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.

2 thoughts on “The Ebb and Flow of Grief

  1. Shannon says:

    You know I am here for you, whenever, however you need. Grief is strange, and for some reason reminds me of a cat, just sitting in the corner. You can walk around, go about your day, and not have it impact you in any way. And then boom, all of a sudden, you round the corner and almost step on it, and it stops you in your tracks. You get blindsided, and think where did you come from? Where you there all along? I’m not sure if that makes sense. Growing up with anxiety disorder, I was a difficult kid to understand. I know I was. Everyone was always struggling with wondering how to placate me, without letting me cocoon and miss out on all of life’s experiences. The whole, do we let her skip this event or do we push her, and make her spread her wings conundrum. And of course, it was the early 80’s. Parents didn’t understand anxiety in children the way that they do now. My grandmother was my caregiver whenever my mom was at work, and she was my best friend. She was calm, quiet, and solid. She was strong, and yet exceptionally kind. Never raised her voice, and was this large, soft and perfect pillow of a person who I could just sort of fall into whenever I wanted to. When I was 10 she had a series of strokes, and when I was 11 she died. I can still remember how good it felt to fall into her lap and know that she would rub my back until I wasn’t tense over whatever was running through my brain that day. I still think of her multiple times a day, and almost constantly at holidays. I wish she could have met my husband. Most days it’s a sweet, and loving feeling to think of her, but some days it still hits me like a ton of bricks, and I get so annoyed with myself for not having processed it all by now. I want to only feel happiness when I think of her, and yet I have come to the conclusion that I am not in control of that. I can only feel what I feel, and I try to remember that I’m only sad because there is still so much love there. SO MUCH LOVE that just has to eek out every so often in whatever form. You will be okay, because, as I remind myself daily, there is simply no other option. You just have to let that love eek out every so often.

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