Recovery From Grief

Recovery From Grief

2021-02-28 16:34:51

It’s true that grief is a part of our everyday lives. We experience grief all the time. Whether it’s from making decisions, seasons of changes with relationships and careers, quitting a behavior like drinking, or moving from one phase of life to another. The truth is when we move on and leave something behind or steer into a new direction, there is always grief. We feel grief for what could have been, what we didn’t choose, and the life we won’t have because of the decisions we make. 

Grief has always been difficult for me. Letting go has never been my strong suit. You could say I’m the one who always wants to hold on to something, even when it’s blatantly not for me, or it has run its course. You’re talking to a woman who has almost never dated any romantic partner just once. I always went back for one more chance, thinking things would be different. I’m someone who had the same car for over 15 years and didn’t want to part with it. Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I even grieved the seasons the weather went through each year and all the wonderful things that came along with each one.

But being familiar with grief doesn’t prepare you for the grief associated with death. Death is its own beast. I have always been intrigued and petrified by death. I’ve experienced some relatives die over the years – my paternal grandparents who I barely remember, my uncle who I knew as a child, recently my aunt, and also my maternal grandparents, of which I was closest with my mom’s mom. But even when she died I felt ok about it. She had lived a long amazing life with a ton of memorable stories. She had changed the world in her own way and I was proud to be her granddaughter. When she passed I was sad, but I didn’t feel cheated or broken. I miss her and I think of her often, but with joy and peace.

Fast forward to my father’s expected death just 3 months ago and I feel like I’ve slammed into real, deep, painful, and excruciating grief. I know grief isn’t a competition by any means, but I do not feel understood by people who are experiencing parental grief, but knew their parent was going to die. There’s something completely different about the shock and harshness of having absolutely no warning that your parent was going to be taken from you that adds to the depth of the pain. 

Grief forces you to change even when you don’t want to, even when you’re not ready. This grief has changed how I think and feel about everything. It has changed my day-to-day life and it has me second guessing all the choices I’ve made and those that I will make in the future. Since my dad died I’ve been going through the same cycle of emotions. I think about the traumatic event that happened over and over again. 

First I ask myself a bunch of questions. Did we miss something? Did he have symptoms we didn’t know about? Do cardiac events run in his family and we just never knew? Did those that were there helping do everything they could to save him? What if one thing was different? What if they’d gotten there a few minutes earlier? Why did this happen? Why did this happen to him? Why did this happen to our family?

Then I end up feeling angry. I feel so angry my face feels hot and my eyes inevitably start to fill up with tears. I know anger well and crying always accompanies it. 

I am fucking angry. This isn’t fair. It doesn’t make sense. What about all the crap people say about if you’re healthy, work out, eat well, don’t drink? Well, apparently you can still die tragically at the age of 68 from an unexplained cardiac event. Why him? Why now? 

I am angry because if this tragedy would have happened during a different year when there was no pandemic and I wasn’t pregnant, I could have hopped on a plane, took a month off from work and backpacked across Europe and relieved some stress. Instead I was stuck inside my house, nurturing my baby in the womb, forced to wake up to my intense feelings every day. In fact, most of my normal, healthy coping mechanisms can’t be used to deal with this heavy situation. I can’t travel, especially now that my baby is here and new to the world. I can’t currently do a hard CrossFit workout and forget about the world for an hour. I can’t just pick up and run to the beach like I have in the past. I’m suffocating with isolation and this grief that no one understands completely, apart from my sister.

So many people have said to me, “but you have a healthy happy baby to find joy in!” They keep telling me to “enjoy my baby” when I feel sad, when I’m stuck in bed crying and mad that the universe stole my dad. Well that’s not how this works. My baby is not a replacement for my father. Having my baby here doesn’t take away the fact that I have been robbed. And that he has been robbed of a grandfather. In fact, the reality is I have probably missed some simple moments of joy with my baby because I am overcome with the grief of losing my dad. 

When Alonso is inconsolable and I feel like I’ve done everything to comfort him and it’s not working, I cry and in addition to that anger, there’s always a little voice in my head that says, and by the way your dad is dead too. 

I’m angry because I don’t think I’ve had a chance to memorialize my dad in the right way. I know I’ve been busy giving birth, recovering from birth, and learning how to be a mom. I feel immense pressure to “keep his memory alive,” but the truth is I feel guilty for doing nothing. I want so badly to feel close to my dad but I don’t know how to make that happen, especially right now.

I have always been a spiritual person, but this grief has made me feel more disconnected than ever. I want to feel connected. I want to feel his spirit, but I don’t. I want to see and hear things that remind me of him, but I haven’t much. I want to do something in his honor. I want to take action with this grief, but I feel paralyzed. 

And then I miss him, which is the most painful and lonely part of it all. Missing him is the part that makes my body physically hurt. I listen to his voicemails I have saved on my phone and I am inconsolable again. I miss his voice. I miss his stupid jokes. I miss the way I would text him and then he would immediately call me. I miss the way he solved my problems and cleaned up my messes. I miss his hugs and his laugh. 

I’m angry there was so much left unsaid. He had so much left to do in this world, but he didn’t get a say. If this could happen to him, then it could happen to anyone. This reality makes me feel unsafe. It makes me question – what’s the point of anything I’m doing? 

Now I’m forced to live this new life, a life without him. A life where I am in near constant emotional pain. Now I am in recovery from grief and I am mad about that too.

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