I strive to conclude my thoughts on unprocessed grief tonight.
I’ve taken you through the morning and following days of my father’s death through my eyes.
I broke down after recalling my last words to my father.
I’ve recounted my vicious battle with anorexia and bulimia and my darkest depression through most of high school.
Tonight I wish to conclude this chapter on my thoughts about unprocessed grief.
Leaving you in my junior year of high school, starving for perfection; starving to fill the hole in my heart. Starving to feel the hole in my heart. I started my senior year with a new boyfriend.
He was nice, and to be honest, I fell in love with his family more than I did him. I had known them for several years already, but I got to get the inside scoop on how they interacted.
I hadn’t been a part of a nuclear family since I was five years old, so naturally, I didn’t know how they worked. I found them fascinating like a strange life form. It was something that I liked to step back and poke with a stick.
Having a mom and dad who loved each other and were on the same team baffled me. The dynamics between siblings was a whole new world to me. (Truthfully, I still don’t get this one).
It was a nice change and learning experience for me. I was able to talk to this boyfriend unlike I could my last one. I began to process all that I had dealt with, and began to consider my grief.
Like most high school sweethearts, we moved on, and I began college. This was a new start for me with new people who didn’t know my past.
They say that college is where you truly find your tribe, and I wouldn’t say that was my experience at first, but I certainly found many friends and experiences in which brought me great joy.
I chose community college because I wasn’t ready to leave home, and the price was much more satisfactory. I stayed there far longer than most do, much longer than it is intended for.
I had no plan for my life.
When I was a child, my dad had bought me this human body anatomy set. It was similar to a puzzle, but it was small model of a human body with all of the plastic organs to assemble together.
See, I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember.
My dad often found his copy of Grey’s Anatomy in my bedroom, because I loved to read about the human body. I even considered the Cambridge Student’s Programme for teenage students for early an early medical introduction.
When my father had his surgery at Duke, I enjoyed talking with the doctors and nurses, trying to glean as much information as I could.
However, when I started college, I decided I wanted to study law.
By the end of my first semester, I did not.
The next few semesters were met with confusion and low grades.
I took classes ranging for anatomy and physiology to dialects and voice for the stage. I didn’t have a guiding voice to give me advice or direction. No one to remind me what was always my true interest.
I started dating my now husband during our third year of college. His drive and ambition was inspiring, and I started to get myself together.
I once again resumed my headway toward a career in medicine, and committed to a pre-med major. I finally moved on from community college to a state university, and excelled in my bio and chem classes. Physics was the worst class I took out of nearly 200 credit hours that I took over the course of my college career.
About half way through my semester, my depression plummeted as well as my grades.
I started skipping classes and sleeping in late. I hadn’t found a sleep aid that kept me from my near nightly panic attacks.
Most nights, i muffled my sobs in my pillows so not to attract attention from my roommates. Several times I would end up calling my now husband who would more often than not come over in the middle of the night and hold me until my crying gave way to slumber. He would then sneak out before the sun to get ready for his job that started at sunrise.
The semester ended, and I was on academic probation with the potential of losing all financial aid.
Throughout all of this time, one thing remained the same; I led worship on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoyed music and singing. I met with an academic advisor at a local christian college to see if their worship arts program would be something I would be interested in.
Too expensive and adding too many semesters to my college career, I chose to take some music and theatre classes at the university that I was already at.
Reluctantly giving up on my medical dreams, I fell deeper in love with music and the theatre in general.
I found my tribe.
I decided to tailor my degree so that I would have music, dramatic performance and production, dance, stage design, and Christian religious studies. I even landed a paid worship internship at a large local church I had been attending.
With a few years of experience, and this type of education, I was setting myself up for a career in worship ministry.
While I was happy with all of that, and finished each semester on the Chancellor’s and Dean’s lists for receiving a 4.0, my depression and anxiety were off the rails.
I was completely miserable, and felt adrift.
Struggling greatly with suicidality, my future husband convinced me to finally reach out to a counselor.
I saw one at the university, and I cried like a baby when I told her that I just didn’t want to live anymore. She gave me the option to get into a facility, to which I naturally declined.
Having the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality, I decided that I could get my junk together on my own.
Fortunately, the church where I was interning at had a counseling center with a sliding scale on their prices.
There, the realization of my unprocessed grief surfaced.
I was angry with my dad. I was angry with my mom. Most of all, I was angry with myself.
Part of my depression was caused by my anger being turned inward. The other part was PTSD, but I’ll talk about that later.
The pain of losing of parent so young is something I could not process. For one, I had no help to do so. I couldn’t make sense of the pain because I never left a state of shock.
It became a wound that never healed, and would often fester and overflow with infection causing me to have outbursts of deep depression and panic attacks. It caused me to lose all sense of direction in my life.
It caused me to be afraid of commitment. I was sure that as soon as I gave myself fully to anything that I would have the rug pulled out from underneath me, and I simply could not handle that. To this day, I still have issues with trying something new because I just know that something is going to go wrong. (It never does)
I regret giving up on medicine, and hope to God I one day get a chance to redeem myself. However, every time I learned more about the human body, every time I looked a slide of different cancer cells, saw their complexity, saw the intricate, surprising beauty; I saw my daddy.
I would think about seeing patients and inevitably see my father’s weak face, and I would run from it.
There are still levels of grief that I have yet to process.
Not having him there for my college graduation, my wedding, the birth of my children; these events, as joyous as they were, felt slightly incomplete.
Last year was the 14th anniversary of my father’s death. My grief overwhelmed me.
As I walked down the stairs at home and into the living area, I was hit with the realization that I had lived more of my life without him in it than I had with him in it.
That wound opened wide, and I mourned unlike anytime before. The rawness of his absence was greater than it was immediately following his death. My husband was at work, as was my mother, but I could not be alone. My dear mother-in-law came to keep me company because I couldn’t be left alone with that kind of pain that day.
I’m still processing my grief, and probably will until I meet him again in heaven. But I am processing it.
I am healing.
The problem with unprocessed grief is that it slowly infects your body, heart, and mind. It affects your decisions. It affects your relationships. I affects your world view, and perspective of God (if you believe in God).
Since losing my dad, I’ve lost a beloved aunt, and my dear grandparents who I cannot talk about without crying. But because of my experience with the grief from my father’s death, I’ve been able to work through the grief of losing those other great loves of my life.
Until tomorrow my friends,