The Life of Bon: To grieve

Monday, February 25, 2013

To grieve

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I have wanted to post about grief for over a month now, but didn't really know how to go about doing it.  I know that I have a lot to say about the grieving process, but it felt weird to just take to my blog, "Hey guys!  After my dad died I was really sad!"  For some reason it felt like I couldn't just say that.  It was too sad and too heavy and waaaaaay too vulnerable.

A few things, though, have encouraged me to be more brave with my writing.  One is Anne Lamott's essay on grief entitled "Ladders." (From the book "Traveling Mercies."  If you have lost someone close to you, you need to read this book NOW.)  In it she states that "lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and only grieving can heal grief."  And so I write this to not be afraid of grief.  To take it head on.  And perhaps I write this for selfish purposes, too.  To heal a grief that never leaves, and to continually move away from such a barren and isolated place.

So here it goes.
Guys.  After my dad died I was really sad.


I have written about the day I found out my dad died, about memories with my dad, about how I am adjusting now- three years later.  What I have said nothing about is those first months after his death.  Those first days trying to adjust back to normal life.  The weeks after.  The four months later.  Those were the hardest times.  Long and grueling and wildly unfair.

I know many of you may have lost someone close to you.  If not, you certainly know somebody who has.  And as sad as it is to think of, all of us will experience the death of a loved one.  It's part of life.  This post is hoping to help those who are currently experiencing grief or trying to help someone else experience grief.  Or maybe just looking to understand an emotion that is moody and complex and multifaceted.  I also want those who are grieving to know that what they are feeling and that it is normal and okay and even good to grieve.  That one's a big one. It is good to be sad

"It is only by experiencing that ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way that we come to be healed- which is to say, that we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace."
-Anne Lamott

If you are grieving...

1.  You might feel like you can't control your emotions.  I can't tell you in those first months how often I felt enormous waves of grief, how little I could control the crying, how hard it was to put on the brave face.  I remember sitting in the back of an English teaching strategies class at BYU.  We were talking about designing effective rubrics. I sat in the very back with a hoodie covering my face, the silent tears making endless tracks.  "Rubrics?  Who gives a damn about rubrics!?"  I thought.  "My dad is gone and all you can tell me is that I need to use effective word choice when I make a rubric?!?"  Right in the middle of class.  Just crying and crying and hoping the hoodie could hide it all.

One morning, two months after my dad died, I woke up early to head to the school where I was doing my student teaching.  In those early lonely moments, between wakefulness and sleep, I had forgotten my dad was dead.  I got up and was staring in the mirror, brushing my teeth when BAM.  It hit.  I remembered.  And the grief was so strong and powerful and wildly intense that all I could do was sit down on the toilet cry.  Pitch dark outside, 6:10 am, all my roommates sound asleep, and I was sobbing uncontrollably on the toilet trying to get ready for work.  I told myself I had to stop because my students would be able to tell I was crying, but I couldn't.  I honestly could not stop myself  and I was afraid that I was going to cry forever.

It hits during happy times, too.  Totally out of the blue.  At a joyful Christmas gathering, during a sweet movie, when joking with friends.  Six months after my dad died, I was visitng my sister in Washington D.C.  I was so excited to see her, to spend time with her after many months apart.  I decided to bake brownies while she was putting her girls to bed.  I felt so light and airy and I cracked that egg into the brownie mix and then suddenly I was just so sad.  I cried silent tears into the brownie mix, watching them blend in with the oil and chocolate chips.  Tears.  Chocolate. Tears. Egg. Tears. Flour.  I realized I hop on a plane and go visit my sister when I missed her, but I could never hop on a plane and go visit my dad when I missed him. I tried to will myself to stop before my sister saw me, but it was of no use.

With my older sister, Mindy in D.C.  Six months without dad.

College graduation with my mom and sister.  Five months without dad.  A sad day making a valiant effort to be a happy day.

2.  You might feel mad.  What surprised me was that I was angry.  I knew sorrow was a part of grief, but anger?  Mostly I was mad at other people.  I worked at Sizzler, and I remember waiting on my tables on those first weeks after my dad's death, furious at the sweet little senior citizens who could barely walk to the salad bar.  Why were they still alive?  They were so old!  They couldn't take care of themselves!  My dad was only 61- young and healthy and active- riding a bike when the unexpected heart attack hit him.  How dare these people be 10, 20, 30 years older than my dad and still alive?!?  They had no right!

I was also mad at people who had "tragedy-free" lives.  There were a couple of times in church where I heard people say things like, "I have had such a blessed life, I have all my family close to me," or "I'm so lucky, I haven't had any major tragedy happen in my life".  Or the worst- "The Lord blessed my mom and kept her safe in the accident. I know He saved her life"  I couldn't help but think, "So why didn't he save my dad? He loves you more than me?!?"  Of course, I knew that wasn't so, and my faith in God got me through the tough days, but it was others' implications that God had somehow spared them tragedy because He loved them that would absolutely outrage me at times.

Even now I struggle with this.  Why is it fair that people older than me have grandparents alive and I have all four grandparents dead and buried and a dad who will never meet my husband or children in this life?  When people post on facebook that their grandma is sick and to please pray for her, I feel mad.  Mad that they even have a grandma who is alive and that they don't have to understand the enormous grief of losing a father too soon and that they got more time with a grandparent than I got with a parent.

3.  People will not know how to act around you.  I learned after my dad died that I had to invite people into my circle.  People can be so awkward about death that they will just avoid you because it makes them too uncomfortable.  Especially people who have had no close experiences with death.  My dad died on a Thursday.  I went back up to BYU the next Tuesday, to take a test and work a shift at Sizzler.  My roommates were home that night when I came home.  They were so weird around me.  I wanted them to hug me and keep me close to them and stay up all night asking me if I was okay and eating cookie dough and wiping my tears away.  But instead they kept their distance from me.  They talked about lots of things, but they didn't mention my dad.  Neither did I.  It was the big elephant in the room.  I put on a brave face and acted like I was fine and we all pretended like nobody's dad had died and nobody was hurt.

After an hour or so of this I couldn't do the charade any long.  So I went to bed and cried myself to sleep.  Now, I love my roommates and to this day they are my best friends.  But they just didn't know how to act around me.  How to be there.  They knew exactly how to make me feel better after a break up, but not after a parent's death.  Their discomfort didn't allow them to love me and reach me in a way that I so desperately needed.  My immense sorrow didn't allow me to see that I had to invite them in.  If I would have known then that all I had to do was invite, to allow them to mention my dad, to let them see me hurt, I know they would have responded lovingly.  But I didn't know how to.  And they didn't know how to either.

Trying to let people into my circle. Five months without dad.

4.  You may feel very fragile, like you should be wearing a giant label- "HANDLE WITH CARE."  I was thrust into finals week immediately following my dad's death.  He wasn't even buried two weeks and I was trying to cram for exams that I couldn't care less about.  I remember one teacher gave me a C on a project.  I admit, I hadn't done my best work.  But I had tried.  I had dragged myself out of bed and put that stupid project together and I had handed it in on time.  When she gave me a C, I just fell apart.  Didn't she know I was hurt?  Didn't she know that that was truly the best effort I could give at that time?  And all I got back for my work and pain and suffering was a lousy C?

Another example.  A few days after Christmas, I got a bad haircut.  I burst into tears.

During this time I had a Korean foreign exchange roommate.  We were roommates in every sense of the word, and nothing more.  One night she was upset because nobody had changed the light bulb.  Two weeks later I left the front door unlocked and someone broke in and stole our laptops.  She was irate.  She yelled at me and made me feel like an idiot.  Normally, I would have been able to take the heat and admit my mistake.  Instead I ignored her all the time, took to the internet to write nasty things about her, (Interestingly enough g.o.m.i. hammered me this past month for the post I wrote about her during that time. It has since been deleted.) and did things purposely to piss her off.  In some twisted way it made me hurt a little less.

New niece.  Two months without dad.  Unfathomable how people enter life and leave life at the same time.

5.  You may feel like jealous.  This one goes along with the anger.  I was just so incredibly jealous of everyone around me with a dad.  I couldn't look at wedding pictures of brides with their dads knowing my own would be so glaringly absent from my big day.

One night my friend's dad was in town and he sat down and played a round of cards with us.  He played a card that did not benefit him at all, but that he knew would help his daughter out.  Everyone around the table booed and yelled, "Hey!  Mandy's going to win now!  Why did you do that!" and he just smiled and said something along the lines of "Well, I want my daughter to win too!"  I remember thinking that was the sweetest thing.  And I was jealous.  So so jealous.  My dad had always favored me.  He had always done things like that and I was instantly filled with indescribable pain and missing.  I excused myself from the game and sobbed in my bedroom.  Why didn't I have a dad anymore who was always looking out for his little girl?

Nine days without dad.  Trying hard to act like everything is A-Ok.

6.  You may feel desperate for love.  I'll just say this- I dated some real idiots right after my dad's death.  One who never called, always texted, and never before 10 pm.  Then there was the one who wasn't going to school or working, just totally bumming his life away. Oh and I can't forget the one who broke up with me and got back together with me three different times. So many dumb boys. Not even close to my type. Not even close to loving or caring or sensitive. Not even close to being what I needed or wanted.  Just boys.  Trying to fill a void.

Like I said.  A lot of idiots.  Three months without dad.

7.  It may feel like you will never stop hurting.  The first two or three months after my dad died I didn't want to stop hurting.  I felt like if the pain stopped it would mean I didn't love my dad anymore and that I had forgotten about him.  That by keeping my grief close to me I could keep my dad close to me.  Every day that passed I mourned because it separated me further and further from my dad.  I knew I wouldn't feel so sad if I didn't have such big pieces of my dad still inside of me, but I wanted those pieces in me for the rest of my life.  I was completely unwillingly to let any part of my dad go.

And so, the pain lingered.  It came in when I was least expecting it and plopped itself down on the couch and stayed for long periods of time.  It menaced and teased and didn't give me rest.

Each month got easier.  But the pain was still there.  I wondered if I would ever feel completely myself again.

Four months without dad.

Even now, I feel sudden bursts of unwelcome pain and missing.  This past Father's Day it hit me so hard I had to go downstairs and fold laundry while Greg's family ate ice cream on the back porch and opened gifts.  I tried to brush the tears away, tried to tell myself I should be past this by now, but I inevitably had to just let the tears flow.  Let myself be sad for awhile.  And three years later, I am realizing that it is okay that some days I need to miss my dad and be sad that he's not here to share my life with me.  I have to allow  myself to completely wallow in sorrow every once in a while in order to truly heal.  Like good old Lamott says, "Don't get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does.  Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now of a sense of living spirit."  By grieving, I allow myself to live.

I will leave you with this last thought- I have probably already said far too much.  Lamott states that "Grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination."  With death, we lose so much, but so much remains.  And some is even added to it.  I have learned so much from losing a parent.  About tenderness and softness and kindness and peace.  Above all, peace.  It is in those moments of deepest sorrow and loneliness that I have felt the love of God stronger and more acutely than at any other times in my life.  There have been times where I have been so engulfed with peace and love while still being in the depths of sorrow.  God has taken me to the lowest of points to show me the greatest of joys.

I don't understand why everything happens in this world, and I don't pretend to.  But I know that in some way we experience things such as this so that we can share the experiences with others.  However painful it may be. So that we can come together and share experiences and griefs and sorrows and unload some of that burden.  We have to allow others to share the load.

So I guess this is my way of saying thank you for sharing the load.

Love.

45 comments:

  1. Thank you for this Bonnie. A friend of mine lost her mom suddenly and unexpectedly a few days ago. I've been praying for the right words, and I think you just gave them to me. I shared this link with her. She can read it when she's ready. Once again, thanks Bon.

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  2. I lost my dad when I was 11. I still have those rough days almost 20 years later. My mom passed away in September. I find myself angry and jealous a lot lately. I just take things one day at a time, because there really is no other way to deal with it. Reading this is a good reminder that I am not alone and it's not wrong to feel angry. Thank you.

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  3. Beautiful post Bon. And sorry for your loss.

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  4. Bonnie, I have never been in your shoes and I can't even fathom how painful your loss must be. But I know there are so many who do who will receive much comfort from this post. Thank you

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  5. I lost my beloved 16-yr. old niece to leukemia a year and a half ago, but it feels like yesterday. I just can't believe she's gone. And I don't know how my brother gets through his days...Well, it's by faith. And knowing that one day he'll be with Sarah again. My sympathies to you, Bonnie. Grieving is a lifelong journey.

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  6. This is... Beautiful.

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  7. Bonnie, you got me thinking. I think you'll appreciate this:

    http://suspish.blogspot.com/2012/04/testimony.html?m=1

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  8. You are a great writer. Your love for your dad, the emotions you felt after his death just flow right off of the page {or screen I should say!}. I think it is good to feel anger, sadness, jealousy, whatever else you may feel after losing someone so close to your heart, it's the only way to keep going. Your words, and love for you dad, are beautiful!

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  9. I just wrote a hugely long comment and accidentally deleted it. I'm so upset. But I want to say thank you so so much for this. I lost my 20 year old sister to suicide a litter over a year ago. So I feel you. Oh, how I feel you. And it feels good to know that other people feel me too.

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  10. Seeing friends and loved ones go through such a loss always made me feel guilty. Made me feel guilty to feel joy or even smile. I love reading this and it gives me a better insight on how to help those around me grieve as well as know the feelings you felt are all the same feelings we can all relate to when losing someone so close. I know with every fiber of my being that your Dad is near, although his physical presence is no longer here, his spirit still resides. I know blankets of love and comfort hover over you as you grieve and have down days. I know the tender mercies of the Lord come when you least expect it and realize that the eternal bond you have will always remain. Thank you for sharing such raw emotion. :) I greatly appreciate it.

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  11. Thank you. My dad died when I was a senior in high school, almost 2 years ago.

    I can relate to literally everything you said. I didn't even feel like I was reading someone else's story, I felt like I was reading mine. This was so powerful and important for me to read. I want everyone who loses someone close to them that grief is okay.

    I grieved for a year and a half pretty intensely, I thought that I would never be okay. This fall I finally realized that God wanted me to be healed and I have slowly come into that healing.

    Now I am able to talk about my dad, make jokes about him, and actually think about my past for the first time in 2 years.

    Thank you for expressing this so beautifully.

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  12. I can relate to so much of what you said, especially about people treating you differently and how it felt like an elephant in the room. I used those exact words 4 1/2 years ago when we lost our son. Thank you for writing this post.

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  13. This post automatically reminded me of one particular person who died on the same day I was supposed to graduate from high school: my grandmother.

    Events got in the way and luckily for harsh times, I ended up dropping out of school and completed my high school degree from an alternative school called Brittain Academy. My grandmother got to see me graduate in December 2007, approximately almost 6 months before she passed away on June 8th, 2008.

    But I do not want to talk about my grandmother, I want to mention something that correlates with this post from my life and your life.

    Your father died on November 18, 2009, correct? And you married Greg on March 12, 2011, correct? Those two years are the exact same years in which I was blessed a son (2009) and blessed with a man whom I am going to marry in 2014 (I arrived on March 3rd, 2011 in Colorado, 9 days before you married Greg).

    Here's another, my mother's father died several years before she married my father. Seems like God above has blessed us three ladies with the best men after death (except for me with my grandmother): our husbands (and my future husband).

    Did this comment make you feel better and not creeped out?

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  14. This is beautiful Bon.

    A dear friend lost her father a few years ago. She remarked to me that when you lose your father, you lose your anchor - nothing makes you feel like you are on your own like that loss. She also told me that she finally got how big that loss was for me all those years ago. None of my friends knew what to say to me then (I was 19 when I lost my dad) and many of them still don't know what to say, because they haven't been there themselves.

    I still have plenty of moments where grief smacks me up the back of the head. My daughter is so much like my father that something she says or does can totally choke me up.

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  15. This made me tear up - thank you so much for sharing Bonnie.

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  16. This made me tear up - thank you so much for sharing Bonnie.

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  17. What an inspiring post and I have felt all that just like you said. I lost my mom to cancer after a 3 year battle in 2000. I saw her fade away and I wish that to no one. This is year 13 without her physically here with me but I know I have an forever angel. Since she passed, I've done my best to live my life the way she would have dreamed for me. I graduated HS, moved to college, graduated college, moved into my own apt, met a wonderful guy, got engaged, got married and now am waiting to see what else is going to happen. I know she's here with me every step of the way - but that doesn't mean its easy, that I'm healed per say. I am who I am because of this in my life.

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  18. Thanks for being vulnerable. I'm sorry you've had to go through this, and are still going through this.

    I am thankful you enjoyed Traveling Mercies though. Have you ever read "A Grief Observed" by CS Lewis. Short little book in which he published his journals he wrote after his wife passed.

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  19. What a lovely post.. SO heartfelt. It really is crazy how people can leave our lives and come into them within a short amount of time.

    You are one tough lady!

    Thank you for writing this post!

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  20. Thank you for writing this blog post. I appreciate the kind words that you are able to offer people who are grieving or are still grieving. I lost my mother when I was 13. She was murdered. To this day, (I'm going to be 35 in July) I still have my grieving moments. It never fully goes away, but there are ways to ease those feelings. It helps knowing others feel the same and that grieving is natural. *hug*

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  21. i'm so glad you shared this. i know it makes you feel so super vulnerable, but you have no idea how many people feeling just as vulnerable but no way to express their feelings or have someone to talk to. i cannot begin to imagine my life without my dad, so i won't try to tell you i 'know what you mean'. but i know other people out there do know and can relate.

    loves.

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  22. Thank you for writing this, Bonnie. My best friend lost her mom four years ago on Christmas. Even though it may feel like we may be the only one experiencing something so immense as grief, it is comforting to know that we are not alone.

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  23. Dang girl you sure do know how to make a girl tear up a work. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post with us.

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  24. This post really touched me. I know I'll keep it with me for when I need it, hopefully not for a long time.

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  25. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this with the world - I can't even imagine how hard it must have been to write.

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  26. Perfectly worded post. I lost my dad 10 years ago this year and my father-in-law 16 years ago this year. It's odd how we start to mark things by how long they have been gone. How things happen in life that we wish we could share with them. How sometimes in my dreams they are there and I wake up and I feel like I did just a few days after they died. Now that they have been "gone" for so long sometimes it feels to me as if they were never really here...and I think for me that is what makes me sad the most. That I can not picture their face in my mind anymore. I know one day I will be with them again but it seems like such a long path in front of me before that time.

    So happy you posted...it's okay to be sad.

    Laura@MiceInTheKitchen

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  27. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

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  29. Such a true and perfectly worded post--on so many levels. I too have lost all 4 grandparents & my own dad (in the last 9 years). Emotional pain sucks like none other, but I believe God takes us to the lowest of lows in order to help us how to come closer to Him, if we are willing.

    There is some advice given by Elder F. Enzio Busche that I like (even though it stings at times)..."When things that are dear to you are withdrawn from you, know that this is your lesson to be learned right now, but know also that as you are learning this lesson, God wants to give you something better. Thus, we prepare all the days of our lives, and, as we grow, death loses its sting, hell loses its power, and we look forward to that day with anticipation and joy when He will come in his glory."

    Thank you so much for your thoughts and advice :) You wrote a beautiful post!

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  30. Oh my this post really saddened me today it made me think of my dad and how lucky we are to have him with us. Lucky becuase in 2009 he was diagnosised with lung cancer and was told at the time if they hadn't found it when they did he would had been dead by the end of the year....

    I do not know how I would cope if I lost my dad as we have a special realationship

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  31. Thanks for writing this and sharing it.

    I've thought a lot about writing a similar post - I lost my dad 8 years ago this march (wow.) and my aunt (who was more like a second mom) three years ago in July (on my nephew's ... who got a heart transplant ... 1st bday) and it is just those random times driving home, hearing a song, traveling somewhere, seeing a broken down car that triggers those memories and makes it feel like it just happened and oh man the feelings of anger/jealousy of other people who have never had to deal with anything.

    thanks for sharing bonnie.

    xox

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  32. This was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  33. thank you for sharing that, it was beautiful.

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  34. Thank you for sharing. Such beautiful words.

    I have had my share of grief but luckily still have my Dad. I NEED to call him now.
    We are facing the loss of Hubby's Mum soon tho and I think this will help me be strong for him when the time comes.
    xxx

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  35. Well, at the very least it sounds like you've learned a ton from this experience. And you will be forever empathetic when you come across people in your life who have to deal with grief (unlike your roommates). Dad would be proud of you. I love the pics you post of him. Bittersweet. Oh, and BTW, he did NOT favor you, he tricked us all into making us think that we were his favorite... just for the record. And maybe we were.

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  36. This is a beautiful post. Yesterday was the 2 year anniversary of my grandma's death, and I still grieve. It still hurts. It probably always will a bit. Thank you for sharing!

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  37. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings, and for your bravery in writing this post. My Dad died 2 1/2 years ago, at 58, also from a heart attack. I saw so much of myself in your words, and I cried the entire time I read. It helps to know that I am not the only one experiencing these feelings, and that they are normal. I very much appreciated the way you pointed out that grief and loss can have positive effects. It isn't easy to share your feelings and grief with anyone, much less the internet, so please know that you have helped at least one heart to heal a bit through your bravery in sharing. I am sending hugs and prayers your way.

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  38. Thank you for this post. My mum died aged 61 6 weeks to the day that she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It has been neary five years now and it still hurts. The greatest pain for me is that my daughter will never have a Nana as both my husband's parents are also dead.

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  39. Thank you for sharing your heart and your experience with grief. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss!

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  40. I am so sorry for your loss. This is such a brave and great post, thank you for sharing it!

    Found this post through High-Heeled Love's post in our Weekly Round-Up. She shared it because it was so awesome! :)

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  41. I appreciate you being strong enough to share... I had almost the exact same situation with my mom, but it's more recent, and it's definitely still really hard. I ordered the book by Anne Lamott. I'm also a (future) English teacher and love your point of view. Thanks for sharing.

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  42. This is the best post I have read on grief since my daddy passed away in April. Thank you so much for sharing this so beautifully. It's been four whole months now, and sometimes I think it feels worse than even when it first happened. I have to tell myself that I'm being TOO strong sometimes. And when I do let myself break down and let out, it's so hard. I had to go to a wedding a few weeks ago and I thought seeing her dance with her dad was literally going to kill me...you know that kind of ache you feel in your heart that you can actually FEEL in your heart? It's not fair comes into my head a million times a day. My birthday in May hurt. I don't want to do Thanksgiving or Christmas. I have been living with my mom since it happen to help her get through it and every chair he ever sat in just kills me to look at. Random, random things (like your cracking an egg) just sends me wild. I have read a lot of blogs about losing someone, but this is the first that hit home the most for me. Did I say thank you already? Really, thank you.

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  43. Perhaps I could relate more with your sister with the baby because I was 6 months pregnant when my father suddenly passed away. You cannot imagine the bittersweet feeling I had when the doctor put my son in my arms. I was so happy to finally have a child and so sad that my father wasn't there to see him..
    Now it's been 4 years without dad. Thank you for sharing!

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