My Experience with Grief

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my thoughts lately and feeling a bit apprehensive about sharing them – I think about when I started my blog – the same day I started my experience with grief. My mom and dad were going to the first of what would become endless doctors appointments and I wrote the whole time they were gone, I wrote more in those hours than I had in years, it was my way of processing what was happening to me, to my family, to my dad.

Lately, I feel hyper aware that people I went to high school with might end up here, or people I used to work with, or people who I do work with and I worry if it seems attention-seeking, if it seems self-serving, but then I Google “how to feel 6 months after losing my dad” and I can’t find anything that I want to read and I sit down and I write what I want to read.

It’s been 7 months since my dad died and in some ways I feel sadder 7 months later than I felt 7 days later. Some days I feel sick of thinking about it, sick of talking about, sick – I keep wondering if you’re sick of me talking about it, but at the same time, it’s all I think about.

When my dad died, I kept looking for something he’d left me – I don’t know what I was looking for, part of me hoped I’d find a letter that he wrote after he was diagnosed, but before he lost the use of his hands. On my 16th birthday he gave me a book “The Art of Oral Advocacy” – a book to let me know he really hoped I’d become a lawyer, I looked in the front for an inscription, but nothing. My dad wasn’t one for cards, or letters, or inscriptions. He was rectangular, if he had a pen and paper he’d make a to-do list, me too dad.

I guess what I was looking for was one last “I love you.” When I’m having a bad day, I call my mom and I ask her “Did Daddy know how much I loved him?” “Was Daddy proud of me?” Questions I know the answer to, but grief makes you feel unsure of things that you know.

I found him in a dream:

“Steffy Effy is that you?”

“Jimmy Jimmy is that you?”

“I love you so much”

“I love you too”

But, then I woke up.

I have a voicemail from him – I wasn’t home and it was past midnight and he sounds so mad. I was thinking about it in the car the other day, laughing that the only voicemail I have from him – he’s using his yogurt-spoon voice. Jimmy Jimmy hated when he’d finish all the dishes and I’d have a yogurt and leave the spoon in the sink and I was laughing then I was crying, because I was so lucky to know his yogurt-spoon voice.

I wanted to get a little “J” tattooed on my wrist over the summer, I wanted to go to Scotland in the fall, I wanted to spend the rest of this year doing things to honor his memory, but I’ve barely left my apartment since March, the things I want to do to honor him feel impossible, which makes losing him feel more impossible.

Things I’ve googled since my dad got sick:

ALS (I googled this everyday for 23 months)

cure for ALS (I still google this everyday)

do I have anxiety?

do I have depression?

arms and legs feel too heavy to move

can’t sleep

always feel asleep, even when I’m awake

is my hair falling out?

does stress cause hair loss?

headache all the time

neck ache

hard to make eye contact?

how to feel 6 months after losing a parent

I keep thinking about how it used to be –

My five year old hands in wet concrete

My five fingers next to yours

And your handwriting where you wrote “you and me”

There’s this thing that they don’t tell you about grief, which is that after you lose someone, there are so many people checking on you all the time and you have to keep pretending to be okay, to not worry them, and you actually think you are okay for a while, but people stop checking on you, they stop texting, and calling, and then you’re not pretending anymore and you’re not okay anymore.

There’s this song I keep listening to and there’s a line about sitting in the hospital with a cold cup of coffee and I keep thinking how unifying that cold cup of coffee is – how much empathy I feel for anyone sitting in a hospital right now with a cold cup of coffee, how I wish I could hug them and tell them how many days and nights I sat in hospitals with a cold cup of coffee.

My dad loved coffee and the Kennedys. I re-watched the move Jackie recently, a movie about Jackie Kennedy in the days after her husband’s assassination and there’s this scene where she’s talking to her priest and he says something like, “don’t you know, we all go to bed every night and wonder if this is it, if this is enough?” And Jackie asks him what happens next and he says something like, “well we all do the same thing, we eventually fall asleep and then tomorrow we’ll put on a pot of coffee” and it’s what I keep doing, no matter how hard it is, I put on a pot of coffee.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    And that is what you have to do beautiful young lady and you will continue to do it. Life will never be the same but you go on living each day and making the best of it that you can and one day a new normal will fall in place. You will still have your memories and happy ones will appear in the picture even though the “grief one” still pop up but you will go on and appreciate that you have loved ones still around you. And you will still have that cup of coffee but hopefully with time it will have joy with it, Love you and think of you and your Mum and family every day. So thankful for my daily FaceTime visits with her.xoxo

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beuatiful Steph. I promise you that Humpty Dumpty will get put together again, never quite the same, but stronger, smarter and kinder. It is grief that shapes our souls and it takes a very strong person to feel when it so much easier to shut down. You are strong. I am proud of you.

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