sometimes it feels like my dad died a few days ago, and other times it feels like it has been too long ago to count the days. neither are true, but both feelings will likely remain until, well, I die I guess.
in the days before he died, when we thought he would wake up, I cried a lot. I drank tequila out of the bottle in my underwear on the couch. I ate my weight in sour patch kids, like a starving savage, shoving my face into the bag to get every last tangy granule of sugar and not being able to taste anything for a week. I talked about who I would “trade” to have my dad back, who was more “deserving” of his fate. I easily worked the stages of grief in and out and back again and then after a trip to Wisconsin, another week of spontaneous crying, extra bed time anxiety meds and two extra sessions with my therapist I went back to work and life, sort of.
It was cry, work, cry, eat, cry, sleep, repeat. Then cry, eat, work, cry at work, eat, sleep, repeat. I cycled through that for a minute but continued to wake, breathe and live. That was my focus, keep my head above water. I had a birthday, made a thanksgiving feast, put up a Christmas tree, had my dads favorite dinner on his birthday, studied for and passed the licensing exam, applied to a PhD program, got promoted and made a lot of really inappropriate “dead dad” comments. I replied with “hanging in there” or “putting one foot in front of the other” whenever anyone asked how I was.
Nothing felt better, or made me feel better, but in an odd way, nothing made me feel worse. I became less reactive and more grounded. I’ve felt slivers of guilt for not being “sad enough” some days, and then for not calling my father the night before his procedure or for not laying down and letting the grief swallow me whole. It didn’t just happen though, as I came to realize when talking with my therapist tonight, these things I did, or didn’t do served a purpose. I thought aloud, what was the function of these behaviors …? To escape, to avoid the possibility of being consumed by grief. I spoke about how doing anything other than living my life in the way I had been, in the way I was working toward, seemed, for lack of a better word, disrespectful to my father. This person who did everything in his power to make sure that I had every thing I needed and wanted in life, who would give his last anything for anyone, this man who deserved so much more than he ever got – I’d honor that by laying in bed? By halting my budding career? Sabotaging my health with food or booze? Wallowing in the sadness of what could have or should have been? Absolutely not.
The thing that I had grown up imagining as one of the worst things that could ever happen to me, happened, and I survived it. I referred to myself over those weeks as a “garbage person with a broken brain” … but I was consciously (or subconsciously) making an effort. An effort to live, to continue, to treat my grief as a gift. A suit of teflon against the world; allowing anything after this – future painful outcomes or disappointments to slide off my shoulders.