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What I've Learned Through Grieving

I've started to write many posts about grieving, but never finished them. So many emotions, so many thoughts. Not confident I can put in to words how I feel, and if it's right to even try but here it goes.

I've changed a lot in the past year. Relationships with my family are different. I view daily interactions different. I view life different. Sudden loss completely turns your life upside down. I now think of life separated in to two periods. Life with my dad in it, and life with him not in it. Here are a few things I've learned over the past year.

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EMPATHY
Prior to losing my dad when someone experienced loss I felt sadness for them and the person they lost. However, I would easily be able to move on to another thought. I would be able to go on with my day, and usually wouldn't think too much about that person and what they were going through (unless it was close family). That may sound terrible, but it's true. Now when I have a friend who loses someone, I feel immense sorrow. I think about them often. I mourn with them. When the Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and Florida mass shootings occurred I could barely get through my day at work. I cried in the shower, I cried in my car. I thought about all the lives lost, and the families who were grieving. I knew in a way how they felt. Losing someone suddenly feels like the someone is suffocating you. My heart has lost much, but has grown as well.

ANXIETY
I fear the worst at times. Sometimes Alex will be a few running a few minutes late, and I immediately start imagining the worst. What if he and Turner got in a crash on the way home? Are they alive? Are they in the hospital?

It usually hits me while I'm driving and all of the sudden a thought pops in to my head about losing a family member. I start going down a dark path of fear and worry, and sometimes I'll start crying. To know that I will have to lose someone I love AGAIN ruins me inside. Losing my dad feels like too much to bear. I don't want to do it again. When those thoughts start to creep in to my head I have to tell myself to STOP! I have to breath, and trust in God. Trust that he will get me through whatever happens in life, and there is no point worrying about what might happen. I have to live in the moment, and enjoy my family because our days are not promised.

AGING
I don't fear aging like I used to. Yes, I still want botox to make my wrinkles go away (stress and sorrow have taken a toll), but I don't dread turning a year older. Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book OPTION B about her husband not being able to celebrate his 48th birthday after his sudden death. When it came time to celebrate her birthday, she thought of how it was a privilege to be alive to celebrate it. You either live another year or you die? What would you rather have? Be thankful for each birthday, because it's another year you are blessed to be on this earth.

HOW TO HELP
In the past when a friend or co-worker lost someone, I didn't know what to say. Do I send them flowers? What questions should I ask them? How should I console them? Now that I've experienced it first hand I know what is helpful and what is not. Being silent doesn't help. Simply showing up helps. Send a card. Send flowers. Drive to their home and hold them. Call them. Sit in the waiting room at the hospital. Bring them a meal. Take care of their children. Write them a letter. Hug them and let them cry on your shoulder. Let them talk. Don't feel weird when they want to talk about the person they've lost. Personally, I love talking about my dad. I love telling stories about him, and making jokes about things he used to do. Laughing and reminiscing about the past only makes him feel closer. Hearing my friends and family talk about things they experienced with him makes me extremely happy. Sometimes I cry when I talk about my dad, but it's OK. I appreciate it when I can cry in front of my friends. Heck, I've cried in front of my boss, my work out instructor, and hundreds of strangers as I pass them by while driving.

COPING
I didn't read any books about coping with sudden loss. I didn't go to counseling (although it would have been good to go). I didn't join a grief group. Honestly, much of my therapy took place in my car talking/screaming out to God, crying, and listening to Hilary Scott & The Scott Family Band's album, Love Remains. I've never had an album touch me more, and I've cried hundreds of times listening to it to and from work. Some months are better than others, and I won't cry as much, but then on a random day the emotions will hit me and I will break down. A few weeks ago, I randomly saw a photo of my dad on my phone and bawled my eyes out in my office, and right in the middle of it it a co-worker walked in to ask me a question. I blamed it on allergies. To be honest I feel guilty when I haven't cried or thought about my dad often. It makes me wonder, "Oh, I'm just forgetting him now??!!! He's not here so I can go on living my life? It's not right." I know loss gets easier over time, and if it didn't we would all be miserable. However, it makes me feel guilty at times.

Back to the song Love Remains, its lyrics ring so true to my heart.

"Kingdoms come and go, but they don't last
Before you know the future is the past
In spite of what's been lost or what's been gained
We're living proof that love remains

I don't know baby what I'd do on this earth without you
We all live
And we all die
But the end is not goodbye
The sun comes up
And the seasons change
And through it all, love remains"

I worked with James Avery to create a special necklace to remember these words, and I gifted my mom and sis one (I gave my brother a print for Christmas of another song's lyrics). One side of the necklace is engraved with "Love Remains" and the other side with " Hope Lives On". My dad may not be on earth anymore, but hope lives on and love remains through his family. We are his legacy, and I'm so extremely proud to have had him as a father.

I've learned grieving will always be a part of my journey. When I experience loss again, I'm not sure how I will handle it. I won't dwell on that because there is no point. Life will never feel the same without my dad here, but what I can do is try to make it as best as it can be. He would want his family to be happy and not dwell on his death. Heck, he'd probably be annoyed I'm talking about him now. He never liked to be the center of attention. 


grief, grieving, life after loss, sudden loss, life after sudden loss, losing a parent, losing a father, James Avery, James Avery necklace, grieving a parent, Jesse Coulter, grieving journey, grief journey
grief, grieving, life after loss, sudden loss, life after sudden loss, losing a parent, losing a father, James Avery, James Avery necklace, grieving a parent, Jesse Coulter, grieving journey, grief journey
grief, grieving, life after loss, sudden loss, life after sudden loss, losing a parent, losing a father, James Avery, James Avery necklace, grieving a parent, Jesse Coulter, grieving journey, grief journey

2 comments:

liz said...

Thank you for sharing your grieving process, Jesse. And I'm right there with you on the aging thing: I no longer fear growing older and having that next birthday because, as you said, what's the alternative? Not having that next birthday? I'll take the aging, the wrinkles, all of it. :) Hugs, friend!

kelsey williams said...

Can't wait to give you a HUGE hug -- next week!!!!!