I’ve refrained from commenting publicly about last week’s Paris attacks, in large part because I am speechless. The resulting debates about terrorism, gun control and refugees are sickening, to say the least.
Here’s hoping these bring a little comfort and solace to your day.
- Only Love Can Protect Paris: This now-viral video of a little boy and his father will bring happy tears to your eyes. Watch as he tries to process the magnitude of the attacks — and then, comes to the realization that flowers and candles can protect one’s heart.
- How to Process Grief: “Not knowing how to deal with grief is a common problem for humanity,” this article begins. Taken from an elderly man’s perspective, this is absolutely one of the best explanations of the grieving process I’ve seen. If nothing else, it humanizes and normalizes how we all cope with loss.
- USF Wins Big: On the lighter side of things, my alma mater had an incredible win last Saturday, making us bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. Taking down a ranked team and securing our spot in a bowl? I’m not mad about it.
- “Stitches” – Shawn Mendes: I’ve been toe tapping along to this song for quite some time. Mendes’s voice reminds me of a hybrid between Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine… it sounds funky, but trust me, it’s all good. Plus, he’s adorable!
Since my dad’s death in September 2013, plenty of tears, questions and confusion has poured out of me. This wasn’t my first big loss in life, but it has absolutely hit the hardest. Yesterday, for example, wasn’t just Father’s Day — it was also my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary — and it was brutal.
I’ve read eons of articles about coping with grief, learning how to get by, and the like. I’ve had nightmares about all the milestones my dad will miss, including career successes, a walk down the aisle, starting a family, my own anniversaries, and so on. I’ve felt a gamut of emotions, ranging from anger to emptiness.
It wasn’t until earlier this month, when I read Sheryl Sandberg’s essay about the loss of her husband, that a new feeling emerged: hope.
In it, Sandberg explains the lessons she’s learned in the 30 days since her husband’s death. The emotions. The questions. The confusion. I read through blurry eyes with tear-stained cheeks and big, ugly sobs. This passage, in particular, spoke to me:
“I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was ‘It is going to be okay.’ That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, ‘You and your children will find happiness again,’ my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, ‘You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good’ comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple ‘How are you?’—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with ‘How are you today?’ When I am asked ‘How are you?’ I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear ‘How are you today?’ I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.”
I highly recommend you take some time to read the entire essay — even if you haven’t dealt directly with grief, Sandberg provides excellent context for helping others deal with death.
Since September 2013, I’ve actively said that we as humans are not well-equipped to deal with loss. There is no manual, but Sandberg’s words are certainly a start.
I woke up thinking it was Friday, if that’s any indication of where my head’s at this week. After a fantastic weekend visiting a friend in San Jose, I’m positively pooped and can’t wait to kick back and relax this weekend. Here’s what’s getting me through the next few days:
- Dad’s Birthday: I’ve always loved the number 13 and been superstitious (in a good way) about this day. But then my dad passed on a Friday the 13th … and this month it also happens to be his birthday and exactly a year and a half since his death. I still struggle with grief and loss, but I know he’s at peace so I’ll be raising a glass in his memory.
- Zoolander & Hansel Walk the Runway: It’s officially official — “Zoolander 2” is happening! Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprised their roles and stomped to the death at Paris Fashion Week for Valentino. It could have only been topped if they’d duked it out in a breakdance fight.
- Sea Lions in Santa Cruz: Speaking of models, look at this little ham posing for the paparazzi. My friend and I made the quick trip from San Jose to Santa Cruz last weekend, and these sea lions were just the cutest and best part of the day.
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – WHAM!: I just can’t help myself. The announcement of Zoolander and Hansel’s return means more ridiculous montages like this one. February 2016 can’t come fast enough.
Who couldn’t use a little mid-day pick-me-up? Many thanks to WordPress technology for this unintentional glitch 😀
- “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: My friend Jess scored tickets to tonight’s taping, and I couldn’t be more excited for her friendship and good fortune. I also couldn’t care less about Shailene Woodley, but I’ll take it.
- SleepCycle: This handy little app came highly recommended, because I’m regularly restless and then oversleep. It tracks your movement, gauges your quality of sleep and provides a million useful stats — well worth the 99-cent price tag.
- “The Weight of Lies” – The Avett Brothers: Another gem from Pandora, I can’t get enough of this North Carolina trio’s crooning. Perfect for a rainy day, as the forecast predicts.
- Slick Rick’s Birthday: Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday and also marks six months since his death. I can’t even begin to express my range of emotions, but I plan to celebrate his life with some of his favorite things. Miss you every day, big guy.
In the five months since my dad’s death, there are many things I’ve left unsaid. Many blog posts I’ve drafted, many journal entries I’ve crafted, many people I’ve shafted.
There have been countless tears without nearly as much closure as I expected.
And isn’t that so stupid? How can I expect anything?
Sure, I’ve been to more than 20 funerals for various friends & family — but nothing prepares you for the loss of an immediate family member.
I’ve gone through many stages, sometimes simultaneously. My laughter over a fond memory bubbles up anger and resentment for not flying home more often in the three months between his diagnosis and death.
The anger continued last night, when an NBC reporter questioned Olympic skier Bode Miller about his brother’s death. Overcome with emotion, Miller was unable to finish the interview.
I was reeling over the reporter’s inability to recognize she should stop asking questions and just shut the hell up. But Miller is more gracious than I, and he understood she had no idea he would break down at that moment.
Everyone deals with grief differently … that’s no surprise. What is surprising, though, is how often people make these situations about themselves.
They don’t know how to deal with the loss. They can’t handle seeing you cry. They can’t imagine what you’re going through.
What they don’t realize is that sometimes, they don’t need to do anything — just be there for you.
I’ve held my tongue and left many things unsaid in the months since my dad died.
Part of me wants to let go of my guilt that I didn’t say enough when he was alive.
Part of me wants to lash out every time someone tries to change the subject, when I really just want to cry it out for a few minutes.
Part of me wants the words to come out, free of judgment, instead of bottling them up for fear of burdening someone else.
And all of me wants him back here just for one day, just so I can say everything I didn’t.