Grief and joy

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Anna turned 9 years old yesterday.  The day was simple and joyful.  And thankfully, it was free from the painful sentimental feelings I normally feel on my children’s birthdays.

This year, Anna could choose between having a birthday party or having a weekend at a hotel with her family.  She chose the hotel, and last weekend we spent two nights at a hotel in Wisconsin.  Anna spent most of the time swimming. We also spent some time seeing old sites from when Alan and I lived there.  We visited my parents on the way home, and they gave Anna her first sewing machine.

On her actual birthday, Anna chose what we ate for breakfast and dinner (pancakes and eggs; spaghetti without meat).  And, she invited grandma and grandpa over for “dessert”, also known as veggies and dip, popcorn, and Zevia root beer.  Somehow, the sweet tooth the rest of us are plagued with doesn’t seem to reside in her–and therefore she is our little health nut who keeps us eating our vegetables.

Family life is sweet and lovely.  It has been especially so in recent months.  Things feel grounded and connected in our little family, and I am glad for that.

In the background, there is grief.  My dad has stage 4 cancer.  He doesn’t want to share the news with anyone outside of our family, at least, not yet.  At first I felt shock and intense love for him and compassion for his suffering.  In addition to this, there is now grief and sadness.  The feelings swing between periods of peace and acceptance and then the intense feelings of grief.

I am letting myself cry when I need to.  Work has been a welcome distraction, although I am not as cheerful or engaged with my clients as I usually am. I’m feeling bewildered and disorganized and uncomfortable, not always knowing what to do when I’m not busy.  I know that allowing the feelings to come is what will heal me and keep me together.  But it is hard.  I often want to run from it and go back to the way things were before.  I am thinking a lot about the memories I have of my dad throughout my life.  Dad riding the John Deere in the summertime, dad taking us ice skating on the frozen marsh, dad cutting down trees and splitting logs, dad building snow forts for us and making awesome sledding trails.  I feel the comfort and the consistency he has provided all of my life.  Always there.  Reliable and strong.  What would it be like without him?

Things that help me cope with this grief are talking about it, walking in nature, cuddling my pets, and reaching out to others. I am visiting my parents as much as I can.

Life is hard.  And, it is beautiful, too.

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