On August 7, 2018 my Dad will have been dead 12 years. And I truly cannot fathom that. And I don’t really want to write this blog because Im sick as shit of hearing about my grief so I KNOW you are. The funny thing is I am a very happy person. I love life. I go on constant adventures. I laugh a LOT. I have amazing kids, friends and a pretty great guy in my life. I love my Mom, sister and brother. But there is something present in every day of my life, in every minute, in every second, that I cannot ignore. That is just THERE. And over 12 years has become part of who I am. And NOT recognizing it seems to give it more power. So I chose, a few years back, to address it as often as I felt necessary. If I speak TO the grief, speak OF it, face it….acknowledge that it changed every single solitary thing in my being…..it feels a little better.
Months will go by and I live what I call a “grief-free” period. And then something will happen. It can be little. It can be almost nothing at all…and it triggers some grief. This past weekend my kids were mostly gone with friends, Dude was on a boys camping weekend, most of my friends were out of town and I found myself very STILL. I am not often still. Or alone really. I go, go, go. And it’s designed that way. STILL is a place that provides quiet and thought and I don’t always do well with that. So Saturday night, alone, I rented “Wild” again. With Reese Witherspoon. The remarkable story of how Cheryl Strayed walked the PCT in honor of and because of her mother’s death. I’ve read all of Cheryl’s books, watched her speeches, and soaked in all of her words. I get her.
I have seen that movie 5 or 6 times but each time I get something more out of it. I think what I mostly get is confirmation that Im not nuts. Cheryl was so very close to her mom. Her Mom died at 45. My Dad was 53. And died in a motorcycle accident. Her Mom died 26 years ago. And to this day it affects WHO she is, what she does, HOW she does things. And just after her Mom’s death she lost herself. And had to find herself again. And I GET that. To my core…I GET that. Every person on Earth does grief differently. I had an image of a line. With a beginning and an ending. “Shock, denial, sadness, acceptance, depression, learning to live again, the END.” Done with grief. In approximately 2 years. I gave myself two years. Check mark.
Ive been wrong about so many things in my life. But I couldn’t have been “wronger” about grief. It is ugly and pretty and joyous and sickening and painful and long and lonely and confusing and irritating and interferes with everything you do. And it lasts. I don’t want to say “forever” but I will. Because 12 years later I believe that. I think I need to accept that its never going away. That Im not weird or strange or fucked up because I still grieve all these years later.
Grief is a thing. And she can walk up while you’re busy having fun and slap you in the face so hard and so surprisingly that you are jolted. And you hate her for it. Cuz you shouldn’t be this way all these years later.
There’s a few lines that Bobbi (Cheryl’s Mom) says in the car just after she’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. And of the 5 or 6 previous times Ive watched the movie I never really HEARD those words. This time I HEARD them……
“I was never me. I was always a mother and a wife. I was never in the driver’s seat of my own life”.
It makes me cry as I write those words. How incredibly sad to realize that….as you are dying. I HEARD the words and realized my Dad’s death taught me the same thing. That Id better get the fuck in the driver’s seat and start steering. Because time is not promised. Not even a little bit.
I’ve said before that Im not the same girl I was on August 6, 2006. Everything about me changed. Everything. My grief has changed the way I parent, the way I live, the way I love, where I live, what I say, my marriage, my courage, my heart, my life, and all of the fibers in my being. And if you ask me if I’d change that….the honest answer is I don’t know. I don’t know. How can I know. I can only know that I am here today writing this. Sharing this. Opening this wound…so that maybe some other NUT JOB who doesn’t feel normal, who makes mistakes, who ends a marriage, who loses a parent, who buys some land in the mountains, who goes through a tragedy….will not feel so alone.
And the truth is….I don’t have a magic, feel good, get through grief better book to write. Cuz what the fuck do I know? Grief is a bitch. You aint getting over it. You aint avoiding it forever. You aint gonna drink it away or sex it away or write it away or cry it away. You are going to avoid it as long as you can and then she’s going to catch you. And rip your heart out. And you can only feel it. And live through it. Because you will. You will live through it. Question is……HOW are you going to live through it.
Get busy living. And quit “shoulda’n” on yourself.
“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” – Cheryl Strayed
“Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world. It’s hard to get by just upon a smile Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world I’ll always remember you like a child, girl….” – Cat Stevens