Flashbacks hurt the most. The day, the phone call, the drive home, seeing his sweet body, beautifully dressed in his last suit and tie. The physical pain that grief causes. It stirs up emotions I attempt to avoid reliving in order to function through my daily routines.
Memories flood and my mind bounces to the thousands of places I’ve seen him. Places maybe he’s at. But not gone. Ashes forever doesn’t make sense or seem right. I’m confused. How was he just here, and now he’s not. He seemed fine when he called, did I miss something in his voice? It feels like I’m looking in on someone else’s life, not my own. I don’t want to be the girl without a dad. I can’t piece together that he’s nowhere physically on this earth. And while I feel peace that he’s in the best place, I’m scared of the closeness I feel to the afterlife. He’s taken care of, but I’m disappointed in God’s plan. Thankful he went quickly, and confused on why he went at all. People have said for everything there is a purpose. But I truly believe things don’t always happen for any good reason, they’re just a part of life.
I told a close friend last night that I had more confidence about the afterlife before dad’s death. That I’m still in a state of fear, rather than encouragement. I’ve struggled with faith questions I have never faced before, and I’ve thrown plenty of fire at God. Somehow though, no matter what I toss, it is returned with comfort.
I see middle aged men with their grandchildren and sadness wells. I envy their loving papa kisses and wish I could steal them away for my sons. They are going to miss out on a lot. And while their young age makes it easier in the realm of they won’t know as much of what they missed, it’s harder on me – they deserve to experience him the way I did. And I’m terrified his memory will fade from their minds. I work hard to remind them, but can see it when they look at pictures, and they slowly say his name less frequently.
The physical pain still comes in harsh waves. The sadness sets in and my heart feels constricted, like someone is squeezing it as hard as they can. My chest gets tight and my stomach nauseated. The visceral experience is incredibly overwhelming and unlike anything I’ve ever been through. Those moments have spaced out more than before, and I’m thankful for the break. But then guilt sets in when I’ve gone an amount of time without feeling terrible. The grief is triggered by random events, and sometimes by nothing at all other than the reality that he’s not just one phone call away anymore.
I’ll possibly spend the majority of my life without my sweet dad. How can I make it without hearing his voice that long? Will his laugh and smile be one of the first things to greet me one day with Jesus?
One of the most encouraging things people have told me is characteristics of his they see in me. It makes me feel like I’m walking right behind him, carrying pieces of him with me as I go.
I feel a heavy sadness from the what could have beens. My human understanding may never let me fully release those wandering thoughts. I can still see him swiping his hair to the side, laughing at me thinking Alaska and Hawaii are right next to each other, asking what the boys are up to, and can hear the happiness in his voice as I describe their latest milestone.
Unfortunately time doesn’t matter. Grief doesn’t have a timetable and is unpredictable for each affected person. Some days are easier, and some are plain hard still. I hope people remember dad, and the kindness and care he had for others. He was remarkable, and I hope I can make him proud by passing along the amazing things he taught us to the boys. Through a lump in my throat I explain to the boys how much he loved them, and the things he was excited to do with them. Happy milestones will always be bittersweet due to his absence. But if I possess anything that provides a bright light, it’s the confidence that I’ll see him again that pushes me forward. He would want me to rejoice in that, so I’ll try to remember that along the road.
I wonder what people without Jesus do in these situations. That question has weighed heavily on me. I’ve forced myself to walk with God through the ugly in this journey. I’ve remained honest with Him, and feel embarrassed to admit how hateful the things I’ve yelled at Him have been. But He always comes back. I can see how people lose their faith after something like this. You question things you know about God’s goodness and love. But I can’t afford to lose God too, and I don’t want this experience to harden me and make me bitter. I want it to make me stronger and closer to Him.
I wanted to share one of the most influential things I’ve learned since experiencing such overwhelming grief. It doesn’t matter who you lost, or how you lost them, there is no grief exactly like yours. There is no easier route, no better way for it to happen, no sadder story. God made grief just as unique as the the people who experience it. While it helps to relate to others who have walked a similar road, there’s no justification for guilt experienced through comparing yourself to someone else. Your path is what it is. Taking care of yourself how you need, no matter how crazy, or if it did or didn’t work for someone else is important. I think that logic can be applied to plenty of other areas of life. But it’s become more clear through this navigation of grief.
God placed a parallel in my mind last night as I struggled to fall asleep. Tragedy is like a shattered stained glass window. After the shattering you work hard to piece it back together. Some days you are able to pick up larger chunks to piece back together, and other times you have to push through the time consuming navigation of sorting the tiny pieces. One day, the window is complete. Not every piece was found and replaced, and it looks different than before. But somehow the new window is stronger and in ways just as beautiful as the original piece.