What I Didn’t Know

 

I didn’t know grief before this. I had a loose empathy and reverence for it because of my dear friend Mished-up, but I just didn’t get how it overtakes you. And, let’s be real, although my father left this plane in a tragic, violent manner, we’d been almost entirely estranged for several years and on a surface level I had accepted that I had lost him to alcoholism shortly after getting sober myself. I grieve, and then I grieve some more when I realize how others must feel when they lose someone that they woke up next to every day or tucked into bed every night.

He’s been gone two weeks now. The insomnia/flashbacks from viewing him at the mortuary subsided within a couple days. The crushing early-morning wakeup call of heartache and tears left after about a week. The early-morning anxiety and feeling like I need to do something about all this (memorial planning, obituary writing, etc.) is still here. So I usually paddle downstairs before everyone is awake and stare at the computer screen and feel lost. The day-to-day is easier. I don’t feel entirely sad. I sometimes feel numb. It’s easier to fake that everything is okay. It’s easier to not think about it. I can smile and laugh. I danced with the kids at a school event last night. I only want to watch comedy on TV.

What’s not easier is concentration. I’ve had trouble helping the kids with homework. I signed them up for the wrong swim classes. I outsourced the obituary to my mom because I felt like I didn’t know how to put the words together. I can’t really read too much. I’m generally forgetful (i.e. forgot both my mother’s and husband’s birthdays this week.) I’m hoping this gets better and am trusting that it will.

I started this blog to help myself recover from alcoholism and disordered eating. I guess now it’s also to recover from my dad’s suicide as a result of alcoholism. As I type that I already know that they are entangled and in some ways one and the same. Because what I didn’t know is that after my dad’s suicide I would hate myself. I don’t want this to be true or admit it to you. But it’s there. And I’m embarrassed by the amount of time I spend thinking about how gross my body is while my family grieves. I feel selfish. Like a monster. I mean, who cares about fat when he is dead.

But this is me being honest. So that it can get better. Because I’m the child of someone who hated themselves and that has not worked out well for any of us. One of the first overwhelming feelings I had when he left was that God had perfectly forgiven him and I just wished he had known that. I also had the thought that if God loved him so much, then he must love me, too. And you.

Unfortunately that grace subsided and what has come up is a voice that tells me I’m disgusting every time I look in the mirror. Fuck.

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Sorrow

One day I’ll write about where I’ve been the past 3 years.

But for now it’s about how quickly the unthinkable and horrible can become the every day. Like how I can wake up at 5:30am on a Saturday wishing I could go back and spend more time with my cold, dead father.

On September 15, 20116 my dad took his life. The manner of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but the cause of death was alcoholism. Anyone who knows him says, “I can’t believe John would do that.” Except me. I can’t believe he’s completely gone, but I know that suicide is a real possibility for many alcoholics who find they are, for whatever reason, unable to live sober.

Must have been a few years back that he mentioned his rendezvous with terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair. I have had my own mild encounter with the four horsemen towards the end of my drinking. I remember relating to him. I wanted the conversation to say, “Yes. I get it. We have this in common. Isn’t it great we’re going to share this sobriety thing? Everything can get better now.” But I knew somewhere deep that I couldn’t possibly understand his suffering. It was so much bigger than anything I’ve known. And no human can help with that kind of pain.

Over the last 4 years there has been a growing, reluctant realization that he wasn’t ever going to get better. I wasn’t able to accept him just as he was. I pulled further and further away.

So here it is. This is alcoholism. And it wasn’t his fault. My greatest heartbreak is that he didn’t know he was forgiven, that he didn’t know how to be loved, that he never heard the good news sing inside his heart, that he couldn’t see that anything can be mended, and that I can’t do anything about it.

I love you, Dad. And I am so, so sorry.

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