When i wrote this post sharing that my dad died when i was 18,
I desire to address this issue of grief though i am certainly not a writer, a psychiatrist, or a pastor. I do not have a ten step program on “how to be awesome at grieving.” I’m simply a person who has held the hand of her dying father and learned. I learned what helped me (or what would have helped me) and so i hope i can shed a little bit of light on what might help you through your grief or how to be a good friend to someone who is grieving.
I know this is a sensitive subject and that each person grieves very differently. so please just take whatever you can from it. I've been trying to write this for what seems like ages, but it has just now come together. I am hoping that this is divine timing since the holidays can be such a rough time for grief to come back in waves.
part one: a few thoughts that helped me.
The idea that grief is like the waves of the ocean. I kept experiencing this weird phenomenon where i would be doing “okay” getting through life, almost feeling “normal” and all of a sudden i would be HIT with this huge sadness over missing my dad. One author explained that grief is like the waves of an ocean sometimes only lapping at your feet, but sometimes crashing over your head so hard that you can hardly get to the surface for gulps of air. It helped me to have an analogy to explain and identify these feelings. I would wake up and think “okay, this is a crashing waves day, how am i going to get through it?”
the idea that losing someone is an amputation, not a wound. wounds heal completely, amputations do not. One’s body cannot grow a new arm once it is cut off. In the same way, my life will NEVER be the same without my dad. never. but i can learn to adapt, just as a person who has no arm can learn to adapt and have a happy and fulfilled life.
Something i wish i would have known is to not feel guilty for having to go through the process of grieving. a friend who lost her dad recently was telling me, “there are some days when all i can do is watch my favorite movie in bed and i just feel so guilty because i’m not getting anything done!”
one of my mom’s friends who is also a widow told her “i’m just not doing as good as you are at this.” this is another form of guilt through comparison. Grief has no quick fix, it cannot be gone around, you MUST go through it. and you simply have days where you DON’T get much done. and you do go back to bed. and you cry a lot. but PLEASE, please, DON’T pile guilt on top of sadness. it makes my heart ache to think of that.
now, please don’t hear me say that grief is a reason to quit at life. or that its okay to give up on yourself or to give up caring for those around you. certainly not! i’m just saying there are really hard days, and those are just a part of getting through it!
The next thing i’d like to say is certainly not a new idea; its simply that time does heal.
my dad died on christmas eve of 2002, and every year when christmas gets close i feel sick to my stomach. Much of the world feels like singing and decorating and drinking eggnog and all sorts of other jolliness and i feel like rolling up in the fetal position and sobbing. But this year, somehow, i found the emotional strength to put up a christmas tree (steve and i haven’t had any kind of tree since my dad died, and this is a real tree, no less) and it was actually really fun! i couldn’t believe it. some little corner of my heart has healed in such a way that it doesn’t hurt to think about celebrating in this way. i just want to encourage you that the heartwrenching feeling of fresh grief will indeed lessen. i promise.
Finally, i would just i encourage you to have a spirit of thankfulness.
its so easy to focus on the absence of your loved one, but what if we tried to focus on those that are still here and to be thankful for them? And also to be thankful for the joy that our loved one brought us when they were here. Even though i didn’t have my dad for as long as i would have wished, i try to be thankful that he was such an awesome man when some people have less than great dads. In every situation, there are things to be thankful for and as hard as it may be, we have to try to find them.
wow. this has gotten long. so check back tomorrow (hopefully its tomorrw, i’m working on it) for ways that you might help your friend through grief. (these things will inherently include things that helped me through).
thank you so much for reading,
feel free to message me with any thoughts you have firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. if you didn't gather, these pictures are of my dad and me. :)