Photo Credit: Awilda H. Roberts
Not everyone feels comfortable talking about death. Truth be told not only do I detest talking about it, but I fear it immensely. I have a strong faith and believe that heaven is a very real place and most definitely a much better place than this. I’m confident that I will be there someday with the Father and my loved ones, but I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t scare me. The thought of it causes me anxiety and while I know I can’t control when my time comes, I’ve been known to make more careful decisions about certain things than most. The events of 9/11 definitely made me more fearful, but it’s a fear that has really grown in me since having my children and since losing a parent. On the flip side, those two things have also made me stronger and made calmer.
I don’t want this to be one of those depressing posts about grief and how difficult it is. We all know it’s inevitable and that fact doesn’t make it any easier. Most people have lost someone in their life and so they understand loss. They know how hard it can be. I think there are so many people though who have not yet experienced the loss of a loved one and I hope this provides them with some insight into what others have gone through and helps them someday work through their own grief, in their own way.
Today marks ten years since my father passed. I can tell you, it hasn’t gotten any easier for any of us. A little part of me died that day too. Death and loss become part of your life. It sucks a lot when your heart is broken into a million little pieces that you think you will never be able to put back together, but I’ve found a way to change my grief so that living through it brings me peace.
The truth is, the only things that have helped are to continue experiencing this life and to keep moving forward one small step, one day at a time. The world moves forward much more quickly than those grieving and more than their grief does. But we, the grief-stricken, move forward nonetheless. Ironically, that’s how we find peace in our grief. It’s a process that’s very personal and with each step, we get back one of those million pieces of our heart, in the very moments of our life we continue to live.
Our children have been the best medicine for my grief. They have an inherent joy and they propel you to keep moving, keep experiencing, keep making memories and keep dreaming. They did not have the opportunity to meet their grandfather, but they keep his memory alive as if they did and talk about him more than some kids who have a grandparent around. My son is the super sensitive one, always bringing him up, declaring how much he misses him, and comforting everyone else. It’s so sweet and endearing. My daughter on the other hand asks a lot of questions about him. Now that she’s had more religious education, she talks about where he is now and seems to understand that concept, which can be hard for any child to grasp. It’s comforting to hear her talk about him and she does her best to empathize. She’s still learning to be a bit more sensitive with the topic of death, but that will come as she continues to learn about feelings and facial expressions. She has come so far with her social skills, but she still is (and will probably always be) very literal. So when your child tells you repeatedly that “Your dad is dead” or “You don’t have a father anymore”, it’s hard to hear, but you really have to remember how far she has come in understanding and what a valuable lesson about life she is learning.
It’s not always easy and it’s hard work not letting grief consume you. It’s hard not dwelling on every date and anniversary. You have to remember every moment is precious. You have to live each day to the fullest. You have to feel happy that your children feel his spirit. You have to revel in the fact that their favorite meal is breakfast just like their grandpa and they have his same passion for cheesy grits. You have to take pride that they inherited his love of books and reading. Your heart has to burst with love and unending joy every time you pull up to the ranch where they love to spend time with and ride their horses, just like grandpa did. You have to find peace in knowing that he may not be physically here, but that will never diminish the amount of love that is felt for him or that he feels for all of us. Our loved ones rest in peace. We just have to work harder at living in peace while keeping them close at heart.