Grief is the universal emotion. Every one of us will grieve someone or something at some point in our lives. Our challenge is not to hide from grief, but to feel it.
I know it’s an overwhelming emotion. I think this is because we fear that we may never return to our lives if we let ourselves truly “go there.”
The thing is…if we don’t, we really are not living.
My daddy died in October of 2003. That night he had campaigned after deciding to run for another term in the state senate. When he returned home he told my mother that he “didn’t feel right” and went to bed shivering and sweating. She left to make him some hot tea and when she returned his heart had stopped beating although his pacemaker was still working.
In 2003 I was living in Atlanta so the call came in the middle of the night. Now I know what pure shock feels like. It’s like slipping out of your mind and into suspension – a place where you are alive, but don’t know that you are.
For a long time my sadness felt like a 1000 pound lead apron on my chest. I barely drug through each day as I tried to fool myself into thinking that he hadn’t died. Then on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I broke apart.
For my entire life I felt as though I was a colorful kite; dipping and soaring in the cloudy blue sky while my father stood on the ground holding the other end of the rope, encouraging me to soar higher.
The afternoon I broke apart, when I let myself truly grieve his death, I could swear I felt the snap of the rope that had connected him to me.
I saw myself standing on the ground, staring up in the sky, weeping and holding the puddle of lifeless rope in my hands. Somehow we had changed places and I watched him soar and dip softly up into the clouds.
For a moment I was consumed with panic and fury – I thought, if I hadn’t let myself go-there…feel it – I wouldn’t have had this sensation and it wouldn’t be real.
But the panic passed and as my anxiety calmed, it occurred to me that I had completed the first step of my grieving task which was to let myself feel the pain of his death. I knew this professionally, but now I knew for myself; that I had to keep pushing forward and continue grounding myself without him to counsel me.
Although I think about daddy every single day, the pain has softened. Now as thoughts of him come into my mind, I take a deep breath and focus on how grateful I am that he was the father that was given to me. He’s taught me so much about how to live and I know he is still teaching me in his death.
Death is sad and should be felt. In order to live with the loss you have to first live with the reality.