Shades of Grief

My biological father died in January. That feels weird to write. Our story together is a complicated one, more because it is together and apart and disconnected and together and disconnected again. And one day, I might take the time to really write the whole story out. More so that my children can know that part of me. A part that contributes much to who I am in all of its messiness. But today, Jubilee asked that I play a song in the car that reminds me of the good times with my dad, and I felt an odd feeling wash over me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I haven’t cried about my dad’s death in several weeks. I still have waves of “Oh yeah, he’s dead.” Like the reality of it fades in and out for me. We were not close at the end. We went months without contact. I hadn’t seen him in over a year. And with that kind of distance comes an oddness in the sinking in of loss. It’s not here in my face. No one else here really had a relationship with him. So it makes it easy to let the sadness fade to the background over time and not really think about it that often.

The first week, I was with my sister and brothers. That week the grief was raw and sad and awful and ripping. We talked about him together honestly. We laughed at the fun we had with him. At his great sense of humor. We cried about missed opportunities, and addiction and destruction, each of us affected in a different way at a different level. About the distance. Each of us chose a different relationship with him once he started using again after 12 years sober, for our own reasons. But together, we were at peace with that. There was no judgment between us. No “you should have done this” or “well, I always did that.” We just sat together and felt our own personal sadness and our group sadness. These 4 people who share his DNA and the best parts of his heart.

Once I came home, the grief changed a bit. Added to the raw and ripping was the loneliness. Life was moving on as normal around me. No one at home was really grieving. So I was alone in my memories and my sadness. My husband held me and listened as I talked it out. My kids tried to relate and Melody cried with me a lot. Mostly because she is quite possibly the sweetest, most empathetic soul on the planet. Jubilee tried get into the grief with me by asking a lot of questions about my dad and listening to songs that she knew reminded me of him. One of them became a favorite for her and she asks for it in the car often, like this morning.

Several weeks followed where the sadness felt more heavy than raw. There was still an occasional tear or bout of crying. A remembrance pillow from my sister made from one of his favorite Hawaiian shirts came and I sat and hugged it and missed him and cried. My sister and I in particular were in very close contact throughout those weeks as she was feeling the same sense of lonely grief as me. In a much different way as she had a very different closeness to mourn. But still, we talked about how the loss of a parent feels so much different than that of a grandparent or a friend. The heaviness made it a bit hard to function normally. It felt like a deep sadness that lay beneath all of my other emotions. Sometimes I would wonder why I felt so awful, then remember that I was sad. One particular friend I talk with a lot lost her dad several months before and we talkedĀ about the deep heavy sorrow that crying couldn’t reach. And how long it would last. And how we would walk through it.

Today, as the song Jubilee requested played, I realized that a part of my heart is trying to move on, but the wound is still there. I wanted to refuse to play the song. My grief today feels like a deep wound that is scabbed over, but still sore and I just don’t want to poke it. But I know that any feeling that exists under the layers likely needs an outlet and so I turned on the song. And it brought up some sadness, but also a feeling of fond remembering that was too overshadowed by the heavy grief for a while. And I just realized how much of an individual process grieving is. And how healthy.

Our human hearts crave pure emotions. Mixtures are uncomfortable. We want to get all the sad out so we can feel the happy. But we were created for so much more depth and breadth than that. And so I reluctantly peel back my bandage and poke at the wound of grief in my heart. And it oozes a little, but it also gives me the opportunity to admire the new skin that’s growing in. My dad’s untimely death will always be a part of my heart. Just like his complicated life is. And I am cautioning myself today to slow down and make peace with the fact that I will likely never think of him without a tinge of sadness. And that it’s okay. Because that’s a part of who I am, too. And I’m starting to kind of like me. <3

-Handprints

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