Grief is an Interesting Sneak by Sarah Wright Olsen
I wrote this back in April. I couldn’t bring myself to post it at the time. Something about that month and all the feelings I try to process during the time of year when I lost my dad halts me from sharing too much of my heart. It may be a way of protecting myself, but with time and with lots of conversations I find my footing again and I feel a little less vulnerable letting go of the hurt in my heart that comes from losing someone I loved so much. This will read the way I wrote it sometime before April on a cold Toronto afternoon.
“Grief is an interesting sneak,” I found myself thinking on my ride to work this morning. I was chatting with a transpo driver taking me to set about getting stuck in the snow in the mountains. We talked for a while and I recalled a story about my parents moving from Kentucky to Arizona. I told him about their drive and how they got lost in the mountains for hours with their giant U-haul towing a car. I remembered how nervous I was when they lost service and I didn’t hear from them for a while. That memory took me straight back to the familiarity of being able to pick up my phone and text or call my dad. As I lay the story out for him it dawned on me that I can’t do that anymore.
It’s weird how you forget and then remember the things that are taken away from you. I felt a deep heavy weight in my chest and before I knew it, we were telling stories about how our dads died. I listened to his tale of his dad and I told him mine. It’s been a few years now, but lately he has been popping into my head. I have dreamt about him, thought of him while looking at the wildflowers blooming in the California spring, something he would have loved to paint.
I listened to the song by Lady Gaga “Always Remember Us this Way,” for the twentieth time on a drive with my kids and I thought, “my dad would have loved this song.” Then, I pictured his eyes tearing up as I would have had him listen to it with me in person. For the last few weeks he is here and my heart is heavy. I miss him terribly and I wonder, why now? I mean, I went through this so intensely. I went to therapy while I was pregnant and then after. I wrote his Eulogy, I wrote stories about him, I nearly crumbled into a three day puddle of tears on the first anniversary of his death.
This morning at work my friend told me her dad was coming in for a visit and she said, “I really need to see my dad.” In my mind I thought, “me too.” I mean yes, we had an early call time, I’m away from my kids, a bit jet lagged and vulnerable. Then it hit me: it’s almost April. My dad died April 20th 2016, four months before the birth of my daughter. My mom and I took care of him all the way until the end and every year since he died I forget that this time of year affects me in such a physical way.
My body knew. My body could feel that this was the time of year and we are close to the day we lost him.
Grief: You don't see it coming and then out of nowhere you could be crying in the market staring at a jar of peanut butter. It’s good to share memories of the ones we love. It’s good to feel connected to our ancestors, our family members, and friends who have died. The feeling rushes us and can be over powering, but it’s better to have the feelings, acknowledge their existence and with that understanding you can keep moving forward.
I felt so lonely after I lost my dad. I wasn’t alone. I had my mom, my husband, my brother, my son, my daughter inside me, my friends, even my therapist. Regardless, the deep feeling in my heart was loneliness, longing and sadness. I felt alone when I couldn’t call him, when our favorite song came on the radio, when football season started. I felt a longing for random texts from him. I longed to tell him my daughters birth story. I was sad for all the moments we wouldn’t have together and that he wouldn’t know my daughter or my son as they grew. Writing about him though is healing.
I recognize I am not alone and that it’s okay to be sad. Getting help is crucial. Even now as I write these words in front of me, all those feelings are there in my body pushing through my pores, filling my eyes with tears and it’s ok. It feels so good to have loved him so deeply. It feels so good to remember him so clearly. It feels good to see my mom in a new relationship and happy. It feels good to get lost in his memory. It feels good to keep moving forward knowing he is still there, in the eyes of my daughter, in the gentle nature of my son and in the wildflowers blooming all around me.