Anchors to Grief
Hello blog readers!
I am laying in my bed typing away into some empty Word documents. Some of the journal documents on my laptop will never be read by anyone other than me…. Unless someone sneaky happens across my laptop, and successfully guesses my password. Highly unlikely, but still…that person would find a lot of thought-provoking entries. They’d gain insight into the brilliant thoughts that spew from my fingertips onto blank Word documents ;). I decided to read through some of my old writing and compile a list of honorable journal thoughts; things that a potential hacker would find in my laptop journaling.
- “In the category of Things That Will Wake Me Up in Cold Sweats of Regret At 3am- I recently tried to describe how much I liked Applebee’s penne pasta to a crowd of 5 people. I called it panini pasta. PANINI PASTA. Which in all honesty sounds delicious? The blatant mispronouncing of something off of the Applebee’s menu has been HAUNTING me.”
-“I have to stop applying blush in dimly lit rooms.”
-“I haphazardly scrubbed the bathroom and hated myself for letting it get dirty. I caught a glance of my oily face in the mirror, and I hated that too. I dropped the sponge and picked up my Ponds moisturizer. I slathered it across my face, and I smelled the toilet bowl cleaner scent on my fingers. In my self-loathing spasm, I had not washed the toilet cleaner from my hands before I massaged the lotion on my face. I actually stopped hating myself for a second, because the chemicals were irritating my eyes.”
-“I was a ratty little girl.”
I have such a way with words….
My laptop holds so many journal entries. As a woman in her twenties, it is actually both lovely and painful to read reflections of past days. I have journal entries that are all comedy, baby. I bust up with laughter when I read about my mishaps, or memories with people I love. My journaling is also deeply personal, and a window into some of my worse days. I recently read one of my writing reflections that really encapsulated my grief. It was angry and vivid. I felt so connected to that version of myself who was distraught in her pain. Rereading my own words about the extremity of grief is a very visceral feeling. I’m not sure there is a right word for our worse days. Nothing wraps around the weight of the devastation that is to be felt. I know I am still her. I am still the person who wrote in great detail about my personal devastations.
That is grief. I am forever changed, and connected to the ebbs and flows of pain that have followed the loss of my Dad.
Some of you reading this blog are probably like damn… One minute you’re writing about mispronouncing the word “penne”, and the next you’re hashing out what it is to connect to grief. My brain, she’s a sad comedian!
Grief has small victories. I am not sure if what I am writing about is even a true victory, but it is something that felt bigger and brighter, to me. It is a moment that there is not a correct word for. But I felt myself expanding beyond the boundaries that grief confided me with.
I finally wore the sky-blue sweater that I was wearing the day my dad died. It was a thrifted-favorite sweater that I wore often. In moments of great sorrow, no one thinks about what they are wearing or how they look. The morning I went back to the hospital to see my dad one last time, I didn’t care what I was wearing. I was in a haze of shock and pain. I dressed myself quickly and with little thought. I was going to see my dad for the last time. He was already gone. The sweater wrapped around me loosely and absorbed tears and snot that dripped onto its threading. It didn’t matter. At some point I made my way back home. I stripped out of my clothing and balled up that sweater. It sat in a pile. It was probably the first tangible thing in grief that I noticed there would be a before, and an after. Before my sweater was a symbol of bright days of thrift shopping, with coffee in hand and renewed purpose for the clothing. The sweater was a warmth in the winter, and a compliment from a stranger. It became something heavier. I felt as though the sweater absorbed so much more than my tears that day; it soaked up the very essence of my loss. It sat on a hanger in my closet for over a year. I couldn’t throw it away, because it felt like an anchor to that day. It sat neglected next to my other sweaters. I finally took it out of my closet and held it in my hands. It was soft. It had been washed since the day I last wore it, but it had sat in the back of my closet for long periods of time. It smelt stale. I decided in that moment that when I washed it next, I would wear again, even if for one last time.
I set to task on washing the sweater. I let it air dry on hanger that was hooked around the doorknob to my room. It felt glaring sitting outside of the closet, where it had just spent the last year. I am in new city, with a new job, and here I was still paralyzed by that fucking blue sweater. I thought of my Dad in that moment. I felt an unexpected sense of being his daughter wash over me. I felt connected to him, and I couldn’t control my sobs. I thought about how much I have changed, and how he would never know this version of me. He didn’t get to know me at 25 living in Portland. I think about what it would be like to try to catch him up on all the things he has missed. It kills me.
I felt so devastated to think about how I was becoming someone entirely different than who I was holding his hand for the last time, in that blue sweater.
I stretched out on my bed and just let myself cry. There is an accumulation of days in life after losing someone where you can be functional, and even happy. Sprinkled in, there are days where you still mourn the person, and all of the things they no longer get to be a part of.
Today is a Saturday. I pulled the sky-blue sweater over my head, and I felt mindful. I spent my morning cozied up with a coffee and my dog, Flossy. We went to the dog park and walked around for a while. I listened to music that reminded me of my Dad, the whole time I walked Flossy across her favorite trail. I didn’t feel bogged down with grief; I felt very much a part of my Dad’s heart in that moment. I finished our walk with renewed lightness. Wearing the sweater for the first felt like a reclaiming of something that grief had stolen from me. We made our way towards home. I stopped at a car wash to vacuum the seats that were covered in dog hair and mud. I felt lighter than I had in a long time.
As I was deep cleaning my car, I pulled open my glove compartment. I keep a sandwich bag of quarters from my Dad in there. Across the sandwich bag, my dad wrote in black sharpie “LIB LUNCH MONEY”. He had saved quarters for me, because he knew I liked to get pretzels and diet coke from the vending machine between my classes. I found it on the kitchen counter in my childhood home, when I went home for the first time after my Dad passed away. It felt like one last “I love you”. I keep it in my car so I can have a little piece of his kindness with me, wherever I go. That bag of quarters is also an anchor to the loss of my Dad. I don’t know if I will ever spend the quarters. It seems silly to be stagnant with physical items that we associate with loss. The sweater and the bag of quarters hold so much meaning to me. I feel silly about it sometimes.
I finished cleaning my car and felt the sunshine come out. I could feel the warmth of the sun spreading across my back, reaching me through the sweater. It was the type of spectacular brightness that follows the dull overcast of a March day. It was a gentle comfort. I don’t know if I believe in God. I have always struggled with religion. My Dad believed in God, and I always believed in my Dad. As the sun washed over me in that moment, I felt like if there were ever a nod from heaven- it was in those few minutes where I just felt drenched in sunshine.
I don’t know if I will keep the sweater, but I do feel that I just reshaped the boundaries of my grief. No words, just the feeling of something bigger and brighter.
Also.......... I think my Dad would be so proud to know that I cleaned my car and got the oil changed all in the same week. If there is a heaven, that would truly have my Dad shining down on me. HA.
Alright… who wants some of Applebee’s panini pasta????
Libby Anne Groseclose