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.