The Beast of Grief
My father passed away 7.5 years ago, but there is not a day that I do not miss him. This is especially true around the holidays.
Me and my dad.
If you pause for a moment and think of someone you miss, who comes to mind? Or when you smell a scent, hear a song or find an image that makes your heart trigger your eyes to weep, is there one person that comes to mind? Or do a series of loved ones lost flood your heart like a montage?
It has been 7.5 years since my Dad passed away. There is still not a day that I do not want him to be with me. The way he made me feel unconditional love and challenged me is still on the front of my heart.
There is guilt that comes with still feeling grief. This year alone I have countless friends who have had miscarriages, lost a child, lost a parent, a friend and someone who changed their World. I feel guilt that they are in the raw stage of their grief, and I am still dealing with mine. Yet this is why I am writing this piece. Grief is not spoken about often. To me, grief is the beast that sneaks up when you least expect it. Grief is the silent monster that will forever be around.
With the holidays approaching, it triggers something with missing my Dad. I want him to be here to see my girls. It would be the most priceless image to see them run into his arms. My Dad was a big guy. He could no doubt carry my girls around at the same time. Something that they request from me daily.
My Dad was the person in my life who was selfless with me. I knew 24 hours a day I could call and ask him for anything. If I was celebrating a milestone, he was literally giddy out of excitement. When I messed up I still always knew I was loved. My Dad listened to me. We shared the same gift of having huge hearts. He painted my toes, let me paint his toes. My Dad would hug me while I cried. Or when I would request pizza on Thanksgiving because I do not like turkey. He always was available even if he had a day filled with work and volunteering. Oh, and he did have a wife and two other kids he adored as well.
In regards to my Dad I feel like this is my second life of grief. The long story short is that my Dad died after a battle with depression and addiction. Growing up I hands-down had the best Dad for me. He worked hard, listened, always made me feel endless love, and I always knew he would be there for me. If you met my Dad you would not doubt walk away having a better day. He loved people, life and football. But things did change. He got lost in the terrible addiction of prescription drugs. It was ironic to be part of the large statistics of families who have lost people from this addiction. Growing up, if you would have asked if that could ever be my reality, I would have walked away from that conversation. This is why I am on my second life of grief. When my Dad was suffering on Earth, he was not himself anymore. Our lives were changed in every aspect, none of which were for the better. In that stage of grief, I made many mistakes. I hurt people. Now looking back I would give anything to apologize to anyone that I unintentionally hurt. I was in survival mode. My mission was to try to save my Dad and family while maintaining a path to have a future.
Once my Dad passed away, I started the second life of grief. This is the life of grief I will be in for the rest of my life. He passed away before turning 49. Having a young Dad, I always thought, "This is going to be amazing. I get to have him around longer." Now that time has passed, when people lose loved ones it instantly brings tears to my life. I want to hug them and tell each of them the pain is so raw for them now. But the rawness goes away. Still, no matter what, there is always an emotional part that will be there.
I know I am one of the lucky ones. To support my grief I have one fierce tribe. They supported me and my family when we lost it all. Friends and family helped guide us to a path of hope and success. Some people stopped talking to me when my Dad died. My Dad had hurt them with his addiction. It stings when I think of those people. How did they not realize that I am the daughter and not the person who hurt you? And my Dad had an illness that people do not like to talk about. I hope they never feel the pain I felt.
This year I had two friends of my Dad approach me. I ran into each of them in random cases. One of these friends knew my Dad had a problem, the other did not. What both of these friends provided me was some grace. They opened their hearts to me and said they prayed for us every night. And through everything, they still miss my Dad. Thank you both for sharing with me.
If you are dealing with the first holiday season of losing a loved one, I am sending you endless love, hugs and tissues. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need someone to hear you. Never feel like you are alone.
Here are my tips for grief based on what I have learned thus far:
Keep sharing about your loved one. People at first may give you an odd look and feel uncomfortable. But when they experience a major loss, they will then realize how awesome it feels to keep that loved one's memory alive.
Share your memories of a passed loved one with the person grieving. When someone asks about my Dad or shares a memory, it brings more joy than I can ever express.
Give yourself a break. There will be days you act out of character or are extra emotional. Let it all out. Do not hold it in.
Create a new tradition that is in honor of your loved one. This does not need to be a holiday tradition. It can be any time of the year.
Notice the little things around you. Often our loved ones are the voices we hear when we fall asleep. And the signs of beauty on Earth. They remind us that our loved ones are always with us.
This holiday season I plan to celebrate life and love. Thank you to my village. The one who allows me to share memories of my Dad and provides one awesome example to my girls.
Dad, may you enjoy some pecan pie while you watch Christmas Vacation. We all love and miss you. Especially me, your baby duck.