The other morning I woke up with such an urge to write. To write down details about the grief stricken path I’ve walked on for the last four and a half months. Mostly as a personal record for me. To recognize where I’ve been and the trajectory I am moving in. The days are long and when you are in it, it feels like everyday is the same. But among this journey, there have been pockets of happiness. Pockets that are not forced, but rather genuine and it is important to recognize them. But I also feel an urge, probably from my dad, to share this with all of you. It feels like the grief process is embedded in my soul and everyday new layers form. A grieving, anxious millennial strung together by ribbons of depression.
Experiencing depression is not something that is new to me. I know the signs and I know the coping skills. But so much of this feels unfamiliar. Like such uncharted territory. And on top of that, there is a heaviness with the upcoming change of season. The tiny glimmer of fall starts to stir up anxious feelings in me. The cooler evenings. The transition from summer scented candles to all the fall favorites. It is a reminder that time is passing. That the world continues to move even though mine is still stuck on April 6th.
There is something I recently did that helped time begin to move again, no matter how slow it is. I visited a medium. I understand this can still be something that is taboo and also recognize the skeptics out there, which are totally valid. But for me, this experience provided a lot of peace and healing. This experience was so intimate and sacred to me that I’ve only shared with a couple close friends and family. It was the first time in four months that I was able to talk to my dad. And that is something I will hold close to my heart forever. For me, I sought out a medium because I was so desperate to connect. Desperate for validation that the signs I was seeing and feeling were real. I left a session that lasted three hours with pure joy, which is something I have not felt in a really long time.
That joy is something I am trying to savor. Almost like I have bottled it up and open it when I need it most. I miss my dad in all moments. I wake up and forget for a minute that this is real. I reach for my phone to call him, wishing I could hear his voice. I’m so thankful for the pictures and videos I have of him and look through them when I need to feel him here with me. His favorite band was CCR and I find myself playing it when I want to connect with him. I hear his one liners as I watch a show he would’ve liked. I see his facial expressions when I say something he would’ve laughed at. I see his influence in how I treat people. How I’ve opened my heart to more empathy. I am quick witted, and was given the nickname ‘last word’ from him and hear him still say to me, something he told me daily, to have a “kinder, softer & gentler heart.” I am trying to treat others how he would’ve treated them. With love, dignity, respect and compassion. I miss my dad most in moments where I feel proud of myself. He ended every conversation, every phone call with “I’m proud of you,” even if there was nothing worthy of his pride in my day. When my therapist tells me I’m making progress, I want to call him. When I run a work meeting and don’t completely botch it, I want to call him. To hear those four sacred words one last time.
And on top of that, there is so much I wish my dad was still here to experience with me. But with the change of season comes the promise of time continuing to move on. There are many huge milestones yet to happen without his physical presence. That is a hard pill to swallow. When I spend too much time thinking of those potential moments, my depression knocks on the door and sucks me in deeper. In those dark, hard thoughts I tell myself that I can’t have any big experiences without my dad. The thought of him not meeting future grandchildren, future partners, celebrating anniversaries or birthdays is too big a pill to swallow. This is something I am working on, but something that still weighs heavy on my heart.
While my heart is often heavy, joy and grief continue to be webbed together. The guiltiness of laughing has started to lift. But there are moments when I am spending time with someone that I start to mentally count down the minutes until they leave so I can crawl back into bed. If I’m being honest, most days are spent counting down the minutes until I can crawl into bed and shut out the world and my emotions. My therapist gave me a really great analogy about grief and backpacks. On days when I am working or days when I am generally pretty busy, I cannot grieve the way I would like to. I have to put my emotions to the side just to get through the day. This is where the backpack comes in. I visualize myself acknowledging my grief, and how sad I feel, and if I think about it for more than a few minutes I want to crawl right back into bed. But instead, I put my grief in my backpack and push through whatever is ahead of me. When I get to the end of the day, I can take my grief out and honor it and create a safe space to express myself. Some days the backpack is really heavy and my emotions are hard to untangle. But other days I hear my dad saying, “I’m proud of you for pushing through.”
That’s exactly who he was. A constant, steady force in my life. In all of our lives. He was the lighthouse in very choppy waters. Always guiding with unconditional love. I knew I could manage any hard moment or day with him by my side and with his help. So the weight of losing that force of a human is completely devastating. Completely soul crushing. Each day is filled with knock-you-to-your-knees types of moments. I long for one more day. One more conversation. One more hug. One more “I love you.” And one more “I’m proud of you.” But I feel him continuing to guide me. Telling me to hang in there and to take it one second at a time. So I will continue to do that dad, just for you.