Reality is a tough thing.
When someone close to you passes away, the days and weeks that follow are an utter blur. You walk around, handling logistics and hugging and saying who knows what when it reality your brain is hardly functioning, and also working on overdrive to get through the days.
In those days and weeks, your people are there. They’re there to listen, to check in, to bring food, to baby sit, or there to give you the space you need.
What I’m learning though is that it’s the months that follow major loss (or learning of a significant illness) that are the most challenging.
My dad died on Dec. 9, 2015. It’s been just about four months. 120 days since life changed forever. My six year old has a few memories but my son will only know his grandpa through photos. I won’t have any more lunch dates, get talk to him about work, receive his texts or hear him say “loveeee.”
The month that followed his death, which also included his birthday and the holidays, went better than expected for me. People asked how I was doing and I legitimately felt like I was doing OK, that I had come to terms with reality.
Yet in more recent weeks, it’s been increasingly challenging. Facing reality sucks.
My brother and I are selling his place, and donating his furniture. We’re bringing to our homes some sentimental items and reminiscing. The cologne that always smelled so strong to me is such a sense of comfort (I brought home a bottle I saw on his bathroom counter).
I went to my dad’s grave site for the first time this week, not knowing exactly what I would do or say. Words came to me, as did tears. It felt good to feel close to him, and equally like a knife in my heart that he’s no longer here.
While you have to keep going — work, kids, and life — there are hard moments. It can be really difficult to find time to grieve. And, I can see how easy it can be to not take the time to do so.
While I consider myself a strong person, I’m giving in. I’m seeing my counselor every two weeks and as she said, giving into moments. If I start crying, I try not to fight it back or choke it down. Cry, be mad, angry and sad and feel the emotions. My daughter has seen me cry, and we talk about it.
While I can easily write about a lot of this, I have a hard time talking about it. I’m trying to do better, and to be honest… not just say I’m doing “good” to close friends and family, when in fact I’m hurting. They want to be there for me, and frankly, I need them.
Months later, months after a major moment of grief and devastation for any of us, you still need your tribe, and it’s important to admit defeat to your crushing reality. People inevitably get back to their lives unless you are honest that you need them back.
My brother mentioned yesterday he went on my dad’s Facebook page and took screen shots of some special moments so my copycat self did the same. Beyond the exorbitant number of photos displaying his love of bacon, it was clear he was so proud of his family. This message really struck a chord with me.
While I can cry thinking of the moments we’ll never get to experience with him, this message also filled me with comfort knowing that he will be there, at least in my heart and even in my brain and how I approach things, for a lifetime.
If you’re grieving and hurting, I encourage you to talk with someone — a counselor, a friend, anyone — and if you know someone who’s dealt with significant hardship, I encourage you to send them a little note or text or email or give them a call just to remind them that long after the initial moment, you’re there for them. It’s honestly never too late to share a message like that. I swear to you it will mean more to them than you can imagine.
Join the Conversation
HeidiApril 11, 2016 at 10:31 PM
I’m so sorry for your loss Alyson. Vent Sesh are my favorite of your posts because I truly feel like I get to know you. I cannot imagine the pain and the feeling of reality setting in. Thank you for sharing this. I can only hope that on some small level it can provide an outlet for you to bear your soul and know that you have the love and support of many. Sending love and a virtual hug.
TaraApril 11, 2016 at 6:21 AM
I can’t even imagine how hard this must be…again, so sorry for your loss!
ShiraApril 8, 2016 at 5:48 PM
Alyson, I’ve been thinking about how you were coping these last few months. Can’t imagine how difficult it must be.
Nicole MavridesApril 8, 2016 at 1:00 PM
this was such a beautiful post and so very true. it takes a very strong person to admit they need help from their friends and family – so good for you. i’m so sorry for what you have to go through. unfortunately i’ve been there and really understand. even though it’s been 10 years – i still tear up when i think of all of the things that my dad missed and will keep missing. but you have to focus on the fun and great memories to help you get through the tough times. here if you need anything. xoox
Alison at Wardrobe OxygenApril 8, 2016 at 12:33 PM
Oh Alyson, this post made me tear up. Tear up for the sadness and heartache you’re feeling, but tearing up at how well your father let you know he loved you. He was obviously an amazing man to raise a person as amazing as you. I lost my dad when I was in college and while it gets easier, there are always things that will remind you and put a lump in your throat. I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself, and allowing yourself to have these feelings and share them with your children. <3
KellyApril 8, 2016 at 11:39 AM
Beautiful message…grief is so hard and complicated and it definitely does not follow a straight line. When the year anniversary of my Mom’s death came I was hit with almost paralyzing grief…everyone says the first year is the hardest and when the year mark rolled around I was like this still”sucks”! Love and hugs to you! Kelly
annieApril 8, 2016 at 10:33 AM
I lost my dad in October 2014 and it hit me so much harder than I thought it would. We had a complicated relationship and I mourned so many things -like the relationship we might have had if my mother’s mental illness hadn’t brought so many challenges. I felt happy that he was no longer suffering and terribly sad that I never really had a close father-daughter relationship with him. People in my life sort of dismissed that I might be mourning deeply because they knew we were never super close. I don’t think I even really realized that I would still have so many complicated feelings. Sometimes friends and family don’t realize how we are feeling and reaching out is hard to do. Thank you for sharing your story with us, I’m so sorry for your loss.
Janis johnsonApril 8, 2016 at 9:22 AM
Beautiful essay on your feelings for your dad. It sounds like you had a wonderful bond. I’m so sorry for your loss, Alyson. God bless. ~Janis