Special thanks to guest author and Hello Grief Community member Kati Rice for sharing this story with us.
It was 11:30 pm on Sunday, October 31st, 2010. Since Dad had died in September, that night was the last time I could say “my dad died last month.” It was just one more way that life was taking me further and further away from him.
Did you notice when your loved one had just died, that right afterward, when you said, “my ____ died today” or “yesterday” or “last week” other people’s reactions were immediate? You could see the effect it had on them – it was all over their face; even their body position changed. It’s like their heart lurched in their chest and they had to grab for it, to keep it in its proper place. I know I do the same thing, even when it’s just some famous person that I never knew. But the more time passes, the less impact the news makes. As time goes on, more and more people expect you to get over it, move on. But what if you’re not ready?
Have you heard the saying “Time heals all wounds”? Well, I have been learning more about grief since my dad died in September (see how immediate that makes things sound?!) Some important sources have told me told that whoever said that is not quite right: time does not actually heal grief. Not automatically, anyway. It’s when we work at it, that we begin to heal. Someone told me, “When someone you love has died, it’s like being in the ocean. You have to face grief head-on, like you have to face a wave that’s coming toward you. If you try to turn away from it, the wave will just take you down.” I think that’s a great example, don’t you?
From what I’ve been learning by being here in this online community, it seems like Comfort Zone Camps are an amazing way to face the waves. I’m definitely reading books about death and grief, talking with friends, praying, finding art that shows how I feel and keeping it close by, writing about both the past (my memories of my dad) and the present (my sadness), and listening to music. I’ve found great photos of me and my dad when I was a little girl; seeing how happy each of us looked to be with the other reminds me of how deep our love was. Being with the people who knew and loved my dad can be very soothing to my soul.
And also, taking breaks from thinking about my sadness helps too. Like this weekend, when I woke up on Saturday, I was having trouble “shifting gears”: I woke up thinking about my dad, started crying, and then no matter what I tried, I couldn’t really stop doing either (the thinking, or the crying). So my husband and I decided to take a 5 hour road trip, for no reason, really, other than to be in the car together, driving away from the town where dad died. It was wild: as we drove away, as I left the places that house all my memories of my dad, I left my sadness behind as well. I couldn’t believe how different I felt by the time I got back home! My spirit felt lighter. I will likely become the same kind of sad again, but boy was it surprising how just changing my location had helped.
It helped while I was gone, and doing different things, but it also helped when I got back. I liked the break, but I also liked coming home again. Being close to the places where my dad was before he died makes me feel close to him. And that doesn’t just feel sad, it feels good, too. It’s like by being in the water, facing the waves, I get to still be a part of him. That’s just as important to me as the chance to get away. Both are good.
And, last but not least, it is wonderful to be with others who understand. After all, no one who has lost a parent of their own would ever say, “Well, your dad died more than two months ago. Why are you still sad?” Because we all know what swimming in the ocean is all about….best not to tackle the waves alone, huh? For me, being on the Hello Grief Community and connecting with others has helped me to face my own waves.
What are other ways you have found to work on your grief?