Today marks 11 years since I was inducted into a society that I didn’t want to be a part of. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long since I’ve seen my dad.
After my dad died, I thought that grief was linear. I thought each year would get easier. Not easy, but easier. If there’s anything that I’ve learned about grief, it’s that it’s anything but linear.
Some anniversaries are easy. They breeze by without much significance because I was either in denial or simply too busy to grieve. Some are bittersweet and reflective. These come with reminders of all of the good people who stepped up and helped raise me, all of the lessons I learned. Some are full of terror. I wake up in the middle of the night and picture my dad’s car crash, imagine what his last moments in the hospital were like, remember waking up in the middle of the night. Then some are just hard. There’s no rhyme or reason, they just are what they are.
There is no formula to grief. There is no way to determine how you’re going to feel any given year. As you navigate through this world, your life changes and your grief changes as well. Big life moments like graduating college can be met with a sudden realization that you still miss your dad. Big accomplishments like learning how to deal with anxiety and depression can force you to look reflectively on his death and appreciate what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown. There’s no set way to feel at year eight vs. year three vs. year ten. Grief is conditional.
This year is hard. To be honest, it’s hitting me harder than any other year. As I’m navigating the comedy world and doing that crazy thing… you know… actually really trying to make my dreams work… I’m missing him more than ever. Sometimes I feel lonely and scared and just want to call home and talk to him about it. My dad risked everything to become a professional football player. I mean he really DID it. He knew what he wanted to do in life and he made it work. He was never satisfied with a “boring” life. Even well after his football career, he was always doing something. He would coach multiple teams while maintaining a 9-5, DJ on the weekends and still find the time to be a very attentive parent. On top of that, he taught us everything we know about comedy. He encouraged us to put on shows and taught us what funny was. At age seven, we would watch tapes of Farley and Sandler and then turn around to see my dad’s version of whatever they were doing. He taught me how to be fearless and stand out while being a kind hearted person who is easy to coach. He fed my hunger to perform and never for a second made me think it was impossible to make a career out of it. After the last show that he came to, he handed me a card that said “I feel like this is the beginning of a great career.”
So it sucks. It really sucks. I want so badly to call him when days get long and I’m exhausted. When I’m running off of four hours of sleep for a week and doubting myself, I just want to hear him say “I know, Bird, I know. I’ve been there.” It’s like I finally found the thing that he would understand more than anyone else and he’s not here to help me though it.
So I’m very sad. I’ve been walking on eggshells all day trying to just get by.
To get from one thing to another. Everything feels like a chore – waking up, feeding myself, getting to work and class, staying awake. Everything. That’s okay. It’s okay to miss him, it’s okay to be “that girl”.
But I have to take a step back every now & again to remind myself of the cold, hard truth: he’s dead. He’s not here and he’s not coming back.
That may seem harsh, but let me explain why it’s necessary to take that step back. I will never have that relationship with my dad that I seek because he’s not here anymore. I would trade anything to get it, but it’s simply not possible. Getting too wound up in “what if’s” is dangerous. It clouds your mind and you may miss what you do have by focusing of what you don’t. Yeah, it fucking sucks that my dad can’t be that affirmation that I seek. But do you know what I do have?
A friend/soulmate who hasn’t slept for 48 hours but still texts me a quote from “No Country for Old Men” that perfectly encapsulates not only her creepy ass personality but makes a profound and true statement about grief. A friend/director/guru who doesn’t just convince me to go to my rehearsal but texts me live updates from the Eagles game that I’m missing and constantly steps in as the person who gets how it feels to chase a dream and genuinely believes I can do it. A teacher who stops on her way out of the building to ask about what I’m working on. Writing partners who aren’t annoyed by my mood and just let me sit in my shit for a little. A director to provide me with good company and conversation on the ride home so I don’t have to think about it anymore. And guys, these are all just the people I interacted with in the last three hours of Monday night.
So I can’t, for a second, feel lonely. I can’t say that no one gets it or that no one knows how it feels… because I have the best damn people in my corner ready to support me when I have a day like this. I know my dad would be so incredibly grateful for these people, and I know my mom already is. I couldn’t say thank you enough.
So yes, it still sucks and I still want my dad back more than anything. This year is still the worst and I still feel shitty. But you know what? Grief is a tricky asshole. It comes and it goes. You just have to trust that you’ll get through it and know that you have so many incredible people standing behind you.
Year 11. I miss him every single day.