It's Okay To Be Thankful... Even After Great Loss

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"What if, today, we were grateful for everything?" ~ Charlie Brown

Every New Year's Eve for the last six years, I have spent my last evening of the year sobbing in bed, feeling like I was getting further and further away from my dad and then my brother as each new year ushered in. 

My anxiety during the first two years was at an old time high. I was so afraid that as each new year started, that meant more time since my dad passed away and that my memories of him and us would fade along with him.

Then when my brother Danny died three years after my dad, I had double grief and was all over the place because one moment, I would be crying over my dad and then another moment over my brother. And then I would feel guilty for grieving over one more than the other or not thinking of them at all at times.

See, I cling to those memories with every fiber of my being because they are all I have left of the best two men I have known and the first two loves of my life. My heroes, my blood, my family.

My brother Danny with his three daughters
Usually around the holidays in general, I will admit, I tend to check out emotionally so I just don't have to deal. I'm there but not there. By the time NYE rolls around, I am so mentally exhausted from checking out, that the emotions come flooding in.

But this year, I realized that I can't check out anymore. I'm not that person anymore. There's this thing called Growth that has taken control of my life and it's a good thing, even though I went into it kicking and screaming. It's harder to let yourself feel because that means facing things head on.

The new normal is good. And I have realized that it's okay to be thankful even after suffering a great loss. 

I'm thankful to still be alive and I can feel something wonderful is on its way in my career and in my life. I'm thankful for my mom and nieces. I'm thankful that I'm on the road to healing and becoming the best person I can be.

The holidays are always a time of reflection -- it's bittersweet for me. But I am learning to be thankful and happy, even after such a great loss in my life. 

Now Thanksgiving and Christmas was still hella hard. I fell into a place of depression and it was a daily fight to emerge from that black hole that had become so familiar and at times, actually felt safe. I can stand still and not let the world in. I clung to that sadness in a way because it made those memories of them present and dominant in my mind. 

But after Christmas, I was done. Something in me had changed. I could not live each holiday season like this. I was feeling different and I felt I was ready to let go.

So this New Year's Eve, for the first time in six years, I did not sob in bed. I decided to go into the New Year with a smile. I did not watch the ball drop as that is a trigger for me in terms of making me sad and mourn what I lost or don't have in my life. I ushered in the New Year listening to Stevie Wonder's Superstition and playing Uno online. And I was happy.

Grief is a process with no timetable. I am healing little by little one day at a time. I continue to go to therapy once a week and I am learning that I will never forget my dad and brother no matter how much time has passed. They will always be with me.

What my dad wrote in my autograph book when I graduated from elementary school - he knew back then of my greatness.
It's okay to miss them. It's okay to cry sometimes. It's okay to grieve. But I refuse to let my grief define me or take over my life. There will always a tough moment but why should I give my time away to grief? Why should my life stop? I know that's not what my dad and brother would want.

My dad and I in Atlantic City 
I also have learned to assert myself more and know that it's only up to me on how I grieve. And it's okay for me to let people know that. I will not "get over it" and I am not "dwelling" on it. No one knows the relationship I had with them nor do they know how I feel. We all have our own experiences and how we grieve. We all have different ways to deal with grief and I believe we should be considerate and understanding of that. So I basically tell others now who criticize me in this respect, "Let me live and I will let you live." Because see, there is no wrong way to grieve. You just do.

Next up, the month of April... my dad's 7th anniversary is April 10th and my brother's birthday is April 22nd. Usually, that month is so hard for me but this year, I am hopeful it will be a little easier. That's what self-healing is all about. I want to live again and not just exist. Not only for myself but for them.

1 comment

  1. {{Hugs}} They will always be with you...As You Live Your Life...

    You're so strong.