This week I was going to write a post about how to simplify the way you grocery shop. I was going to share about all of the ways I have learned to eat healthier and feel good about what I am putting into my body and the meals I am making. But if I am being honest, I have not cooked a meal since before we moved, in June. I also have not gone zero waste in my new kitchen like I wanted to. I don’t remember how to create interesting and relevant content. I don’t feel like I am leading by example in my simple lifestyle that I have worked so diligently to build.
Of course these things are to be expected when your whole life is suddenly derailed by loss. My priority the last three and a half weeks has not been on leading a responsible or physically healthy lifestyle. It has not been on creating great content and building my brand. My priority has been to not drown, and to be a little lifeboat for my family. So instead of writing blog posts, recording podcasts, and correcting patterns, I have been lounging in my pjs, eating sushi, enjoying the sun, crying, laughing, hugging, and having long happy hours.
And we have managed to stay afloat here in the space of love and loss, grief and appreciation. Every time we feel weighted down by the vast hole my dad’s absence leaves in our hearts, we find a memory of him and we laugh. A tiny shovelful of sand begins to fill the void. When the loss overwhelms us, we envelop ourselves in the feeling of having been so loved.
But we still feel heavy. And the days pass slowly. We begin to move forward into everyday life, but the effort is great and the progress is slow.
Some practices that have served me well during this time:
1. Being still. John Green says We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad. I spend a lot of time closing my eyes, being with my dad’s memory and feeling that joy and also feeling that pain. And letting it be okay to live in that balance.
2. Owning my own pain. It is very hard to me to see my mom cry. It is very easy for me to try to carry her pain, for my heart to ache for her. But I am realizing that no matter what I do, I will not be able to take away her pain. And my efforts in feeling her loss makes me feel even heavier, more negative, and less loving. I am overwhelmed with losing a dad and a husband. So I have to remind myself that I did not lose my husband. And that I have a wonderful husband who’s love and support is making me stronger during this time. My pain is that I lost my dad and that I have a broken mom and a broken sister. And although I feel broken myself, when I focus on my own pain and my own strength I am much more able to lend that strength to the ones who need it, instead of being overwhelmed by their pain.
3. Drinking wine. Without drinking too much wine of course, although that is bound to happen here and there. And can I add eating cheese and sushi here? I have found that spending time with a glass of wine and yummy food in good company always makes my soul feel lighter. We share stories, we laugh, my heart flickers with a little more warmth. I am reminded of the wonderful things that I do have in my life and how full of love it is. I let the sadness sit still and fond memories and good stories dance around it. The laughter doesn’t cover up the pain, instead it slowly seeps in and dulls the razor sharp edges.
4. Decorating. By decorating I mean creating a comfortable and cozy environment to live in. Do not underestimate the power of a cozy reading chair, a beautifully curated photo wall, or an organized kitchen. These are some of the things that are making my new house feel like a home, like a sanctuary. A place to be still and to be peaceful. A place to sit with my dreams, my achievements, my plans, and my sorrow. A place to rebuild.
5. Starting small. For me emotional healing is looking a lot like physical healing. You have to work at it and take care of your wound. You have to believe that it will heal. So I am starting small. One journal entry, one morning of meditation, one blog post, one yoga practice, one dinner with a salad. Grief is not something we ever get over, it is something that we learn to carry. How do we learn? By practicing. So I practice carrying the grief and I don’t really know what that looks like for me yet. But I try anyway. I hold all of the love that my dad had for me and my family and the love I had for him, and I let that keep me warm. And when I feel that huge hole in my heart, I let it be there. I get used to the feeling. And slowly, in some moments, it begins to feel more like a scab than a gaping wound. And although I carry losing him with me, I also carry having had one of the most strong and loving men as my dad.