I’ve been hesitant to blog about real things this week for a couple reasons. Mostly, it’s because my mom and sister read my blog and I don’t want to write anything that upsets them. But it’s also because I don’t really know what to say. My mom and I were having a low little moment yesterday afternoon together on the phone, and we both agreed that it’s hard to talk to people because what exactly do you say? There are only so many times you can say that you’re sad or missing someone before you start to feel like a broken record. I don’t know how many different ways I can say that my heart is broken, and so I’ve just avoided having to say it to people.
The strange thing about grief that my family is finding is that, sometimes, we are able to talk about my dad and his passing and be completely fine. There will be times when I can tell people about what happened, how I feel, how my family is coping, how much I miss him, and not shed a single tear. Occasionally, I’ll even catch myself thinking that I bet I won’t cry again until a major holiday or life event happens without my dad. “I bet I won’t even cry until Thanksgiving,” I’ll think. And then, as quick as that thought enters my mind, the sadness washes over me and with it comes the tears.
The crying of grief is so different than any other kind of crying. They say that mourning hits you in waves, and that could not be a more accurate description. I think of it like sitting in a boat in the middle of the ocean. When a big, giant, rolling wave of sadness comes, you just hunker down and wait until the boat is in smooth waters again before you begin rowing. Fortunately for me, there are a lot of really strong family and friends sitting in my boat with me. And that helps ride those waves more than anything.
The strangest part is when the wave of grief washes past. I will go from being completely calm, even happy, and then all of a sudden I am crying out of nowhere. But the crying only lasts for a few minutes. It is heavy, deep crying that comes from a place in my heart that I’ve never felt before. But as quickly as it begins, the tears stop. They just stop. And I’m fine again. No huffing and puffing, no hiccuping, no sniffling, none of the things I normally do when I’m tapering off tears. With this sadness, it just stops, and I am done. Then, I get up and move on with whatever I was doing before. I guess the sadness just needs to get out, and when it’s purged itself, it’s over. At least for a little while.
Being at work has helped. I am sad when I wake up, always. In fact, as I write this it is 2:30 in the morning, and I woke up thinking about my dad. My first thought is always, “Another day without him.” But my kids bombard me with breakfast requests and morning snuggles, and though I carry that emptiness of my dad with me no matter what I am doing, the kids and Chris give me a reason to pull myself together and move forward. My dad would love that. He hated wallowing. School gives me another reason to keep myself going. Middle school children are unsympathetic (though, in their defense, none of my students know that anything has happened). And so I go through my day talking about my class syllabus and giving writing prompts and getting to know each of them, as you do in the first week of classes. But after I get home and Bean and Gracie are sleeping and the world slows for a bit, the sadness creeps back in for spells. And when that happens, Chris is always right there, holding my hand, reminding me that my dad will always be there with us, and just letting me cry until the wave passes me by.
I’m so grateful that Chris sits in my boat with me.
The hardest part of grief is how real my dad’s memory feels. Sometimes, out of the clear blue, I can hear my dad talking to me. Usually, I hear him say my name. And sometimes I hear him laugh. Or, sometimes, I will stop in my tracks and I can just see him standing there in front of me. And those memories are so vivid. So painfully, wonderfully vivid. My heart aches, and my mind thinks, “Why can’t I see him? Just one more time? Why can’t I talk to him? Just this once?”
As at peace as I am with the timing of his passing (we all keep reminding ourselves that Dad would have made a terrible old man!), the shock of his passing is hard to reconcile yet in my heart. I am not angry at all, I’m just surprised. Still. It’s been over a week. I’ve helped make funeral arrangements. I’ve edited obituaries. I’ve spoken with countless people about his passing. And yet it still shocks me. I must say to Chris a thousand times a day, “I cannot believe my dad died.” I don’t say it through sadness or tears, but in complete shock. How could that be? If my dad isn’t here anymore, then why is the world going on like nothing has happened? With his passing, my entire universe became unbalanced, so how is it possible that people are still walking upright around me, talking about politics and the price of gas and football season?
I cannot believe that my dad died.
And, yet, at the same time, seeing all these people around me walking upright and living happy, normal lives doesn’t mean some of them haven’t experienced loss like mine before. So many friends – real and imaginary – have come forward to share their own stories of grief and loss, and I am finding that I have joined a very private club. And each member of that club has learned to live with that grief in their lives. It doesn’t lessen or go away, but, rather, it seems to become a part of you. And they have all learned to carry that part of them throughout their lives, just as I will learn to do, too.
But until then, I will sit here in my boat, and hold on to my family. I will be thankful for the life that my dad lived, for the love that poured out of him, and for the happiness that he brought to me. I will sit here in my boat and wait patiently while the waves roll, and then I’ll sit in the sunshine when those storms pass and I’ll feel the glow of my dad from above. I’ll sit here in my boat and remind myself that grief is beautiful in its depth, and perfect in its timing. Mostly, though, I’ll sit here in my boat and think about my dad and how much I miss having him here with me.