“Time does not heal grief, it just teaches you how to wear it”
This quote came across my Instagram feed one day, hitting home in the most direct way. I am learning the truth of this, I am feeling the truth of this.
Some days are good, other days are bad. Often I catch myself in moments where I say out loud “Oh my God this really happened. He’s not coming back. Some days I laugh more than I cry. Some days I cry more than I laugh. As time marches on I can not conceive that this world just keeps on turning, that people can just be gone.
In addition to grief I have the unique and compounding weight on my shoulders of the malpractice case. As you would imagine I can’t say a whole lot right now except the value of life and why is astounding. I can say that if you are killed due to a medical mistake you need to be between the ages of 18-55, because it doesn’t depend on whether a mistake was made, it depends whether you are still working.
My Dad never retired. He was 81.
There will be a day when I can write and talk about it, and I am gathering all of those thoughts now because as these things go, it will be a while.
As difficult as these past 6 months and longer have been (God I don’t want to be a counter of days, months and years), there are so many beautiful things that have happened. When so much has gone wrong it can be too difficult to accept that the good things can still happen.
I had a friend reach out recently asking what advice I could give to someone enduring grief. I thought about what people said to me. I really didn’t receive platitudes, and that I appreciate more than you know. The worst that I got was some local tri guy whom I don’t really know telling people how terribly I was doing. Well yes I am doing terribly, my Dad died! I didn’t have a father, I had a Dad.
Here are a few things that I learned through friends and on my own. I included some social media accounts and podcasts that are surprisingly helpful. There is actually a lot of support if you look for it.
- Shower daily. This might sound strange to advise but it helps. I shower twice a day, I train both in the morning and night and a shower does a lot more than clean you off. The sensation of hot water (try cold sometime too), the pressure of scrubbing your scalp and skin, it can help … for lack of a better word… “reorganize” how you feel. Follow it up with some good smelling lotion, it just helps you feel better.
- Sleep. I struggle with sleep. I often wake up at 2am thinking about my Dad’s case. I know the intricate details of how he died and even the play by play of the code (I have studied the records). It’s become a nightly thing. I don’t fight it. I get up, make a cup of hot cocoa, sit up for a while, process, and go back to bed. I take a nap daily too (I work from home and our son is 21, so it’s easier for me these days to fit that in).
- Exercise daily. I am an athlete so this is no problem, however I walk the edge of too much. I sustained an unexplainable running injury in December right after Dad’s death. Right as I was ramping things up. Right now I am swimming and cycling near lifetime bests but have struggled with this injury. Imaging studies showed nothing wrong. I started receiving ART treatments from Dr. Lange at Greater Rochester Chiropractic, and a few weeks ago, no pain. We are slowly building my run and I have felt good. Research “grief and inflammation” on PubMed. You will find some interesting studies.
- Eat quality food. My theme is nourish. I bought a juicer because my appetite hasn’t been good and right now I need to flood my body with good things. This is crucial.
Interesting how the above are all really just the basics of good self care? It’s a good place to start.
5. Boundaries: I set boundaries for the first time in my life. Boundaries on my time, in what I am willing and or capable of doing, and I retracted from people who drain me. This all has been a game changer.
6. Social Media. I use social media for connection. My philosophy is this: It’s not the social media per se, it’s the relationship you have with yourself regarding it. I have connected with so many amazing humans through these platforms. So many of these connections shared in Dad’s life and have shared in his death. I have been reached out to, sent virtual hugs, pointed towards books and podcasts and none of that would have happened had I not utilized the socials.
7. Podcasts: I have found great insights in the following ones:
8 Instagram Accounts: These have provided insight and humor as well:
- Grief One Day at a Time, by Alan Wolfelt – this book of daily readings was a gift from a friend.
- C.S. Lewis’ Signature Classics Collection: a friend sent me this and I adore all of the books.
- The Practice of Groundedness: by Brad Stulberg
- Do Hard Things: by Steve Magness (I am currently reading).
10. Miscellaneous: I have been in grief therapy since December and it’s saving me. I talk to friends a lot. I have the support of my incredible husband and son. I work for a company that fosters and supports personal growth, development and wellness. I travel a lot right now and we bring a giant cutout of Dad with is. Thus far FlatDad has been to Texas, Florida, Boston, and up some mountains in Lake Placid. He gets around. I don’t know why it helps, it just does. Coaching my athletes is something I didn’t think would help…. but it’s been a big key. And I have been writing. A LOT.
I wish there was a step by step plan to traverse the experience of exquisitely deep loss. I share this journey because we all go through it at some point. People who have gone through it reached out and took my hand, and I will make sure that I do the same.
Grief is unspoken in our society, although I am learning that it’s better now than it was.
I want you to know that I too get messy, fail, succeed, stumble my way through this just like anyone else. If you are going through something like this, please know you aren’t alone. Reach out anytime. We will learn how to wear this grief, and we will learn how to wear it with style.