*Dear Readers: I’m actually in the middle of the woods around Pomme De Terre lake on a two day, self-care retreat so this was posted before I left. If you never hear from me again, I was eaten by a bear or cut up by a redneck. The good news is that I planned ahead for this.
This weekend marks the eleventh anniversary of my father’s passing. I’ve watched many people go in my life – my brother at the age of 27 was probably the most traumatic – but my Dad’s death was probably the point where I really steered off course.
Or did I?
As I’ve written before, I believe that no matter how many times I screw up, the Universe will find a way to auto-correct my life.
I’ve come to learn in my life that ‘grief’ isn’t just reserved for the dying. You can grieve relationships, friendships, job loss, a death of a dream…and it’s okay. Please give yourself permission to feel grief, no matter how judgemental our society is about this.
For years I viewed grief as the worst possible emotion one can ever feel. That’s because grief isn’t linear. It’s a circular jumbled mess that cannot be self regulated. To this day, a song can trigger me and I’m right back in the middle of Target, listening to a relative tell me by phone that a beloved cousin had lost his fight with cancer. I truly believe we all must travel a path marked by both joyful and unpleasant life experiences in order to grow but grief is such an insidious emotion because it laughs in the face of logic.
Right around the seven-year mark of Dad’s death, I realized that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to bring him back and instead, I began to ponder how this experience had changed me. I write about that today, and how I’ve learned – through the death of a beloved cousin, two uncles, my brother and my father as well as two divorces and a few friendships lost – that grief is an emotion given to us to teach us to view life differently.
- Grief teaches us that life is unpredictable. Some things can be put off…going to the grocery store, or taking a weekend trip. But life can happen when we least expect it so it is important to “get your affairs in order”. I’m not going to lie to you here: I’m obsessed about this. I recently finished my estate plan, and while I don’t have a lot, I know I’ve done what I can to prepare for my death and keep my loved ones safe. Essentially, ask yourself: What do I want my loved ones to do with me if I unexpectedly exit the world? This conversation, while morbid, really will give your family a sense of comfort. The fewer decisions they have to make when you aren’t there to assist will lessen the stress.
- Grief teaches us to appreciate more. I could sit around all day feeling angry or sad that I don’t have a brother, or a father, or that I’ll be the one who has to make all the decisions when my mother passes away. Or…I can greet my son each morning with gratefulness, spend time with my friends, and share coffee with people I admire. I guarantee my brother isn’t sitting ‘up there’ complaining that I’m not moping around fifteen years later because he’s not here on Earth. To think he is, and that somehow not feeling super sad all day long means I miss him less, is nothing less than ridiculous.
- Grief reinforces life is short. As cliché as it is…whether it is 24 hours or 24 years…it goes by quickly. I swear just yesterday I gave birth to my son. In reality…he just turned eight. It seems like a few years ago I thought I’d never recover after the death of my father. Today I realize that eleven years have passed. I’ve gotten divorced, remarried, given birth, gotten divorced again, developed a successful career, purchased a home, and watched my (ex) step-children grow from awkward teenagers into beautiful young adults who serve our country and raise children. Life continues after the death of a loved one. You can choose to continue with it and be grateful or you can choose to stop and wait to die yourself. Either way, you’ll get what you desire. (This, by no means, negates your grief. Just keep swimming.)
- Grief emphasizes the importance of attentiveness and mindfulness. Do you realize that the American culture is the only one that uses the catch-phrase “killing time”? Grief teaches us that wasting time – or killing it – is a terrible use of a valuable resource. Be attentive and mindful at all times. You’ll be able to hear that another’s anger is really stress manifesting. You’ll notice the difference in cries from your child. Most importantly, you’ll realize that the Universe doesn’t waste time…who are we to get that privilege? Something miraculous is happening at every moment of everyday. If you aren’t too busy swimming in unnecessary consumption of time-sucking endeavors (reading my blog not included!), you might just realize that each day you are on the planet is a gift not to be squandered.
- Grief reminds us to honor oneself. The first five or six years after my brother’s death, I was pretty self-destructive on/around the anniversary date. Whether I was drinking or working, I realized I was just postponing the grief and hoping it would just ‘go away’. As this weekend is the anniversary of my father’s passing, I’m in a cabin reading a book. I’m giving myself permission to cry, to write about it, or to simply take a walk and think of good times. Honestly, I’m just grateful to be alive. After all the stupid stuff I’ve done in my 49 years on this planet, trust me, that’s a miracle in and of itself. I actually recognized Grief settling in a few days ago because I really just want to been alone and sleep. So, I plan to honor that. I will rest. I will reflect. I will not apologize for wanting my time alone. Coffee on a porch with a small fire – Ahem, that I built – is how I plan to honor his life. I will sit here, bundled up in my flannel pajamas wrapped in a blanket, sipping my coffee while thanking Grief for teaching me to love more, plan more, and simply ‘be’ more.
I am going to be transparent and tell you that I don’t have any questions for you to ponder today. I want to be reverent and I understand this post may stir up emotions for you that require time to process. I will, though, leave you with this song and tell you that whatever you are feeling today: It’s okay. Feel it. That’s how you heal.
I love you. Take care. Hug more.