Today would have been my Dad’s 55th birthday.
Sometimes it gets very hard to be thankful always in the past tense. My heart hurts so much it’s hard to breath and reality starts to get a little mixed up. I start remembering great things from the past and suddenly I find myself looking forward to the future…then there’s this horrible, wrenching shock when I have to remind my heart and mind that that will not be the future.
There will be a future–but that won’t ever be part of it. I keep thinking (hoping?!) that one day that shock will be less…the horrible, wrenching grief will be easier…the crash back to reality a little softer…but I’m not there yet. A lot of people think that it takes time to get over your grief–they say things like “It hasn’t been very long, I wouldn’t be over it by now either.” Or “give yourself time, everyone handles it differently.”
My experience has been that that is a terrible misunderstanding.
As if one day this is going to be easier. Less painful. Over.
I’m no expert, but I think people mix up learning how to cope and function with actually ceasing to grieve. We all face situations that bring us grief. We have to lean how to function…how to put the grief to the side at times and carry on…how to be ok and not be immobilized by the pain. But I don’t know that we ever “get over it” or “move on” or “finish” grieving.
Perhaps if we changed the dialogue of grief…
…If we helped those grieving to see that they don’t have to stop at some point and magically “be ok,” they simply have to learn to cope with it…
…If we put grief in context and gave it room in our lives as long as it didn’t take over…
…If it was ok to just be sad today without needing a reason or explanation or an “anniversary” on the calendar to define it…
…If we could just admit that grief and joy can co-exist!
Culturally we accept the idea of “bittersweet” in parenthood, but we struggle to accept applying that across the board. I think maybe grief feels so lonely because it’d hard to express the conflicting but simultaneous emotions.
I have no problem with counseling or medication if it’s needed. None! If you’re grieving and it’s taking over your life and you find yourself unable to fathom why you would even get out of the bed in the morning and the whole world seems to have lost all colors and your living in an empty gray landscape–go talk to someone! I did–and it was a big part of me facing the fact that I wasn’t coping and then learning how to cope.
But the fact is that tragic, traumatic grief colors everything. Forever. And instead of telling people they’ll be ok one day and they just need to get through this…instead of building false hope and indulging destructive behaviors because of the expectation that it will pass when they “stop grieving” we need to say “this is your new reality, how can we be here for you while you learn to face it?”
Grief can be a dark and dangerous place and feeling like you’re going crazy because you can’t get over it is an endless downward spiral.
I will be forever thankful that Mr. Fix-It went to counseling with me. Because of that, today I can write about how terribly, terribly sad I am–and how very, very thankful I am.
How thankful I am for the father I had. How thankful I am that he was tough as nails, steady as a rock, and warm as a handmade afghan. He was a wall of truth that I could crash into as a foolish child and never crumble. He was rough grit sandpaper to smooth out my mistakes. He was polish and cloth to an inexperienced, book-hungry mind. He was hope in the face of nothing. He was survival in the face of anything. He was King Arthur, always in pursuit of justice, yet knowing there is a peace only to be found on the other side of war, and ruthless in defense of his own Camelot.
I am thankful for the Cowboy’s clear, ice-blue eyes. They remind me of him.
I am thankful for the Ladybug’s unabashed, quirky sense of matching clothes. It reminds me of him.
I am thankful for Speedracer’s current love of all things football. He would have enjoyed that.
And I am thankful for Mr. Fix-It and the times he says, “Your Dad would have a fit if he saw you do that!” Because it means he’s still part of our lives.
Sometimes you have to dig deep to find gratitude, but there it is.
What are you thankful for this week?
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