It’s Okay To Be Sad.

Dad, Wendy, and Mom - Dec 1996
Dad, Wendy, and Mom – Dec 1996

March.

It’s nearing the 16-year anniversary of the train crash, which is always a time of great emotion and introspection for me. I think a lot about what life has been like for me and my family since that day, and I think about how far we’ve come. As time has passed, the loss has become easier to bear, and I’ve been able to view more clearly the blessings it carried.

I wanted to write my post about that, about blessings, but I fought for every word that I typed. It felt like I was choking. I hate that. If it’s not there, it’s just not there. I can’t force it. So, I changed direction.

Talked to my sis about it a little. She lives in the folks’ old homestead and she says she feels them there all the time. That makes it tough for her sometimes, but it is a comfort, as well. I think we’ve all moved on enough in our lives that the anniversary is not as profoundly difficult as it was. We all observe it differently, anyway. It’s a day where I do a lot of navel-gazing and thinking.

Last year, going to my friend’s wedding was the best thing that could have happened. It really helped me manage my feelings. It’s not as if I hide under the covers and sob all day like I used to, but I am still so very sad and lonely on that day. Well, to be honest, the whole month is kind of blue. With the possible exception of my birthday, I just have an underlying emptiness this time of year.

I just miss them so damned much.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or anything – that’s not it at all. I just feel the need to say it out loud. It’s a validation of the love and the loss and the empty space.

The whole month carries a kind of fog that descends at the end of February. I have to consciously redirect my thoughts to happier things, which often is more easily said than done. I coach myself to put on a smile and be cheerful when I feel it coming on. I talk myself through the day, a moment at a time. When I’m at work, sometimes I take a walk for a few minutes to get some fresh air and clear my head. Sometimes that works, and sometimes I end up in the bathroom stall with tears rolling down my face. That has happened more times than I care to admit.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with grief. I’m not the only one who has lost a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse. I know you’re out there, crying silently in the dark, biting your quivering lip, wishing you could turn back time. I know you still want to hear their voices and feel their hugs. I know you steal glances at families and couples and happy strangers and your face burns with envy or regret. I know the ache that really does feel like your heart has broken in two. And whether it’s been a week, or a year, or a decade or two, it doesn’t matter — because sometimes, it feels like now and it feels like then at the same damned time.

It’s been 16 years, and I still hurt, and the depth of my grief still scares me. I’ve come to accept that it will always be there, and I’ve even come to the realization that it has done me some good, but it’s still unwelcome. I mean, come on — by this time, I’m supposed to be done with it, right?

Wrong. Five years, ten years, twenty years down the road, it’ll still be there, and I’ll still struggle with it. There is no closure. I don’t care what people say — I don’t believe it. You move on, you get past the worst of it, and your life takes a different turn. But the issue isn’t closed and it isn’t resolved. It’s unfinished, like a half-built highway overpass that looms ahead – a bridge to nowhere. There is no end.

I wrote back in October that I have sort of an inner governor that keeps me from going off the deep end and drowning in my sorrow. That’s true. But it doesn’t protect me from the heartache. Most of the time, I function at the level I’m supposed to. But sometimes, a big rolling wave crashes over me, and it’s a day or two before I can breathe again.

I miss them with every hair and bone and piece of flesh that I am.

I’m here to say that it does get better, yes. The worst passes, even when we are quite certain we won’t survive. Healing is slow, and a broken heart is never quite whole again, but I think that’s okay.

And it’s okay that sometimes I still break down in the ladies’ room, and it’s okay that my throat catches when I talk about my Daddy.

It’s okay to be emotional when you need to be.

It’s okay to be sad. It won’t last forever.

xoxo