This summer has been a crazy one for me. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling, working on my sparkle empire, celebrating milestones with friends, and adjusting to a new puppy in my home. Overall, it has been a very happy summer with lots of wonderful new memories.
I entered this summer with the thought process that I wanted to have an amazing time, but I also knew that there were a few hurdles I wanted to tackle, and they both involved moving forward in the grief process with my father.
I’ve talked about this many times before, but I always feel like I need to remind people that the grief process is one that is different for everyone, and for many people, it is one that never ends. November will mark the two year anniversary since my father’s unexpected death, and while I am more capable of talking about the loss now, I still struggle with it every single day. For me, it helps to face things/situations/places that I find to be the most emotional and connect to my dad. Somehow, facing them head on and working through those emotions allows me to get a better grip on the reality that my dad is no longer here.
As those of you who have been following my blog for awhile may know, one of my best friends, Whitney, and I have birthdays exactly a week apart. Each year we try to do something fun and different together to celebrate. We’ve done a lot of really cool things over the years, including meeting Brett Eldredge , my favorite country singer, last year. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to top that because it was such a neat moment. However, when Whit mentioned that one of our friends, Steve, would be doing a rollerblading half marathon in Chicago the week after our birthday and thought we should go, I knew that this was the moment for me to cross off something major from my list of grief hurdles.
I had to go to Wrigley Field.
My dad was the World’ Biggest Cubs fan….his tombstone actually has the Cubs logo on it, and his love of the Cubs is one my entire family shares. Going to Wrigley with him was always something that we were going to do, and once we lost him, I didn’t think I could emotionally do it. Going to any baseball game was a challenge for me after the loss, and there were times during the past year and a half where I could not physically make myself step foot into a baseball stadium. I missed a good friend’s bachelorette party because I had panic attacks at the thought of watching a baseball game live. I cried throughout an entire game once I finally worked up the nerve to attend and missed everything. It took a lot to get comfortable with freaking baseball. If I was that emotional watching teams I didn’t even like how in the world could I get through a baseball game watching a team that I had an emotional connection with and that had been a part of my life since the day I was born????
We arrived in Chicago Friday and were able to explore the city and do some things before Steve’s marathon Sunday morning and the Cubs game Sunday night. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t anxious as hell the whole trip. So much of my life is in the public spotlight, which I am okay with, but one thing I try to keep out of it as much as possible are the moments where I have a complete meltdown, because they aren’t pretty. I was terrified I would have one of these meltdowns inside Wrigley Field.
Surprisingly, I held my shit together, but I cannot begin to tell you how I felt walking through Wrigleyville, walking up to that iconic Wrigley Field sign, sitting down in that stadium, or singing “Go Cubs Go” with a stadium full of my fellow fans. I had a few weird moments inside of the stadium, but I was able to get past them.
I shared on Instagram that it started to rain in Chicago hours before the game. Deep down I was so worried that the game would be canceled and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get over this milestone in my grief process. However, as we got dropped off in Wrigleyville, the rain stopped, and the rest of the evening was perfect.
I believe very much in signs, and as I sat there eating my burger before the game I couldn’t help but realize that this had to be my dad’s way of letting me know that he was missing me and sad that he wasn’t there to walk into the stadium with me, too.
That same sign came from him again two weeks later as I prepared to tackle something that most of you know I have been dreading for a long time: The Star Trax 5k he and I used to run together.
Last year I had every intention on running it in honor of my dad, but emotionally, I just wasn’t able to, so I backed out of attending. This year I HAD to do it. I signed up a few months back and invited my friends and family to come and run/walk/or watch in support. In my mind if I had a bunch of people coming there to support my family, I knew I wouldn’t back out of it even if I wanted to. I encouraged everyone to wear Cubs gear (or blue or red if they weren’t a Cubbies fan) and had about 50 panic attacks the day of the race. Somehow, my mom and I got there.
As challenging as I knew it would be for me to run a race and not have my dad there waiting for me at the finish line, I knew this race would be so emotionally hard on my mom if she was a spectator. She supported us every year and watched both of us finish every race. Only getting to see one of us do it this year would be hard on her heart. I was so proud of her….she ended up signing up and walked the 5k with my uncles and her best friend. We had so much support that night….it meant the world to us. We had family there. We had our best friends there. It felt good to be surrounded by so much love.
As the race start inched closer and closer, it began to rain. Again, I couldn’t help but think of my dad and this being his way of letting us know he was missing up and was there in spirit. If you know me, you know I absolutely loathe getting my hair wet. However, for some reason, at this moment, I didn’t care. The rain continued through the first mile then let up.
I was worried about two specific moments in this race: starting and finishing. Those who have run this race know that you start it inside of Salem’s high school football stadium, taking a lap around the track and then hitting the streets before entering the stadium for the finish. My dad and I always started the race together, and it wouldn’t be until we hit the street when he would take off and leave me in the dust. When the race started, my tears started. All I could do was keep my head down, not look around, and focus on Skrillex, which was the bulk of the playlist for the night.
The rest of the race I did okay….no weird emotional moments. Instead of changing up my playlist, I listened to my favorite Skrillex song, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, on repeat the ENTIRE race. For some reason the song helped me hold it together.
After making the final turn into the stadium, I started to get really weird. I felt tears in my eyes, I felt puke in my throat, I felt lead in my legs. Again, I just kept my head down and powered through my feelings to the finish line. My dad wasn’t there at the finish line for me, but I wasn’t running into a stadium with no support. Two of my besties, Erika and Melissa, drove down from Cleveland to cheer me on and give me hugs when I finished. They also were able to capture some footage of me starting and finishing.
Once I finished the race and the rest of our crew had finished, I had to split. The longer I stood around the more emotional I got, so my mom and I made the decision to get some Arby’s, eat our feelings, and go home.
Moments like these two may seem so trivial to others, but to me they were a huge deal. Every time I cross off one of those milestone moments or events I encounter a new range of emotions. I’m proud I overcame something challenging, and I know my dad would be, too. At the same time, my heart hurts because I had to do something alone that we would’ve done together. That mixed emotional state can really do a number on someone, but I continue to try to see the good in the challenging times. That’s really all I can do.
I continue to be reminded how lucky I am to have the people in my corner that I do. They say that in really happy times and really sad times one’s true colors come out. There have been a few friends who have completely ghosted me since things happened, but the majority of my friends have continued to show me that they are ride or die and will be there for me whenever I need them. I know that throughout our lives there will be more challenging times, not just for me, but for them, and I’ll be there for them when they need me.
As this summer comes to a close, there is one last major milestone I am going to be doing without my father: buying a new car. Due to her profession, he was always the person to get me the cars I wanted, check out their backgrounds, and help me get everything rolling while also serving as my voice of reason. I’ve been putting off the car search for awhile, not only because he won’t be able to help me, but because I have such an emotional attachment to Farrah, my Xterra, because that was the last car he got for me. Even though I’ve done well with avoiding the emotional attachment with most inanimate objects, my car is one that I can’t seem to shake. We will see how this pans out.
Those reading this that are going through the grief process like me…..I have to encourage you to not run away from those milestones…..those moments you are scared to face because they now are different. I know it’s scary. I know crying isn’t fun. I know feeling that hole in your heart is painful. But sometimes you just have to push through because this is what our lost loved ones would want for us.
I used to run with my dad at Star Trax; now I run for him. Every year moving forward I will be having a team of people join me to do the same because this is how I can continue to keep his spirit alive with that race.
Find a way to make those moments meaningful.
Find a way to keep your loved ones alive in your heart.
Find a way to turn your pain into purpose.
And always remember……..life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.