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Be Real: G is for Grief

It has taken me a long time to decide whether I actually wanted to talk about this on the blog. However, many people have told me that while grief and grieving are often personal journeys, there is also a sense of camaraderie felt by those who have known grief… so here goes.


G is for Grief

In February, my dad died. It was sudden. Unexpected.

He was on vacation in Panama with my mom – a place they loved to travel. They were enjoying the sunshine, fresh fruit, and kicking back, far away from the cold winds here in Delaware.

I talked on a video call with them on Wednesday. Dad was not feeling great but was in good spirits. We joked about the four prescriptions he got in Panama for a whopping $26. We said our “Love yous” and hung up. Everything was fine.

Thursday he took it easy as he still wasn’t feeling great.

Then Friday, he ended up in the hospital in the local town. Friends of theirs pulled some strings to get him transferred to the better hospital in the city. He was taken by ambulance for the four-hour trip while their friends followed in the car that Mom had quickly packed up to leave their rental house.

The city hospital thought it was a virus of the blood so they hooked him up to a machine to help ‘clean’ his blood. He had likely had the virus for some time, but we will also never know all the details of what it was, why he got it, or why it affected him so badly.

He passed away on Sunday when his body just couldn’t keep up.

During this whole time, my sisters and I were in communication. We were discussing how to get Dad back to the U.S. Just earlier that day we had crafted ‘the plan.’ We felt good knowing we had done everything we could. I remember feeling a little better that evening because we had ‘the plan.’

We had also started a fundraiser online and were shocked and humbled to find out we had reached our goal within 24 hours. And, there was still more that would come in. This money would help us pay to get Dad back to the U.S. where he had a bed waiting for him in San Antonio – a military hospital where my youngest sister is a physician.

It’s amazing how having a plan makes you feel like it will all work out. Like they say, God has other plans.

When I got the call late Sunday night, I was shocked. Horrified. My world fell apart.

My Dad had been sick before – he always bounced back.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks and the immediate grief and pain seemed like a bottomless pit. I felt like I may never stop falling.

How could I go on? What about the kids? What about my mom?

The next morning, I talked to the kids. My son was especially devastated. Pops was his best buddy, his fellow ninja, his patron saint of donuts … the two had such a deep connection. My daughter is a bit too young to really understand, however she does remember a pet cat that died. So, she kind of gets it.


Moving Forward in Grief

It is interesting what grief does to you. First off, I am exhausted all the time. It is like I can’t sleep enough.

For my son, Alex, he didn’t really want to talk about it after that initial day. We did connect him with a counselor at his school who he sees about once a week. That has helped.

He has decided that for his part he is going to remember Pops by having fun and eating donuts. One of the first things he wanted to do was go have donuts in honor of Pops.

He also decided he wants to write a guide on “How to Live Like Pops.” In his words, this instructional guide will cover topics such as why it is important to learn to fight like a ninja, on the best way to sneak up on your sister, and, of course, why donuts are an important food group.

We also talk about how we are all going to be “New Pops.” For us this means that each of us will work to live like Pops – always having fun, always caring for others, and always ready to have a good laugh. I have also agreed to do Pops things like go on rollercoaster rides this summer (gulp) and have more squirt gun battles.

Jane, for her part, agrees that we need to be “New Pops” and she even created a paper heart with items on it that she said can serve as New Pops to remind us.

Most of the time, Jane just reminds us that we can’t be sad forever and that we need to get back to being happy. Both important reminders.

I’ve been talking to a counselor and stepping my way gingerly through the stages of grief. It hasn’t all been pretty, that’s for sure. But, we each deal with things in our own way.

People talk about closure and say that after the funeral there is closure. I am not sure I agree with this. At least for me, I am not sure there will ever be an end to this grief. I think it will stretch on forever because each time something reminds me of Pops, I will both smile and cry.

Each time I see a sunset – full of pinks and oranges – I will think of him.

Seeing the sun break over farm fields will make me remember his love of rolling hills and tractors.

Watching my kids grow up and look at the world with curiosity and fascination – Pops will be there.

Boating around the barrier islands of Virginia – I will remember his smile from behind the wheel.

Dad jokes – I will continue to tell them and enjoy them in his memory.

When my gypsy nature comes out and I plan for our next adventure just over the horizon – my Dad will be smiling down on me as he continues to tilt at windmills in heaven.

When I hear music, especially his favorite church songs, I will remember his beautiful singing voice and the many sermons I heard him give over the years.

I cherish all the many amazing memories we had. I know he lived a great life and that we were blessed to have had him for so many years. It is sad to think I won’t get to hug him again in this life, but I also believe that when it is my time to go, he will be there to welcome me with that hug I have been craving.

For now, I need to focus on living my life in his memory. I truly believe that grief can pull you down but it can also life you up. It can lift you up to the realization that you have great things to offer the world as well. It can push you to lift others up – those who need support and care in their lives.

And, it can push you to be the best human you can be.

That’s where I hope to focus. Although, I am sure there are still tears to be cried. It helps me to know that his death, while so painful, will hopefully create ripples of goodness in the world, created by those who loved him and who also want to live in his memory.

Rachel Swick Mavity

Rachel Swick Mavity

Rachel Swick Mavity, MS, is the Digital Content Coordinator for Beebe Healthcare and is a freelance writer. She lives in Milford with her husband and two children. Her passions include storytelling, photography, healthy products, and coffee.