It’s no secret that we all have and will experience grief in our lives. It is part of our natural human course. It comes to us in different forms, whether it’s grieving the death of a loved one, loss of a friendship, or even the absence of a job or role in your life. And though some may experience less grief in their lives than others around them, and some may be better equipped to cope with loss, it is never easy. And I’m here to tell you that whatever you have personally experienced, you are not alone and you deserve to treat yourself gently as you navigate the process.
Recently, my biological father passed away. It was complicated. We had been estranged for over 15 years due to his lifelong path of addiction and abuse. I walked away from the relationship as a teenager believing that my future could not be bright as long as he was in it. So, I sacrificed not having a dad most of my life, which meant he was not the one to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, and my three children have one less grandparent to love.
I’ll never know if it was the right choice, but it was the one I made and I will live with it the rest of my life.
So you can imagine the complexity of emotions I felt from his death. Fortunately, I was able to speak with him briefly on the phone before his ultimate decline in the hospital and his family involved me in the final decision making for his care. For that I am forever thankful.
But there was so much to process in such a short time that I had not prepared for. When I’m talking about the immense emotions associated with grief, I don’t mean the Kubler-Ross fives stages. I mean the hot mess, so complex and complicated I-didn’t-even-know-I-could-feel-this-many-emotions-at-once kind of grief!
There was sadness in the relationship that never was with my father, the dad I never had and everything we missed together. The fact that he was gone and that was it. There was guilt in wishing I would have tried harder to help him get clean, that I abandoned him when he needed me. But I also had so much anger in the fact that I was just a child, his child, and my value was never enough for him to do better. I missed so much about having a father because mine didn’t know how to be one. And then there was relief; relief in knowing that this confusing relationship was now part of my past. Relief in never having to hear stories through loved ones about his continuous struggles. Relief from grappling with how to answer when my kids ask where my Daddy is.
But the thing I struggled with the most is that I was constantly asking myself how I was supposed to feel. How did the people around me want me to grieve? I think it’s easier for everyone if all you feel is immense sadness because it’s the expected reaction and the response from loved ones is so overdone it feels rehearsed. But that barely scratched the surface of what I was actually going through.
It wasn’t until I started owning my grief that I was really able to process it all. You see, grief comes to all of us differently. It feels different, it looks different, its timing is different. And that’s okay. It’s yours and nobody else’s, so don’t try to please others while you are grieving your loss.
The weight of life with my father has always been heavy. His death made that more evident through the grieving process. When I finally let myself grieve in my own way, I was able to find closure through forgiveness. Out of all the emotions I experienced, giving myself and others a little grace allowed my heart to heal. Forgiveness provided the closure I needed to make that pain a part of my past.
So as you navigate the journey of grief, allow yourself to grieve in your own way. You deserve this time to process your loss. But treat yourself gently and allow yourself and others grace. They won’t always know the best way to support you, but they are trying.
And lastly, I hope you are able to find forgiveness on your journey. Resentment is a heavy burden to carry and you owe it to yourself to find closure as you look toward the future.
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” -Maya Angelou