It has now been seven months since my dad passed away, and I am always so touched when people ask me how am I doing.
And how I answer very much depends on the day. Or week.
Because the bottom line is that I was doing much better right after it happened and then it got worse.
The sense of relief I had after he was freed from that horrible body and illness was so great that it carried me through for months. The suffering was so great, and watching him ebb away from us was so frankly terrifying that I was overjoyed for him, for my mom and for myself to be free from it. And I am so happy that I was protected those first tender months from real pain, real grief, real shock as I gathered up my life and started to try to restart living again.
And I was able to restart on many levels: the trip to Disney was healing, starting school right away was a great distraction, and jumping into softball and choir and activities demanded attention every day. The only real manifestations of grief I had was a completely messed up sleep cycle in which I was up half the night watching horrible television and then had to drag myself out of bed in the morning.
The kids' birthdays were hard for me because they were the first celebrations without him there- supervising Michaela as she lit her birthday candles, singing happy birthday in his deep voice, making a big deal about their presents. Every holiday and family gathering has something that is missing. And then when December came along, I was kind of a mess. All the hymns I remember him singing in church, my own Christmas memories of him, and the general arrival of an overwhelming grief I was anticipating landed on my heart.
But I threw myself into getting ready for the holiday and jumped into finishing our basement and that helped distract me and move things along. But I realized that grief had moved into my head and my heart and my house and I had to deal with it and move through it. Grief was my new roommate, and like all roommates (well, I guess more like the little roommates I live with now), sometimes it required a great deal of attention and managing and working while some days it faded quietly into the background, but was always there.
A gift was given to my mom and me in November when we were invited to attend a symposium hosted by my dad's doctor sharing the latest research and news about treating his kind of cancer. We traveled out to Worcester once again, buoyed by the prospect of returning to a place where we had always felt safe, cared for and supported. Seeing Dr. Lambert and hugging her again was healing for both my mom and me on so many levels. We got to see Deb, the manager from Hope Lodge where we had spent many nights while he was hospitalized and where we felt part of a larger community fighting this disease.
All through November and December, the image that kept creeping into my head was that of Haley's comet... you are close to it and see it, but in time it travels far away from you, out of sight. But after a while it begins to come back, coming closer and closer to you and once again it feels fresh and recent. That was my experience with the grief and the shock that it had happened at all: in the fall it had traveled away from me, but by late November it was coming crushing back. The anniversary of my dad's surgery on the 18th of December was an awful day- so raw and familiar, like I was experiencing it for the first time all over again.
Christmas was quite lovely here in every way and was made easier for me personally because I was separated from both my parents last Christmas so this one- having my mom here and in my house- was better.
As we've been finishing our basement- a project my dad was really supportive of- Dan and I talked about how excited he would have been to see it come together. Dan and I had quite a few laughs imitating what he would have said at each stage of progress. Right before we put the last piece of drywall up, we wrote a small note to my dad on one of the studs for the next person who renovates it to find.
So now the holidays are over, the basement is 99% done (HUGE post about that coming soon!), and we are back onto a regular schedule. The things that need to get done are getting done. The pain that I felt in the last few months is definitely ebbing, but some days what I really would love to do is spend all day in bed reading and watching Downton Abbey on a continuous loop.
I am grieving the profound loss and just trying to wrap my brain around all of it happening in the first place. This is what grieving looks like; this is what it is. And I am getting through it, step by step.
And just like God whispered to me back when this whole mess started... it is going to be okay.
It will. It is.
I know it.