My experience on grief and grieving.

If my oldest brother is reading this, he’ll probably think that it’s about time but I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

I lost my father in 2000, he never met my daughter.  They missed each other by 5 months. it’s been close to 17 years and there are still moments when that old scar itches.  I never really had much time to talk about all this with my family as when we see each others, it’s on holidays and special occasions so it ain’t fitting in the moment.

I think grief is something to talk yourself out of.  For me, it mostly happened in my head in a long, slow conversation with myself.  Most of the 4 first steps of grieving passed pretty quickly.   Denial and isolation, Anger, Bargaining and Depression were fairly simple ones.  Acceptance is the state at the end, and I think I’m there since a long time; is that part supposed to end?  What I deal with are regrets.

It’s kind of funny that my old neighbor think that she would have like to have a son like me.  The truth is, I was not a good son. I was not a horrible kid either but suffice to say that there weren’t much hope of me becoming someone important.  I was lazy, not work oriented, breaking things, playing games with friends (AD&D).  While and after college, I was not much better, there was more alcohol involved, no serious career plan, going nowhere and not fast either.  Since he passed, I’ve been wondering if he was ever proud of me.  Of course he loved me, I mean, it is hard not to love your own kin. But did I made him proud. The cold hard truth is, probably not. (I’m excluding the good grades in elementary school, duh) And I’m not blaming him, I was just not the type of kid you figure will do great things.

Through the years, I went from “mildly” believer to non believer.  It will come clear on why that is relevant in a few lines. As the time went by, I had a daughter, moved to Montreal, changed job and found myself in a good professional place.  Changed girlfriend, bought a house, had another kid, another one’s is expected in spring, started running, did marathons and eased up on drinking; slowly turning this life around to something rather positive.  Along that path, I’ve had the question popping in my head; I wonder if he’s proud of me now.  Never really tried to give it an answer but the question was floating around.

While I was running the New York City Marathon, the question floated by again. And I had a bit of time to think about it, I was hoping he was, I was looking at the crowd trying to find a familiar face, someone I knew. I got very emotional with this and also from the exhaustion of the race.  It was my first marathon, and I was not prepared for the rollercoaster that would happen internally.  Those 5 hours are a long time to be alone in a crowd thinking by yourself. Anyhow, after a mile or two, it floated away.

Fast forward six months later, I was running the Boston Marathon. (Yes, I know I am lucky). I did an amazing race, smashed my PR and ran the whole course.  Not walking but that is off topic.  around “the wall”, I started wondering if my dad was proud of me now. I mean, this is the Boston Marathon. Sure I didn’t qualified but I’m doing it. And it occurred to me, my dad can’t be proud of me.  He died, he is gone.  He is not in heaven or in hell watching me. His brief passing in this world ended and that is it.  I told myself bluntly: “Forget that, you blew it.  You had your chances when you were young, while he was still there.  Now it’s too late.

Yes, that was a bit harsh to say to someone running a marathon but that was the truth. I had a sad moment, but a strange serenity came to me. 15 years after his death, another page is turned. Will there be other pages, I don’t know but this one was important because to a certain degree, I was seeking external approbation from someone who would never be able to tell me clearly and I’d always be doubting. Obviously I’ll be dealing with regrets, I’ve always had.  I did wrong things in my life that I just can’t undo, and living with that, well, a few regrets here and there. I just don’t know how to “unhurt” people I’ve hurt before and being good to a thousand fellow humans will not erase the pain inflicted to some I’ve cared for. One just learns to live with that.

When we are kids, we get a lot from our parents guidance. We get to learn skills and knowledge but also a set of moral and expected behaviors.  My dad was a helping man.  If someone needed help, asked for help, he was there and he made a difference.  This, I got from him.  I’m not rebuilding houses that burned down, that is not my trade, but if I can empty the neighbor’s gutter, watch their house while they are away, shovel their steps in the winter, offer my truck and arms to a moving friend. I’m like that. His approval was always important, but since his death, I had to do things my way and so far, I think I turned out pretty good.  Of course I’d be curious to know how he feels about what I’d become, but that is very unlikely going to happen. I know I still miss the old man. I think it will be the case until my last day comes.

Those are waves, as I read somewhere on Reddit.  I’ll post a copy of the content post below.  It is one of the best text on grief I’ve ever read.  Here’s a pasted, unaltered copy of this great post from GSnow.  If you search on Reddit, it is probably still there somewhere.

Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

 

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

 

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

 

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

 

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

Originally posted by GSnow on reddit