The Ebb and Flow of Grief

Grief is strange. It morphs so much with time. It doesn’t really fade, as much as it changes. Eight years ago today my Dad died and for awhile after his death, the grief was sharply painful. When it would hit, it would be like stubbing your toe, or getting hit in the nose with a ball – I would immediately cry without any moment of warning. The sadness would hit me that he was gone, and the tears would flow immediately. The triggers were varied – but they all brought with them tears.

But the tears were surface level. Just like when you stub your toe. They came immediately but they didn’t last long. Maybe it was because they came so often? But I rarely sat in a corner and just sobbed indefinitely that first year. It was like constant small moments of tears, but nothing grand and soul-wrenching.

I don’t cry as much any more. But holy shit, when I do? It’s convulsive and blubbery. The grief stays at a low level of dullness during most waves, just a sadness that permeates memories or moments. But when the wrong combination of mood and moment and memory merge…it’s the wailing of 1000 broken hearts over here.

Thank god it doesn’t happen often.

I feel like as my depression has been worse the last several months the grief has risen more to the surface. I really feel like Dad was a stabilizing force while he was here and no matter how many therapists or psychiatrists I see, none of them will every fill that space in my life. He was a unique fit for that job and so when I have bad ebbs of depression, they are always tainted with the pain of losing him to help me mediate all of that. In other words, when my depression surges, so does my grief because it reminds me how much my life is missing without him here.

I don’t always cry. It’s just like the grief rises with the waves of sadness, and I find myself aching in his absence more than before.

But holy crap, when the tears do come? They are loud and ugly and painful and VERY OFTEN HAPPENING OUT IN THE PUBLIC because my grief seems to like to also EMBARRASS THE SHIT OUT OF ME. The last big surge of tears came when I was a Target and I just grabbed some clothes off a rack and pretended I needed to try them on. I then spent the next 10 minutes loudly sobbing in a changing room, surely looking as though I was having an epic crisis of body image.

(Which – let’s be honest – we’ve all been there so that wouldn’t be too shocking.)

I guess when I’m depressed I just ache for his presence in my life more. As my depression rose post-election, my desire to talk to him did too and somedays it’s this strange manic desperation like I can feel my anxiety rising and all I can think is IF I COULD ONLY TALK TO DAD, which – as you know, just cycles back into the rising tension pushing it all higher on the scale until I’m sobbing in a room covered in mirrors.

(FYI: Don’t have a mental breakdown in a dressing room. No one should have the mental images of their heartbreak permanent etched into their memories.)

So that’s where I’m at now, 8 years later. I’m suffering from a post-election surge of depression which brought along with it several other triggers for my anxiety and the constant reminder that I don’t have my Dad through all of that magnifies everything to a DEFCON LEVEL 1 (it bothers me that the “worst” is 1, I feel like 5 should be the worst, don’t you?) and I find myself in the corner eating a box of donuts and drinking a caramel frapuccino for breakfast.

To celebrate this anniversary, I’m going to do something Dad never did. I’m going to make an appointment with my general practitioner. A doctor I’ve only ever met once when we first joined her clientele. I inherited my hatred of doctors from him, but I can see how much his life was diminished because of that. (Remind me someday to tell you about his stomach problems that went untreated.) I’m also going to my daughter’s Space Camp graduation, one of the many things he would have loved to have witnessed. He would have followed her around all afternoon letting her talk about all of the things she learned. He had much more patience than I have. I’ll probably tap out and grab some tater tots from the snack bar.