On Grief

San Dollar

I wasn’t in the best of places last Father’s Day. Having lost my own dad the year before, the thought of suffering through a day of watching others celebrate something I know longer had was almost unbearable. Staying off social media and grumbling to myself about stupid, made up Hallmark holidays was about the best I could do.

This year is different. It’s not that I miss my father any less, or that the pain is gone, but my grief has shifted. It’s a symbiotic relationship really that one has with grief; as it changes so do you and as you change, so does your grief.

As many of you know, the circumstances surrounding my dad’s decline in to end stage dementia were not pleasant. Each day during his final year was like stepping in to a carnival house of mirrors with a new warped reality to contend with. I don’t care to rehash those struggles now, but if you’re interested, go here.

After my dad passed away, it took me awhile emotionally to understand he would not be there whenever I went to visit my mom. My brain got it, but my heart did not and I had to relive over and over a deep sadness, as I kissed my mom hello and realized I could not do the same to my dad. Instead of facing this I’d file it away on a back shelf somewhere in my mind with a mental note to deal with it later.

Later became weeks, which turned in to months, which became an entire year of “shelving it”, until one day I found myself curled up, crying on the kitchen floor, wondering when this grief thing will go away. I mean I had gone to a weekly support group (even did the homework!), was active in on line grieving communities and read just about everything about death and loss I could get my hands on.

I became an expert on this stuff, yet I couldn’t seem to move forward. Why?

It’s funny the mind tricks we play on ourselves. Yes, I was doing plenty of useful things, but when I look back I realize I was spending a lot of time helping others to cope with their loss to avoid having to deal with my own. I’d get caught up in their stories, cry with them and really felt their pain and sadness at times as if they were my own.

Except they weren’t. I was pissed off and hurting too, but not allowing myself to explore why, because that would mean having to accept that my dad died a crappy death and that I will never see him again. That mixed with intense guilt for playing a role in moving him to memory care, withholding a feeding tube and maybe rushing along the morphine relief a bit too quick created quite the toxic sludge of emotions for me to process.

It wasn’t until I acknowledged this that my grief shifted from primitive self-protection, to digging deep in to my own heartache so a path towards healing could open up. One that was whispering at me to:

  • Remember all that God has done for me in the past and the hope, wisdom and courage He provides if I just give up my need to control everything.  Really, just drop the act already and let Him guide my thoughts and actions day by day.

  • Embrace the permanence of death to allow good feelings to be a part of the memories I have about my dad. It hurts to think about him, but I can also take comfort in remembering the good times we had and the lessons he’s still teaching me today.

  • Stop feeling like I somehow failed my dad because of the miserableness of his situation. There is no user manual for this kind of stuff; it was a messy, emotional and complicated period for my family and me and we did the best we could with the knowledge that we had.

  • Stop waiting for the grief to stop because it won’t. The edges have softened sure, but part of my heart will always hold a place for missing my dad. That’s how it should be when people we love go away, there’s no use fighting this and that’s ok.

  • Remember that raw and painful moments can bring about immense beauty and grace, as pretensions fall away and authentic human connections take place. Relish those moments.

A good friend once said to me that it’s the finality of death that makes losing a loved one so painful. This is undoubtedly true. Even if you believe in an afterlife, knowing you will never see that person again in this one hits hard. This is why I’m glad there is grief.

Wait, what? Why would anyone be glad about grief? Because it initiates a process that, much like strong medicine, is necessary for healing and crafting a life that allows joy and fulfillment to exist alongside that shattered hole in your heart. A life different than before yes, but still good and I’ll take that.

I can’t wish my dad a Happy Father’s Day but I can think of him often and smile.  I hope you can do the same for whoever it is you’re missing today.

Resources:

Please know you don’t have to go through this alone. There are many resources available to help you get connected with others who know exactly what you are going though and are there to help. One on one sessions with a professional therapist can also be a huge benefit.

Helpful Websites:

https://whatsyourgrief.com

https://www.opentohope.com/ 

https:/www.mastersincounseling.org

Support Groups/Therapists:

https://www.griefshare.org

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/grief

 

 

 

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43 Responses to On Grief

  1. This is one of the best articles I have ever read on grief! My own father died over 30 years ago, so I have read a lot on the subject.

    This is so good, I’m going to read it again.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well said, Tricia! Great post.

    I have a tendency to be one of those avoidants too, so doing all the right stuff, but mostly on behalf of others, so not really receiving it myself. I’ve really had to learn how to rest at the Father’s feet and focus on myself. Grief can be painful and unpleasant but it’s also vital and necessary and a sign of great love. Often we’re grieving so much more then the temporary separation with our loved ones, but grieving death itself, regrets, the harshness of life, feelings of abandonment, fear, a crisis of faith…. Ha! I could go on and on, just saying there can be a whole lot to unpack.

    Something I really appreciate is those women who stayed at the foot of the cross. Their grief, their bearing witness to great suffering, had tremendous value, it was vital and necessary. The Lord collects our tears in a bottle, they are precious to Him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      Well we avoidant types need to stick together IB. 😉 It really is a learning process, which I don’t think can really be fully done without relying on God for guidance. So true what you say about grieving for so much more then our loved ones. It opens up a can of a host of other issues once you get started and I think that’s why the grieving process is so unique to the individual. And thanks for the reminder of the women bearing witness to suffering at the cross. They truly set the example for us all.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wally Fry says:

    Very nice, Tricia

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Citizen Tom says:

    Well done!

    My parents died decades ago. Still miss them, but I went to their funerals, cried, and I got on with life. That’s not a mark of superiority. I have just learned to accept the lost what has passed beyond my grasp. As a boy, I moved a lot.

    When I think of my parents, I think of what I might have said and done differently. All those mistakes I made. Now I cannot make amends. All I can do is contemplate what I might done and be kinder to those I love who are still with me. That’s difficult. I am still not the person I ought to be. I suppose that is part of the lesson God wants us to learn from death. As George W. Bush was wont to say, we don’t get do overs. A poet put it more elegantly.

    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. — The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam – Poem by Omar Khayyam (from => https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-rubaiyat-of-omar-khayyam/)

    Some of the experts say Omar Khayyam was a materialist. I suspect he, like most of us, found what our Lord God created very beautiful and very confusing. Only having a glimmer of what comes next is frightening. And so we have to trust our Maker. When someone close to us dies, we learn how fragile our trust in our Lord truly is.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      Thanks Tom. I’m sorry your parents have been gone for so long. This is pure speculation on my part, but I think men having an easier time moving on from things like this than women. We like to analyze, run through the woulda couldas and just about drive ourselves crazy before finally accepting things and moving on.

      What a lovely poem, thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said. I just finished writing a book “A Grief Felt”. Hope to self-publish in a few months.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Al says:

    A captivating story about dealing with grief, not to mention a beautiful testament about love.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A great post Tricia!
    So true.
    So honest.
    I felt that same way after my mom’s death.
    Her’s was a crappy death as well…and her life, what with our dysfunctional family, was pretty crappy too. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to really realize just how crappy…of which has allowed the melancholy to often ebb and flow.

    When there is caregiving involved…that just compounds and intensifies the greif as you so poignantly remind us as it allows the guilt to fester.

    I was 26 when Mom died, 58 when Dad died…and to be honest, I think it is Mother’s death and loss I feel more keenly, even to this day.
    I don’t know if it’s the age variance or just the time passage which as allowed me to fully understand the depth of her suffering on a myriad of levels.

    But as you say…it is so so hard knowing you will never see that person again here on earth.
    And the unknown is just that, unknown.

    But I did gain an odd innate sort of knowing after having lost mother…that yes despite her being gone pretty much out of my life now … she and I, our relationship…which was not what it should have been…was continuing.
    I knew that our relationship now transended both space and time.

    A knowledge that despite being gone, she really was and is still with me…and I found a peace in that.

    Dad, on the other hand, I’m still working on coming to term with him and some of his poor decisions that continue affecting life today as we’ve not yet, after a year, gotten his estate settled…there are days I continue to fuss and cuss and days I will miss him.

    Like the post, I offered today Tricia…the parent and child relationship is a complicated animal 🙂

    Your dad will always be a part of you…as your relationship with him is actually better now…if that makes any sense…
    Doesn’t mean there still isn’t the longing, loneliness, sadness or guilt..it’s just all on a different level…

    Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Julie thank you for your comment, it really resonated with me. The child parent relationship is complicated and as IB mentioned, when you start grieving their loss, it brings up a whole host of other issues to grieve in addition to the person.

      I like what you said about your evolving relationship with your mom because I feel that way about my dad now. We had a complicated relationship up until somewhere around my mid to late 20’s when I began to see so much of the wisdom he was trying to impart to me and that he was tough on my because he cared and he needed to be. I grew to really like and respect him as a person, not just my father. I felt really cheated by his dementia and eventual death but I do take a lot of comfort in he knew I loved him up to the end. I sense his guidance a lot which I really enjoy.

      I can’t imagine losing my mom, especially at the young age of 26. I’m sure that had a huge emotional effect on you (and still does) and is maybe one of the reasons why her death is still so poignant.

      This life thing can be difficult but it’s so nice to have the experience of others to learn from and lean on. Thanks my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed Tricia—I can vividly remember when we finally got the right diagnosis on mom, while she was in the hospital, I was commuting the hour back home and told God that before this was all over, I had a bad feeling I’d get mad at Him…stupid yes, but honest and true.
        I did get mad…but I didn’t realize how deeply that “mad” would last.
        Mad at Him, mad at mom…I’ve written about it so I won’t belabor it here, but I felt mom used the cancer as her escape. She only lasted 6 weeks from diagnosis to death…so the suffering was not extended like dad’s.
        But on the outside I appreared fine…but for about 8 years afterwards, I was inside, very destructive.
        It took me nearly imploding, of which was still unbeknownst to anyone around me, for me to finally bet my crap together.

        Lots of guilt and grief unnecessarily…and lots of poor decisions…that only I knew.

        It took a while but God was gracious and I was saved by that Grace…thank God!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. ColorStorm says:

    Some good from the heart stuff trish. Not easy to revisit, but necessary at times as you know. Your dad (jack if I recall) had to be a good man because his goodness lives on through you, and your willingness to be a bridge for others who are/may be walking through those same rough waters.

    But if I could only add, good grief chisels into us the kind of people impossible to be formed in no only way; it’s that heat and furnace crucible thing as you know.

    You can still have a memorable Father’s day by thinking and sharing of what once was, and how important a father is. In addition, one day, my kids will have had their last father’s day…….

    hopefully they too will have fond memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Yes, my dad’s name was Jack, so thoughtful of you to remember that ColorStorm! So true what you say about grief being a chisel and that it changes you in ways nothing else could. That’s a good way of putting it CS.

      I did think about my dad a lot today and even took a trip to the hardware store which he would have loved. Made me smile.

      I am sure your kids will have great fond memories of you when you exit the stage many years from now CS. Hope you had a nice Father’s Day.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Salvageable says:

    God’s blessings to you, Tricia. Thank you for sharing the news of how he has carried you through difficult times. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lauraine says:

    My heart goes out to you. Losing my father was the worst thing thats ever happened to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Anonymous says:

    Tricia, thanks so much for the post.Really thank you! Great.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Doug says:

    Sorry, Tricia.. trying to re-work my WordPress settings so I am trying to get my “followings” in order with this comment.
    But having said that… regarding your feeling post here… having been in the funeral biz for 5 years I tended to engage with grieving folks at their initial point of personal grief over the loss of a loved one. But when the condolences are gone, and all those “first” holidays have past (like the first Thanksgiving and first Christmas), grief can still linger well beyond. You’ve centered on a good formula.

    Like

  13. xPraetorius says:

    Beautiful, poignant and profound again, Tricia! Also, wonderfully well-written and, like your tribute post to your dad, it brought tears. Thank you for writing it!

    Best,

    — x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. KIA says:

    My dad passed the day after Fathers day in 2010, on my parent’s 50th wedding​ anniversary. We miss them both now. Summer just isn’t the same since.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. heatherjo86 says:

    This is so insightful! To many death is very final. However, when my grandmother died I found out that death is not as final as I thought. I know you said you’ve read a lot of information on grief but this brochure really helped me. Here’s a link: https://www.jw.org/finder?wtlocale=E&pub=we&srcid=share
    Learning that Jehovah God promises to resurrect our loved ones and one day I’ll be able to see my grandmother again is such a comfort for me (Revelation 21:3,4; John 5:28,29).

    Liked by 1 person

  16. So very beautiful….amazing word by word. I mean in my recent post I’ve mentioned a small poem on the grief of a mother’s death. I hope you will read and comment the condolences as one of my dearest one’s lost his mother. Here’s the link: http://thesoultalks10.com/mourning-the-death-of-a-wonderful-soul/

    Liked by 1 person

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