A Year of Grief and Gratitude – My Process

A Year of Grief and Gratitude – My Process

A year ago today, I lost one of the most important people in my life, my dear father.  I want to share a bit of my process over the last year because of the gratitude and blessing I feel through it all.  Admittedly, this is indeed part my process and you are welcome to pass on this blog, but perhaps for some, it will offer some reassurance, guidance or healing through similar times of pain, loss or grief.  I feel that if we’re watchful, mindful and patient, something beautiful and powerful will emerge through it all.

The acuteness of the loss of my father has lessened but I still miss him each and every day.  Since it has only been one year, his absence remains palpable for me.  Each family dinner, birthday party and football game I miss him that much more because each presents another moment that I don’t get to hear his voice or his laughter or receive one of his reassuring bear hugs.

I’ve heard that every tragedy or great loss comes with an experience to grow and that often something beautiful will emerge from the grief.  That is what I want to share with you today as I reflect on this year of grief… the gratitude and blessings I feel.

In gratitude…

I am eternally grateful for my amazing father who shared his love with me and those around him so readily.  For 40 years and without reserve, I was showered with a deep and unconditional love by my father.  I recognize this precious gift and I do not take it for granted for one moment.

While my father was sick and the panic and fear was bubbling inside of me, I imagined ways I could manage the grief that I knew was imminent. In fear, we often revert to our basic survival instincts – we may fight, rage, flee or freeze.  I have often been one who would revert to flight… to run and run fast and far.  I recognize that the problem with running is that it proves hard to outrun yourself… Wherever you go, there you are.

I imagined that when my father passed I would jump on the first flight to Seattle, a place I associate with a happy and simpler time in my life.  Or, I might get in my car and drive randomly from city to city, hotel to hotel.  Like in the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I thought I could do the southeastern version and set out on the Appalachian trail with my necessities stuffed in my backpack until my exhaustion outweighed my grief. But in every imagined scenario, I was far from my family and alone with myself and my pain.

So it was the weekend before my father passed as we were coming back from one of my daughter’s soccer games in Greenville SC that I noticed this truck pulling a tiny little camper.  Something clicked for me; I could get away whenever I wanted and instead of running from everything, I could run towards something – while surrounded by my family.  It resonated with me as the way to process my grief.

We searched and found a 15-foot ’69 Shasta camper that we could work on and make ours.  We have spent the last year camping in our tiny little camper every chance we get.  I love every second of our camping adventures.  I love the smell of the forest (or the ocean) and the campfire. I love the quiet and the closeness to nature.  I love not being distracted by tv, phones or computers and simply being present with my family. I love the small quarters we live in.  It’s like “the old lady in the shoe” …2 adults, 2 children and 2 large dogs in a tiny 15-foot camper.  I love seeing the stars, really seeing the stars.  I have found peace and filled a longing that I did not know existed. I think of my father when I’m camping, I wish he was there, he always had a fondness for camping, but I don’t feel sad when I’m camping.  I feel grateful that in fear and grief and sadness, I found healing.  I feel connected to him and to everything around me when I am there in nature, in quiet, close to my family.

In gratitude…

I have a busy mind!  When it comes to learning and helping people figure out their health issues, it is of great benefit.  When it comes to relaxing and feeling centered, not so much.  I have known that I need to manage my “monkey mind” and stress levels since I was young.  I remember as far back as undergrad trying different meditation techniques only to realize how fast my mind can run away with itself.  Over the years I have wanted so badly to get “good” at meditation.  I have tried every technique I discovered, but every attempt left me frustrated.  The harder I tried, the busier my mind seemed and the more dejected I felt.  I even taught yoga for a year and still wasn’t able to stick to a meditation practice.  It seems like 3 months is my breaking point for any technique.  I can get that far and then I give up.  My mind must not be the right fit for meditation, I assumed.

When my father passed, I knew I had to find a way to sit with my grief.  If I continued to run and stay busy with my “monkey mind”, I was not going to make it through.  Perhaps because I was so desperate or because my grief was so deep or somehow my dad was giving me a “gift” of sorts, after all these years I finally found a form of meditation that worked for me.  It was like for the first time, everything clicked and I found out how my brain could manage this quiet space I longed for.  I have heard prayer is when you talk to God and meditation is when you listen.  I am so grateful to finally have the capability to listen.

In gratitude…

Thanks to everyone for your kind words, support, hugs and exchanging your loses and gratitudes with me over the past year.

Thank you, Papa.

~Dr. Sherri

Related article:
What is a Successful Life?