a destination and I have learned from my regrets that I wish I would have enjoyed the journey more and not spent so much time thinking about the destination or even the miles I have behind me.

How many times have you wished you focused on the journey rather than the destination, the moments you spent with a loved one that you wished you had really spent with them, not focused on some end goal or thinking of how much better things were before? How many times have you spent thinking of other things and missing what was right in front of you? Soon enough this too will be the past and you might look back upon it wishing you could go back. Your life is now. It's not always easy and you aren't going to be perfect. Maybe you can't be blissed out all the time and that's okay, but if you we make a conscious effort to appreciate the good that is around us, it seems to amplify the goodness and diminish the need for regret.

16 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss of your dad and aunt. I will be sending good thoughts your way.

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    1. Thank you Julie. I really appreciate it!

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  2. I'm very sorry for your losses, and your thoughts are a good reminder for us all to be grateful for the people we care about. When you're ready, I definitely look forward to reading new posts :)

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  3. This is really touching and thank you for sharing :) You're right about appreciating that the good around us is helping to amplify goodness and diminish the need for regret-- that is so well put! Thank you for this reminder which, for me personally, is quite timely.

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    1. Thank you. I was hoping that my experiences could touch someone. I'm glad to know that this is reminder is timely for you. Thank you so much for your comment!

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  4. simply beautiful and so touching love this thank you

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  5. I'm sorry for your losses, you've opened up so much in this post, it truly is heartfelt and I know a lot of people will appreciate your honesty. It also acts as a reminder that we shouldn't take life for granted and we should spend time with our loved ones whether they are friends or family. Thank you for sharing this really puts things into perspective. x

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. Your words mean a lot to me. You're right, loved ones come in different forms and could be family, friends, or even pets. Thank you very much.

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  6. I am so sorry for your losses. Hugs to you and thank you for sharing this.

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  7. I’m so sorry for your losses…thank you for sharing this! I'm happy you are blogging at the moment and look forward to reading your posts! Big hugs!

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  8. I'm so sorry for your loss and your grief. Thank you for sharing.

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