Every year, I’m sucker punched in the gut thinking about all of the moments that I wish you could have been a part of. Every year, I get worried that I’m losing the pieces of you that I have left within me. Every year, I’m reminded of the awful feeling that grief brings, and the strong urge I have to shut it away and stuff it in and pretend that I’ve overcome it, outgrown it, and put it to rest for another year. But that’s not how grief works, is it?
Fifteen years ago, on October 13th, 2007, my dad died. Every year I’m drawn to share my story, the pieces of him that I cherish, and put into words what my dad meant to me. Not for attention, not to bring sadness, but to bring light and help me to keep all the pieces alive. Recently, I found myself in an almost panic attack-inducing state of grief. I was doing an inner-child journaling exercise as a part of my spiritual direction practice and I was face to face with my four-year-old self thinking of all of the pain she would feel when her dad died. All of the anger, the sadness, the confusion, the rage, the unfairness, the grief. I wanted nothing more but to stop doing what I was doing immediately because the pain I felt for that little girl and what I knew she would eventually feel was almost more than I could bear. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath and brought a piece of my dad that I’ve been hanging on to, to her. I hugged her (my dad gave the absolute best hugs) and let her know that she was safe, that she would be ok, and that every year when that day comes around to dig out the little pieces of light that you can because that’s what will get you through. Grief isn’t who I am, but it’s a part of my story. It has shaped me but it doesn’t define me. I am strong because I have been weak. I am empathetic because I have known true, deep, and raw pain. I am kind because I know the joy a half-smirked Joe Pierce smile can bring. I am a water lover because it reminds me of you, the calm, surrendered, beautiful, tender you. I am grateful for each day I have with the people *and dogs that I love because I know how precious time is. And I give some pretty damn good hugs because you never let me leave without one. I will never not be grateful for the time I got to spend loving you, for the time you got to spend loving me, and for the pieces of you that I carry with me, forever. To my guardian angel and dad, Every year, I promise to honor you. Every year (moment/day), when that grief shows up, I will give it space because when I don't I am not making room for the pieces of light to shine through. And every year, I will write to you, about you, and for you, because it helps me to cherish all of the pieces of you that I carry with me.
I love you.