In the past 365 days, I finished my first semester of graduate school, I got in an accident that totaled my car, I got a new car, I got a new job, I left an old job, I lost my dog, I lost a parent, I gained a friend, I moved to a new town, to a new apartment, and have felt happier and sadder than I’ve ever been. In the past 365 days I’ve been through it all and am still here.
The past few weeks have been a challenge, while I feel so blessed to be able to work from home, staying-in and being un-busy has made me face the sadness that I made myself too-busy to face before. I’ve cried more about my dad’s passing in the last four weeks than I have in the last four months.
I told Darren that being afraid to leave the house feels familiar to me, it wasn’t too long ago that my dad was terminally ill and leaving the house gave me anxiety. I’d call Darren from the driveway, sat in my car, canceling a day of plans because I was afraid that if I left my dad would die while I was gone. I faced that fear every single day that I went to work at the retail job that I was growing to resent – I went from being chronically an hour early to consistently 5 minutes late, I used that hour to decide if I could pull out of the driveway that day.
As much as I miss my dad, and as heartbroken as I still feel, as much as I would trade anything in the world for five more minutes with him – there was a sense of freedom, a sense of peace, that came with his passing and I feel guilty and ashamed to even say that because it probably sounds horrible, but my mom understands. My dad required 24-hour care, 24-hour worry, and in 24 hours his condition would endlessly worsen, and knowing that he isn’t suffering, or struggling to breathe in the living room all day every day, brings a sense of quiet. The same heartbreakingly, yet peaceful, quiet of the paramedics turning off his breathing machine the night he passed.
I don’t want to sound like I have it all figured out, but I wish I could tell people that what you’re feeling right now – afraid to leave your house, that same anxiety and fear – some people were already feeling that way before the Coronavirus ever happened. Lately I Google Coronavirus everyday when I wake up, for the 23 months my dad had ALS I Googled ALS everyday when I woke up. Sometimes I’d hope for a cure, sometimes I’d feel hopeless, and today is so similar to days I’ve had before.
Seeing images of people being intubated and hooked up to ventilators gives me flashbacks to when they intubated my dad. I remember my mom calling me at four in the morning from the VA, me driving teary-eyed an hour North to say goodbye, and while that goodbye wasn’t the last goodbye – I wish other people would take depleted lung capacity more seriously – it’s why my dad died.
Again, I don’t mean to sound like I’ve got anything, or everything, figured out, but I saw a post on Instagram today that made me feel like it was okay to feel the way I feel – dealing with today is difficult, for everyone, dealing with today and the grief of losing a parent feels especially difficult. Sometimes I wake up in the night wide awake feeling trapped, in my house and in my mind – I relive the night he died over and over again, crying until I fall asleep. While these are uncertain times, they feel especially uncertain for those who were feeling a bit uncertain before.
I know that everything is going to be okay, that there will be sunshine, and ice cream dates, and dinners with friends where we sit outside and sip sangria and laugh, but I also know that it’s okay to feel scared and anxious and like nothing will be right ever again. In times like these, I must remember: In the past 365 days I’ve been through it all and am still here.