I watched Spider-Man. And then I cried.

A couple of weekends ago I finally watched the Amazing Spider-Man with the mister. I thought it was a great movie and I really enjoyed it and felt it was well done. A lot better than the Tobey Maguire versions.

What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional reaction I had to the film. Fans of the comic book know that Uncle Ben dies (and Gwen’s dad, which I totally saw coming but was still caught off-guard. Oh, uh, spoiler alert) and the way they portrayed his death and the after-effects with Aunt May exclaiming how she couldn’t sleep and watching Peter listen  to an old voicemail from Uncle Ben really made me think about my dad. It was hard to push through the rest of the movie and I was a sobbing mess by the end of it. Not so much because of what happened but because of the emotions that were stirred up within me.

It’s been almost 3 years since my dad passed away and while I think I’m relatively okay, I know there are still…I’m not sure I’d say unresolved feelings but it’s still a very tender and emotional thing for me. It’s been so long and I realized I never really had a big, cleansing cry. No one knows how you’re supposed to grieve. Everyone reacts differently and I always just expected to have a really big, massive ugly cry and be okay afterwards. But I never had that emotional release.

My dad died and we had to instantly move into the transition mode. I didn’t really have time to think, “Oh what are we going to do?” We had to immediately figure out what to do. We had funeral arrangements to make, people and organizations to notify, and affairs to get in order. I spent the whole first year dealing with that, house hunting and moving, and finishing school. I’ve had smaller moments when I’ve had to cry and I’m sad but I haven’t sat and just bawled. Sometimes I wonder if I’m SUPPOSED to do that, if that’s something I should expect to do. Am I still experiencing these waves of sadness because I haven’t had that cleansing cry or really dealt with my emotions? Does it get easier than this? Am I going to be able to one day watch a movie with a father character dying and not cry because it reminds me of my dad?

I just don’t know. I guess the grieving process is never really done. At least, that’s been my experience so far. You’ll always kind of grieve in some way. I have my own triggers that brings me to tears. Grieving is just so singular. It’s weird because there’s no right way to do it and while I tell people that all the time, I haven’t really figured that out for myself just yet. I really wish there was a right answer. It’s just awkward. I feel like I’m just forever in this awkward stage. I can’t bring my dad back; we can only move forward. I just wish there was some kind of way to know that I was actually moving forward and not just treading water.

The mister has encouraged me to talk to a grief counselor and there really isn’t a reason why I shouldn’t. I can come up with several stupid reasons not to but nothing that resembles a real reason. I just need to know that it’s okay to feel the way that I do. It’s okay to cry every once in a while when something reminds me of him or because I’m just sad. It’s okay that I didn’t sit and have a big cry and it’s okay if I never have that big cry. It’s okay to still feel like this just happened even though it’s been almost 3 years. That it’s okay to feel this way because this is exactly how I feel. I can’t be wrong; there’s no wrong way to feel and that’s okay.

I just really need to know that it’s okay.

Grieving definitely is a process

Last Wednesday, May 19th, was my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary and the first anniversary of my dad’s heart transplant. We spent part of the afternoon visiting his grave and marveling at the newly installed marble headstone [which looks great]. Dad is located in a nice part of the National Cemetery near the pond and across from one of our decidedly favorite headstone quotes. I can’t help but crack a smile whenever I see it.

Seeing that Monday also marked the 2nd month since his passing, I figured it was a fitting time to offer you an update.

Grieving is an interesting process. There’s no real manual that covers what to expect for everyone. I know there is the generally accepted “5 Stages of Grief” but everyone reacts and copes differently. Overall, my family is doing fairly well. We’ve been leaning on each other a lot for understanding and the occasional vent/crying session. It’s been fun laughing about random memories of Dad as well as talking through our grievances about him as well. We all have had varying differences in dealing with our feelings. Speaking for myself, I definitely didn’t go through all 5 stages [and only nominally went through the abridged 3 stage model]. I never felt anger or the need to bargain. I have always been at peace with what happened, even through his illness while he was alive. I guess for me, I relied heavily on my relationship with God to see me through this time. Losing my Dad wasn’t an option for me but when it became clear that it was in his best interest to let him go, it was slightly easier to let it be.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sleeping or eating well. I had pretty much lost my appetite and had to make a conscious effort to remember to eat since I wasn’t hungry but I knew I had to eat. Trying to sleep was another ordeal; I’d stay up late and eventually fall asleep only to wake up a few hours later where I’d stay up for another hour or so before finally falling back asleep. It was not an easy time.

I decided that I am going to take my time during the healing stage. I still get weepy every once and again but I try to find the right balance that will allow me to feel exactly how I feel without letting those sad feelings consume me. If I’m sad one day, then I’ll be sad. If I’m fine, then I’ll be fine. Because really, it’s a day by day process. Some days will be better than others but there is no reason or need to rush through your feelings just to get to some level of “normality.” All I hope for are a series of good days.

I’ve found that I’m fine when I’m keeping busy with the day-to-day stuff like school. Most of my sad moments typically hit during my quieter moments, like on my drive home from school. Sometimes I think about the moment his doctors requested the family to gather and how I felt or I’ll think about the moment he quietly slipped away surrounded my family and the slight feeling of panic that struck me when the doctor offered his apologies. I don’t know why I was so shocked when he passed but I guess I was expecting more to happen.

Though, surprisingly, I haven’t had that big cathartic cry yet. I don’t know why or if I’ll ever have one since my first instinct is always to get myself to stop crying [I don’t like to cry] but part of me feels like I should have one.

In the end, I try not to look too far ahead. I don’t get down on myself for feeling like I do and I don’t make apologies for myself either. Grief isn’t easy to deal with but it’s made slightly easier by taking it one day at a time. I’ll probably always feel a little sad about losing my dad so I’m not expecting to wake up one day and be totally fine. I don’t plan on erasing his phone number from my phone either. Even though I can’t call him anymore, it’s more comforting to leave it there.

I just want to thank all those who have called, text, or emailed me to check up on my family and I. That is, quite possibly, the best thing anyone can do for someone who lost a loved one. And in case you were wondering, today was a good day.