“The only way out is through.” I don’t remember where or when I first heard this saying, but I’ve been cognizant of it for some time. This year I’ve become more aware than ever of the truth behind the sentiment, and the strength required to make the journey of “through”.
A few months ago I talked about why Friday – a day I used to look forward to and enjoy – has become a day I just need to get through. It’s been almost four months since that blog post, and nearly seven months since my dad died, and some Fridays have found me waking up without the heavy weight of grief tugging on every muscle and making me tired even before I get out of bed to start the day. But there are other Fridays, and other days that are not Fridays, that for one reason or another – for lots of reasons or what feels like no reason at all – are still very hard. Today was one of them.
Last night I had a dream about my dad. I was helping my mom move when the phone in the new house rang. It was an old-school cordless phone with a giant retractable antenna – beige – just like the kind we had when I was a kid. I can still see myself in the dream picking up that tank of a receiver and saying hello… and hearing my dad’s voice on the other end of the line. My heart gets stuck in my throat just typing that, but while I was in the dream, nothing about the phone call seemed odd or strange or off or anything. My dad and I talked about all kinds of things; very pleasant and matter of fact. Almost as if he was away on a long trip and I was filling him in on everything he had missed. I remember after talking to him for quite some time I asked if he wanted to speak to mom, and he said sure – but when I handed her the phone all she heard was static – and that’s when I woke up.
Those first few moments you wake up from a dream and come back to reality and remember? Yeah, they suck. That dream felt so real that at first I felt relieved; I had talked to my dad and he was doing ok. He sounded relaxed – happy even… I hate to use the phrase but he sounded like he felt “at peace”. It felt good to just talk to him and tell him about the girls and their activities, how Lil’ G just lost her first baby tooth, and how Miss A is really enjoying basketball. But then I remembered I didn’t actually talk to him at all – he is out of reach, and will never get to see Lil G’s gap toothed smile or cheer proudly at Miss A’s first b-ball game. And remembering sucks. How do I get through that?
A writer and a bookworm, a combination of these things have helped me work on the “getting through” part of this journey.
The first is a book a sweet friend gave to me when she heard the news about my dad.
She had lost her mother, and said the book had helped her cope. It is a wonderful book, simple and loving. And it was a perfect story to share with my daughters. If you have a friend who loses a loved one and you are not sure what to do to help or what to say; I highly recommend the gift of this book.
The second is a journal; created by a mother and daughter who struggled with the sudden loss of their son/brother.
This journal is honest and frank; with questions and prompts that have helped me shape my thoughts into words so I could get them on paper and purge not just the grief, but some of the bitterness, anger, fear, and host of other emotions that spiral through you when you lose someone very close to you. A children’s version of the journal is also available, and I gave one to my 10 year old daughter, who celebrated her birthday with her Papa barely a week before he passed. She and my dad were very close, and this journal has given her the time and space to work through her own feelings at her own pace, in her own way. Sometimes we talk about what she writes, and sometimes we don’t. But I know that while I have sometimes caught her crying as she scribbles in her journal, she too is working on the “through,” and tears are part of the process.
Sharing my thoughts here is also, in my own weird way, part of my process of getting through. So thanks for that. If you are reading this and trying to find your own way through… or know someone who is, maybe something here will help you along the way. Even if it’s just the knowledge someone else is going through the “through” too.