From April 10 (I’m finally ready to share it)…
At some point, I know I’ve said that I’m all cried out. That there were no more tears. But that wasn’t true. Not true at all.
The tears are there, they are just buried. I have to dig deeper and linger longer for them to appear. My father passed away two weeks ago, and I’ve been tracing the tears. They come and go, and because I’m me… I need to find a pattern. I need to collect the data of my tears and come up with a grief hypothesis.
It’s like there is this gaping hole of grief in front of me, waiting for me to dive in and get swallowed whole. And here I am… lingering around the edges, dipping a toe in here and there. Part of me thinks that I should be proud of my “healthy grieving”– that I am able to sit with my sadness when it appears but not be swallowed whole. [Pats self on the back] Part of me thinks that this is just how my life is– that with two young children and a full time job (with children) that I don’t have the luxury of sobbing when I feel like it. [raises mommy martyr flag] Yet, I know I have to embrace the joy when it is in front of me, and my dad of all people would be the first to tell me to do that. Sure, I still show my little ones my grief,but I’m also in that moment helping them to process theirs. So I don’t display the full, heavy, scary dark and twisty grief . [lifts chin in graceful nobility]
But today, my house was quiet for 20 minutes. 20 minutes!!! And suddenly there it was: time to grieve. And though I don’t particularly like grieving on queue, I have to accept the circumstances I’m under. So I thought: okay, pit of despair. I’m coming in. I hope you are ready for me, because it’s been a while that I’ve been trodding around the edges and I’m COMING IN HOT. And that’s when the big shift happened. I realized that I’m scared. I’m so scared of that pit and while I know I am strong and smart enough to claw my way out of it, I don’t think I wanna go back in.
So, what is that? Is that I’m too scared, too scarred, too busy, too strong, too clever? All of the above, probably. I’ve been quietly beating myself up for not throwing myself headfirst into the pit. What’s wrong with me that I can’t throw myself head first into what appears to be a perfectly appropriate time and reason to grieve the ugly, heavy, dark and scary grief?
For a fleeting moment, I thought… is this Divorce Benefits? My girlfriend told me about a book called Death Benefits. It details all the ways in which losing a parent can change your life for the better. It seems almost cruelly honest, and we have talked a bit about this concept. Today, however, I thought about Divorce Benefits. The ways in which shared custody can change your life for the better. It’s easy and understandable to linger on the ways that it sucks awfully. But I wondered today if I can handle the loss of my father because I have already had to come to terms with “losing” my daughter. No, it’s not a permanent loss. She is alive and breathing and beautiful and brilliant. But as I felt the grief of her leaving to DB’s house yesterday, it felt very familiar. Strikingly similar to what I feel when I miss my dad. When I really linger on the absence of this incredible man, I feel like I could lose myself in it. When I really linger on the implications of shared custody, it overwhelms me with sadness, worry, grief and guilt. But lingering there isn’t doing her, or me, any good. I have had to reconcile those feelings with reality, and while I can still acknowledge and honor them, I can’t let them consume me. So if I transfer that, even unconsciously, to my father– is that okay? Can I accept the reality of his death and hold tight to the joy? After all, Rumi said “you grieve because there was such joy.” But does the grief have to be directly proportional? Or is it possible to grieve in a way that embraces the joy?
I’ve been listening to the Into the Woods soundtrack with D, and there is a lyric that goes “Sometimes people leave you, halfway through the world. Do not let it grieve you, no one leaves for good.” That is the exact lyric that came on when I was driving to the hospital the day my dad was given hospice orders. And its the lyric I cued up when I drove to his deathbed. It is the lyric that reminds me that he is everywhere. I am him. My children are him. The love that I have for my family is him. There are little pieces of him scattered everywhere and I refuse to let those pieces be jagged edges in the pit. I want them to be warm rays of sunshine, sweet smells and the sing-song of giggles. Losing D has taught me to savor every little moment when I’m with her, and to live deeply into myself when she is away. Somehow, I think is has re-run the circuitry of grief in my brain and allowed me to navigate it with more grace. It’s not the same. It simply can’t be. But it’s familiar. And familial.
So when the lump in my throat swells and I feel ready to dive, in a split second I decide each time whether this is the time to free fall or the time to swallow it and find a reason to smile at someone, to marvel and the miracles around me, or to linger just long enough in a memory.