In the past year, a lot has happened to me. All the small things seem insignificant compared to the loss of my beloved father. As the year mark of his passing approaches, I wanted to document a few of my thoughts and feelings. Going through the grief process is incredibly wild - exhausting, frustrating, uplifting, and blessed all rolled into one. While my intention for this blog is to remain generally lighthearted, I think it is important to not only document these life changes, but also to help others going through the same thing. No one grieves in the same way, but maybe something I've experienced can help you.
If you're wanting something less serious, skip this post. As I write more entries about grief, you will be able to locate them at the top under "Non-Mommy Gets Serious."
Losing my dad was hard. Really, really hard. His unexpected death was the closest death of a loved one that I have experienced. Everyone grieves in different ways, but looking back, these are some of the things that I never knew about grief, and now wish I had always known to support others during a time of loss.
When you watch someone die, it can be very difficult to replace the images of their dead body with healthy memories. Watching my father pass away was an experience I would never miss, but I'll be honest. It's taken months and months for me to not think of his body as a yellow shell. I also replay his death in my mind over and over. Watching him struggle to breathe was hard. I remember it less now, but it's there still.
Watching death is not scary. It isn't pleasant, it's not pretty, but when you love someone, you simply want them to be comfortable. It's sad. It's a...very unique experience. And, was I ever bummed that after I watched him pass away, I couldn't see thestrals (Harry Potter geek alert!).
Wow, do you ever get hugged a lot. This is a tough situation. When you see someone suffering, you want to give them a hug. And I so appreciated the hugs and comfort. But it can be wearing as well. During my father's visitation, I was hugged approximately 500 times (literally). Then the funeral. Then the return to work. It got to the point that if one more person wanted to hug me, or turn their head to the side and look at me with pity, I thought I was going to scream. It's a fine line.
Food, food, food. After my father passed away, we had truckloads and truckloads of food delivered to our home. It was amazing. There was so much that we never could have eaten it all. And since his death was near Easter, we received at least one ham meal a day for seven days. It is so touching that people want to provide for you during your time of loss, but think about other things besides food. Great items to donate could be a roll of stamps for thank you cards, paper items such as toilet paper, paper plates, and napkins, or other things to help the person deal with the constant stream of visitors and family.
People want to help you. Every single person that gave me a hug, or talked to me after his death, asked me "Is there anything I can do to help you?" or "Call me if you need anything." What a kind thing! I will say, though, that asking at such an emotional time for you to tell them if you need anything can really put people on the spot. It's fine to offer to help, but try to think about them a few weeks later, when things have settled down and the grieving person knows more about what they need help with. During this time, I literally heard God say to me "Let people help you. They want to do something, and you need help." That was not an easy thing for me to do. However, I see that this was actually a healthy decision for me to make, and that I should let people help more often, no matter the circumstance. The truth is that everyone can help you in such different ways. Maybe you have a friend who will listen to you cry. Another friend will help you sort through the person's things. Another friend will send you random gifts, even up to a year after, that just brighten your spirit. Let them help you.
Physical reactions happen. When I first arrived at the hospital to find my dad on life support, I was very sick to my stomach. I sat there, thinking "This isn't happening" and willing myself not to vomit. After he passed, the next few days (and maybe even weeks) were literally a blur. I truthfully was so fuzzy in the head. I couldn't remember anything. I wasn't crying all the time, but I'll be darned if I could even remember all of my students' names. Give people a wide berth and some understanding at this time. They may not be fuzzy headed. They may be crying all the time. Angry. Cutting others off. Give them time.
Don't ask if they were close. I got so, so sick of this. Everyone would ask "Were you close to your dad?" As if death is less painful if you weren't close. Just assume, regardless of the situation, that the loss of an important person is painful, no matter what. Also, try to be cognizant of saying things like "I'm not close to my dad, but I can't IMAGINE losing my mother!" It makes the person feel like their loss is less important, or like you really don't know pain until you lose your mother. Just think before you speak.
Heaven talk. About a billion people must have told me things like "Your dad is up in Heaven, right now, riding a motorcycle and telling jokes." Again, they mean so well. I do appreciate it. But it doesn't really help you feel any better. I know without a doubt in my mind where my father is, that he is in a much better place and happier than I can understand, and I don't wish him back. But for me, I'd rather people just be honest and be like "Dude, this completely sucks. Even when you know that he's in a better place, it doesn't change the fact that death is painful and changes everything." Or cry with them. Don't try to sugar coat it.
Grief is very, very weird. One minute you'll be going along totally fine, not thinking about it at all, and the next minute you're a total wreck because of something silly like needing your tires rotated. It's up and down, constantly. Also, it makes people feel uncomfortable, so they won't talk to you about the death, but truthfully? My sister and I both noted that we wanted to talk about it. We wanted to tell the story. We wanted to talk about him, and his last moments. It's hard to not talk about something that is so life changing. But I get that people don't want to upset you, or don't feel like they know what to say.
Finally, death is a blessing. It truly is. It completely hurts, it messes you up, but there are so many positives along with the negatives. I can look back and see very clearly that God was preparing us for this loss. I can see some truly beautiful things that have happened as a result of my dad's death. I have a greater sense of what God is doing in my life, and that small things are trivial. It isn't something that I want to go through again, but the reality is that I will. The other reality is that you have to choose to see the beautiful things, and move forward.
We were built to carry on, and we do.