Monday, November 28, 2011
Grief Changes You
My dad died on a Tuesday. He died four Tuesdays ago tomorrow. I suppose Tuesday will always have an edginess to it from this point forward.
I remember participating in a grief class just before my Grandma's death six years ago. The facilitator told us that grief changes you. I heard the words. I knew what they meant. I had experienced grief. I had lost a job. I wasn't all that crazy about the job, so that loss was not a painful loss. I'd been divorced. That was extremely painful. I still feel that pain. I could see how there was some truth in that little string of words. I could see that I had felt the pains and that I had changed as a result of those pains.
When my Grandma passed away that following April, I remember waking up the next morning and feeling like she'd left without me. My heart ached. I rolled over, buried my face in the feather pillow and cried. I wanted to hold her hand. I wanted to sit with her. I wanted to make tea for her and tuck her into her chair. I felt then that grief really does change you.
I think for me, the horror of my dad's cancer hit me like a two-by-four across the kidneys when I heard the diagnosis this July. I knew my dad was dying. I knew there was nothing I could do to change that he was "leaving". Don't get me wrong, there were definitely times I would hope that he would call and tell me the cancer was gone and I could count on another twenty-five years of having my dad in my life. But then my cynical voice would whisper those cruel things like, "But Kelly! He has LUNG CANCER! It's LATE STAGE 4 lung cancer! The cancer is already in his lymph system, and his adrenal system and his bones, and his brain." Then, my heart would sink again.
Thanksgiving was the first big holiday without my dad. I dreaded Thanksgiving. I saw on so many people's Facebook pages and blogs how they were thinking of gratitude every day in November. I could barely even think let alone focus on gratitude. I tried. I tried by creating my lists of five. That was a very uncomfortable challenge. I felt like there really wasn't much for which I could express Thanksgiving.
Sometimes, I try to engage with friends who have not endured this horror. I know they mean well. But I really need them to know that this isn't something you feel sad about for a few days and then just jump back up and are ready to go forward. I felt like some of my friends think it is like when your goldfish dies, you just flush his body down the toilet, wash your hands and then go buy another goldfish! This is NOT like that at all! Another friend when I told her I wished there was something I could do or say to help her prepare for this deep ache. She told me she is not afraid of death. Grief is not a fear of death. It is loss. It is mourning. It is a time of deep, intense sorrow. It is grief. Those two concepts are completely unrelated. Grief is ugly. Grief is painful. Grief is life-changing.
My dad's life is over and my life is forever different. There is no delete key on this one. There is no second chance.
I need my friends to understand I need a lot of love and tenderness right now. In all honesty, I don't feel like I can ask for understanding because it is a space that unless you've lost a parent...you simply cannot understand.
My sister sent me a text message this weekend that read: "I have cried so many tears I think I look like a different person!" I knew what she meant. I looked in the mirror last weekend and these dark circles under my eyes almost seem to suggest a facial structure change...and not a good one, either! I wrote back and told her I felt like I had aged a lot since November 1st. I feel it in my physical self, and my psyche.
I concur! Grief does change you. I feel like everything has been rewritten. I absolutely hate that my life stories have a point of "before dad died" and a point of "after dad died".... Really! I hate that I can't still have the innocence that my friends have that you think it is so easy to "just snap out of it!" or just decide to be happy!
If only it were that easy.
On a different subject: There was a small window when I didn't mind utilizing the art of self portraiture. That window happened when I was younger, happier and a whole lot more confident. I knew self-portraits were helpful when my kids were younger and I didn't have very many photos of myself. But then one day, I noticed how I have more wrinkles and I looked older. I suddenly felt shy again about photos of myself. I didn't want anymore photos of me.
I read a blog somewhere...for the life of me, I can't remember which one...but I have seen a few different blogkeepers out there who suggest harnessing the power of self-portraiture. I think I have seen projects called 52 Fridays. I decided that Tuesday would be my self-portraiture day. I named my project 52 Tuesdays. I don't know if there is really anything to be gained from a project like this. Maybe there is? For now, I see a sad, 41-year-old woman who is trying to adjust to her new normal. Hopefully, that sad woman will re-emerge soon with a smile on her face. She will be changed, but I hope she will smile again. Hopefully, in the span of 52 Tuesdays, I will see that change.