My family has grown over the years. 8+ years my Uncle married Christine Minnich’s Mom. This was significant for a few reasons. First, my Uncle and Christine’s Mom found love. Second, I gained two great new Cousins. Third, Christine’ Mom is a widow. She and I “clicked’ instantly and I still believe that the reason for that is because our losses would cross paths down the road. Christine and her brother also deeply felt those losses. While she and I always got along, after the loss of Kevin, we too “clicked” even more. We became drive-by-hug buddies (we live across town-when one feels down we “drive-by-hug” if the other is home). We have shared our losses together. Today, Christine will share about the loss of her Father. I invite you to read, and afterwards, to share.
This past Sunday on my way to church, I had a really close call driving down the highway. It triggered something in me and I started weeping. I had an ache inside of me that couldn’t be filled, longing for something I’ll never have again—my dad—and all because of a near car accident. It’s been almost 12 years since he died. And no, weeping isn’t a daily occurrence for me anymore. The raw emotions have mostly faded. What I now feel is the ache and pain of what will never be again, except for days like today when I again keenly feel a fraction of that once raw pain.
It’s days like today that make me realize that we can’t truly end our grief. There’s no way to completely shut if off no matter how often I wish I could. A friend just told me that “Grief is an eternal journey.” It’s so true. There will always be a part of me that grieves losing my father at fifteen. Yes, we can learn to redefine normal and learn to cope with our new reality. This is expected and very healthy for us to resume some kind of normal, but its also healthy to expect grief’s continued presence and space in our life.
Although grief isn’t my constant companion these days, it does continue to pop up every once in awhile like it did on that Sunday morning. The “firsts” as I like to call them have always been triggers for me. The first time I moved out and went to college was a hard one. The first anniversary of his death. The first year of school after his death. The first time I was out of the country and studying abroad (also over the anniversary of my dad’s death). The first time my mother and I had to fix the plumbing ourselves because dad wasn’t around. The first time I bought my own car. The first time I purchased my own home. And now, I’ve been writing my first book. Dad would have been so proud and yet I can’t share any of it with him. This is what triggers most of my sadness and pain now—what will never be. He’ll not be there when I have the joy of a book in hand. He’ll not ever be able to walk me down the isle at my wedding someday or dance as father/daughter. He couldn’t even teach me to do one of his favorite things—to drive a car—because he’s not here. He died.
Though I don’t give myself as much space to grieve these days, I can tell that my body does. I have a close friend that died at the beginning of July 2008. This year, I forgot about the anniversary until I got so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t concentrate on the smallest of things. It was then that I realized what day it was and began to give myself a little grace. This will sometimes happen on my dad’s anniversary as well. Other times, it’s the anticipation of a hard day that’s the worst and the day itself is fine. I think in a way our bodies recognize the times when we need to grieve whether we choose to or not as a way of giving us space and letting the natural happen. Whatever triggers grief, find space to feel it and release it, no matter how small it may seem. Getting it out in the open helps restore the balance and brings steps of healing. For me, giving myself space means doing some writing, art, or just being and relaxing, finding peace in the quiet. Or crying if I need to.