Four months into a season of grief.
I’m not sure you can put a feeling on it - the way I felt standing in the middle of a hospital room watching my husband of just 33 days hold back tears as he held my fathers hand for the last time. Laying in a hospital bed brain dead, I looked on as Marcus prayed with him and whispered that he’d always take care of his little girl. This couldn’t possibly be happening, right? Thirty-three days earlier life had seemed like a fairytale. I had married the man of my dreams, received the largest award of my professional career, and was finally settling into a “new-normal” after taking a week long beach vacation. It’s amazing how much your life can change in the matter of a few seconds.
My dad had taken a trip to Springfield, Missouri where he planned to help my sister and her husband move into their very first home. In the middle of shuffling boxes around, my sister noticed that my dad had suddenly become disoriented and was slurring his speech. They immediately called the ambulance and transported him to the local emergency department. At that point, my mom called me to explain what was happening: “Your dad has a large bleed in his brain from a hemorrhagic stroke. You need to talk to him while you still can.” I remember being scared and not knowing quite what to say. Instantly, I heard my dad’s voice: “I love you so much” as he fought back tears. A few moments later, he began vomiting and the bleed progressed until it took over the whole right side of his brain. By the time we arrived to the hospital, dad was fully unconscious and had been placed on a ventilator. I remember the doctor carefully telling me that she believed his bleed would continue to expand until it became “incompatible with life” and progressed to the point of permanent brain death.
The next few days were all a blur. I remember standing in the middle of a Hilton hotel room at 1:00 in the morning as Marcus and I clung on to each other not knowing what else to do. I’m not sure anyone has written a book on how to cope with grief in the midst of your brand new marriage, but we could have certainly used it. I remember my sister and I laying in my mom’s lap in the Neuro Trauma ICU waiting room as we made decisions about organ donation. We received text message after text message with words of prayer and encouragement as we rotated between feelings of disbelief and despair. And in a matter of 24 hours we made the excruciatingly painful drive home from the hospital to return to a house that would never quite feel the same.
Fast-forward a few months and I was settling back into a new-new-normal. Marcus got used to comforting me as he woke in the middle of the night to tears. I got out of bed each morning feeling an ache in my chest that’s impossible to describe. And we came home to wedding pictures on the walls that demonstrated what life had looked like just a month ago. I re-played in my head all the moments he’d miss. The day I would graduate with my PhD. The moment I would land my first “real” job. The birth of our first child. Coping with the idea that my previous version of “normal” was never coming back was enough to knock the wind out of me on an almost daily basis.
I share all of this to say that grief is messy. And we sure don’t talk about it enough. I wish I could wrap up this post with a pretty little bow titled, “Look at me now: I’ve overcome it, I’m stronger for it, and I’m doing great” but you’d be missing pieces of my story. So often we fill our Newsfeed’s with beautifully crafted pictures of our joy filled moments (I know I certainly do) —but I whole heartedly believe that it is through our vulnerabilities that we connect with one another.
Grief is an incredibly isolating experience. It causes you to push others away. But in the months that have followed dad’s death, I’ve found comfort in the most unexpected of places. From gift cards, to phone calls, to gigantic chocolate bars and friends who will sit with you and listen through tears. I’ve been extended tremendous grace when the day is just more than I can handle.
For those of you who have sat with us, cried with us, and been patient with us through this time, thank you more than I can say. It’s through your love that I’ve learned more about the kind of person I want to be. We love you.