There are some things in my life that I will always, always do.
I will always shower and wear deodorant.
I will always talk in a baby voice when I see a puppy.
I will always turn the radio off in the car when I get lost.
And I will always, always, ALWAYS talk about my dad.
A few weeks ago I had an acquaintance on Facebook private message me about the loss of my father. Initially I thought she was coming from a kind place , but I quickly realized that the message she sent was more about HER than about me or any pain I was going through. In her words, me talking about the loss of my father and my grief made her uncomfortable, and she felt that discussing things like that on a social platform was not appropriate. She encouraged me to keep my feelings to myself.
I can honestly say that when I feel attacked I am an extremely defensive person, and those who know me in real life know that I welcome any confrontation, so upon reading this message my instinct was to verbally annihilate this individual. I mean…..who does this person think she is to tell me how to handle MY grief. Thankfully, some part of me said to hold off on a response until I felt I could respond rationally and not based off of emotion. Way to go, Katie. You are growing up.
I’ve thought a lot about that message since, and I’ve come to a few realizations that I felt I needed to share.
Grief is a personal thing. I know that prior to the loss of my dad I didn’t really understand grief. Yes, I had lost people in my life, but never had I suffered a loss like I did in November. I don’t think I ever truly realized how sensitive a death in the family was or how different it is to each person. How I handle grief may be different than how you handle it. That doesn’t make it wrong or weird….it means I am handling it in a personal way that is best for ME. There isn’t a manual on how to handle these kinds of things, even though sometimes I wish one existed, and it is extremely unfair to think grief should be approached in one cookie cutter way.
Since losing my dad I have unfortunately learned a lot of hard lessons. I’ve learned that some people who I thought I could count on to help me through the dark times weren’t really the friends I thought they were. I’ve learned that people who I never thought would be there for me would show up and be more present in my life than individuals who I thought I could always count on. I’ve learned that strength comes from the strangest places. I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for support….for hugs…for a shoulder to cry on. And I’ve learned that we all have to find our own way to becoming right in the head after a tremendous loss.
You know how I handle my grief? By talking about my dad. I talk about him every single day because I miss him EVERY SINGLE DAY. Is my intention to make you uncomfortable? Absolutely not. My intention is to make myself feel better and to never let the memory of the greatest man I have ever known die. He may not physically be here with me, but that doesn’t mean that 34 years of memories died with him November 20th. He will always be a part of my life, and I love sharing that with other people, especially those of you who know me and love me and never had the opportunity to meet him. So much of who I am is a reflection of my dad….how could you not want to know about someone who helped shaped me into the person I am today?
If that makes someone uncomfortable, I don’t really think I am the problem….I think the problem is something a little deeper within yourself. Maybe read some personal development? Maybe do a little soul searching? Or go talk to someone about WHY a person who is grieving is making you feel the way you do? But I hardly think that me talking about how I emotionally can’t handle running a race that my father and I did for years is the catalyst for your feelings of discomfort. Something else is going on there, and since I’m not a shrink, I’m not even going to pretend to know what that may be. But I do know one thing….it’s not my problem.
A huge part of my life falls in the public realm, which I believe many think should mean editing what I share and what I keep private. I don’t care if me talking about my sadness or struggles with this chapter in my life make me seem like a weaker human being. I’m a real person going through a really difficult time, and that is my reality. I’m not going to sit around projecting some image of perfection. I’m going to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly. You never know….the ugly times I am going through could help someone else with their struggles….or give them a person/resource to come to when the time comes that their life isn’t as sunny.
So……I’m going to keep doing my thing….which means finding ways to accept that my life is different and finding ways to keep my dad’s memory alive in my soul. If that makes you uncomfortable, then I definitely encourage you to take a step back and think about what really is the driving force of that emotion.
Remember….everyone is fighting their own battle. You may not be right now, but someday you will be. And trust me, you won’t want anyone telling you how you should be handling your grief then either.