Proceed Slowly—Grief at Work

Valley, I know your pain sucks. Nothing and no one can do this for you. One foot in front of the other feels like a million miles. 

My Daddy lived with me before he died. I didn’t write during that time. I wish I had known then about how healing it can be but knowing myself as I do now—somewhat petulant and always right, of course—I probably would’ve flung aside the idea that anything could help. Besides, when would I have had time to write? Puh-leeze! I was teaching full-time, I had a teenage daughter, my marriage was falling apart, my siblings were nowhere to be found, and I was fast approaching menopause. Then there was Daddy—recently divorced, “without two nickels to rub together,” he said, needing heart bypass surgery, and adamant that he would NOT go to The Home. And truth be told, I knew I would care for him at my home as long as I could find a way. He lived with me for five years before he died at age 81.

The details of my story are both typical and unique.  My home was a loving place for him to die, though my own life was a train wreck. My sanity hung by the thinnest of threads. Now, as I read your story, my heart breaks for you. I know how it all seems too sad, too big, too awful. But now, whenever I revisit those years of my life—the care giving, the crying, the anger, the dying—I feel both joy and gratitude for all that Daddy brought to my life during those years when he was leaving his own life behind. Having reached the finish line, he was passing the baton, telling me “You can do this. You can live your life just fine without me. I’ve taught you well. Mostly, you’ve loved me well, as I’ve loved you since the day you were born.” And he was right. Now, so much about those last years with him come to me as beautiful memories. Even if I tried, I couldn’t reclaim the pain and loss and anger and grief leading up to and following his death because all the bad stuff is gone. That’s the part you can look forward to. For me there will always be happy moments to remember like him sitting on the bench in my backyard with our bad little Lhaso Apso puppy in his lap, waiting for me to come home from school.

Richmond, VA. Now I know how healing writing can be. Now I write to understand myself and others.

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