Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the tag “death”

The “Process” of Grief

Before my Dad died, I wasn’t really comfortable- really didn’t really know how- to talk about death, grief, or the process of grieving. I didn’t really know what loss meant in my life. Through some miraculous luck of life, the first big loss that ever really affected me was when my Grandpa died in 1998. Prior to that, I attended a funeral mass for a great aunt when I was small, but had never been to a wake until Grandpa’s.

Since losing Dad in December, I’ve thought a lot about death, dying, grief. Not in any morbid or depressing day but just as a means of coming to terms with what it all means, how life has changed, how things could be worse. As a family we talk a lot about how, with something so horrible as losing Dad too early, it was sort of the best situation with all the factors being right- he knew enough to call for help, was able to get to the hospital, my mom, brother & I were able to get there to see him and say we loved him, etc. So many people who lose a loved one too early and suddenly don’t get those blessings and spend so much of their grieving process asking why? or if only. I thank God everyday that we know it truly was out of our–and medicine’s hands.

The “stages” of grief are funny ( funny odd, not funny haha) because the way they are written and understood is that you pass from one to the other and at some point, you come to this point of acceptance and calm that it’s over. But it’s not ever over. I watched a HBO documentary of Ethel Kennedy the other night ( highly recommend by the way) and she still can’t talk about/cries when thinking about the night her husband Robert Kennedy was assassinated. That’s almost 50 years ago. Grief is a process, sure– there are days when I don’t cry or get mad at God for taking my Dad too soon, but there are days when I miss him in ways I couldn’t ever imagined missing another human being, days when all I want is to hear his laugh or when I still think ” I’ll have to tell Dad that.” It doesn’t get easier– it gets different. That was my mantra when  my life got turned upside down with divorce,  and it’s true again now.

Before losing Dad, I personally didn’t like mentioning people’s losses/death of loved ones because I felt uncomfortable AND didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. It’s one of those things in life that people don’t know exactly what to do until they have been through it/are going through it. It’s uncomfortable because it very often involves the most sensitive and vulnerable feelings a human being can have– even if you have a horrible relationship with a loved one who died, there are still raw emotions there, whether they are anger, sadness, or something more ambiguous in the middle. And those emotions- that open sensitivity- is the weird thing that so many people don’t know how to handle. Even when I talk about my Dad with some people, there is often a weird look or something that suggests the uncomfortable nature they have with the idea of death or talking about it- no one wants to think about losing a loved one or worse, their own immortality, but that’s life.

So as far as this “grief” process goes, losing my father will always suck and be heartbreaking. There will never be a day I don’t think of him, talk to him, or mention him in conversation. I have accepted his death, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Coming to terms with the ‘new normal’ and different life is an everyday thing and something that evolves in it’s own way in response to my missing of him too. It’s the work of life to try to figure out what the heck is going on and how to proceed ahead– as I have often said ( and maybe it was my Dad who told me this to begin with): Life happens- adjust accordingly. 





I’ve started and stopped this post a few times in the last week or so as I try to find the words adequate enough to express my heartbreak, sadness, shock, and grief over the devastating loss of my Dad. I realize today that there aren’t actually any words.

A lot of what my family and I are going through is difficult to even comprehend in my brain, let alone write down in cohesive, coherent sentences. There are moments of levity and laughter among the tears and heartbreak. There are moments of happiness filled with memories and good stories that are followed immediately by ugly cries and lots of swearing at God and the universe for this pain and tragedy.

This is the kind of loss I know I and my family, my Dad’s friends, and people in our universe will never get over. When a person has such a big personality and kind heart as my Dad, it is irreplaceable. I know with time things will change, the tears will be less frequent, but the feeling that a part of me is gone will always persist. When I was getting divorced people kept telling me all the time that “things will get better.” I know from the loss of a marriage that things actually don’t get better– they get different. So like that loss, I know that someday things will get different and it won’t hurt as much as it does now, almost a month from his death.

The thing about losing a loved one- no matter the relation or time you know a person- is that it really is one of the rare times in life when the goodness and beauty in others comes out. In the hours, days, weeks following my Dad’s passing, my entire family was just overwhelmed with the amount of love and support for us from far and wide. Food, notes, phone calls, messages written on Facebook or the funeral home website- all comforted us and gave us some peace. People stood hours in line at my father’s wake to pay their respects to us- he touched more lives than we really ever knew. I have been absolutely humbled by the number of cards, notes, and messages of love and support not only telling me how much people respected and liked my Dad, but for how many people I have to lean on as I walk through the fog that is grieving. It certainly doesn’t lessen the pain of losing my best friend, but it made his passing seem to feel more peaceful as a celebration of his life and how his memory and legacy will live on. It’s certainly something that has helped carry me through some of the darker moments and stand strong.

I’ve also learned that love’s all that matters- and telling the people you love is crucial. It was a blessing that my brother, mother, and I were able to tell my father we loved him one last time in the hospital, but he knew it already because every single interaction we ever had as a family for all of my years ended with ” I love you.” That is one of the biggest blessings in my life and such a gift to be able to say that about my relationship with my parents, brother, and family.

I can’t guarantee that going forward in the next few months that this blog will be as it was before with cheery updates on what’s going on in my life, house, job, or random things I find on the internet. I do vow to keep this space going not just because it gives me the outlet to work through my feelings in my own way, but also because my Dad believed in my writing and encouraged me to pursue it more vigorously and I don’t want to disappoint ( even if he didn’t read it as regularly as my mom and aunt 🙂 ).


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