Today’s post is going to be something different for me. I’ve never really shared my full feelings or story of loss and grieving. I’ve become a big fan of the show This is Us and it’s almost like the writers stole scenes from my own life. As most of the world knows, Sunday’s episode finally gave us the answers to Jacks death. Take away the fire scene and you have flashbacks of my father's death 21 years ago. I could barely make it through the episode. I had to pause it more than once because I was feeling all of the emotions. I felt panic, sadness, anger, and confusion.
Here is my “This is Us” story. January 18, 1997, I went to bed so excited because the next day was my 10th birthday and all my friends were coming over for my party. I woke up to the sound of my mom on the phone with someone which was unusual for that time of night. Then people started to show up and it was confusing. All I remember is my uncle driving us to the hospital. I don’t remember getting in his car or any other detail other than he was driving so fast, not even stopping for the red lights. All I could notice were the lights flashing by as we drove. What was wrong? Why was he going so fast? Am I still sleeping? We got to the hospital, my mom went in and my brother and I were whisked away to a cousins house. I remember seeing my dads baby blue station wagon parked in the emergency lot and not knowing it at the time that was my goodbye.
Once we got to my cousin's house I couldn’t get back to sleep. Everyone was asleep and I sat in the dark watching my brother sleep telling myself everything was going to be fine. I kept looking out to my cousin Dawn, asleep on the couch and a shadow came over me. When I looked up I swore I saw the shadow of my dad above her on the wall. I forced myself to close my eyes and sleep.
January 19, 1997, I turned 10 years old and I woke up without a father. Morning came rolling in and I heard the car doors outside. I ran to the door thinking my mom and my dad were coming in. It was just my mom, followed by an uncle or two I can’t remember. I knew it wasn’t good news. Next, I remember sitting on my cousin's bed crying with my brother because we were just told “dad is gone” My mom had to completely devastate her two kids with 3 words. As much as it hurt us I can't imagine how painful it was for her. How hard was it for her to have to stay strong and not crumble. She did it for us.
My mom tried her hardest to keep everything normal. She still had my birthday party that day, all my friends still came, and extra family showed up. It is all a blur to me still but I appreciate everyone trying to make me happy on a tragic day.
The scene where Jack is fine and then all of a sudden they tell her he died? Yeah, that broke my heart all over again. From what I've been told, that's exactly what happened to my mom. I was picturing my mom and I hurt for her. To lose her husband so young, but then to have to break the news to us and everyone else. To plan a funeral and to have to wake up the next day and continue on with life because we needed her and we needed to keep on keeping on!
I relate to Kate in so many ways. I was daddy’s girl, we loved singing, dancing, and like Kate, I blamed myself for my dad's death For a very long time I thought I killed my dad. I would think and think of all the reasons why I could have stressed him out and caused his heart attack. Now as an adult I know it wasn’t my fault but it took me a really long time to realize that. It also took me a really long time to admit that I felt that way to other people. Watching Kate’s story on This is Us is literally like looking at myself.
After losing my dad, I became extremely shy and socially awkward, if my mom was just a few minutes late I would panic, I would eat my emotions, I quit dance and I lost all my confidence. I would cry at the drop of a pin. If you mentioned him or asked me about him, especially if I had to explain why I didn't have a dad, waterworks!
I just turned 31 that means that its been 21 years since my dad died. Every January 19th instead of celebrating just my birthday I remember my dad, those painful flashbacks, but more importantly, I remember the happy memories. I remember him teaching me how to swim, singing Elvis, dancing with me at functions, taking off work during school vacations and bringing me and my brother out to breakfast, giving me ”Eskimo kisses” that I now do with my kids, but most importantly, when I'm having a bad day, I think ”what would he have said or done?” when I make life choices I still wonder how he would feel and if he would be proud of me.
Although the show is hard to watch its helped me have a new way of coping. I still grieve him and that will never change. Sometimes I still have bad days like his birthday, or family events for his side of the family can still be tough for me. The show has a way of letting people know they're not alone. Everyone has their own way of dealing and it gets better. The show is extremely relatable and it makes you think and dig deep and work through things that maybe you pushed away.
Don't be afraid to cry, or ask for help. Talk to someone if you're having a hard time handling something. You may never forget a loss or pain, but it will ease and get better with time. Everyone has their moments and don't be ashamed of them. Even though there have been many times life was hard because he wasn't here I've had many people rooting me on and making my life amazing.
If you haven't experienced loss keep an open mind when dealing with someone who has. Be there for them with no judgment. Don't tell them how to feel, or to ”get over it”. Just be a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Be patient during moments involving anxiety and know when to give them some space. That person for me is my husband. When it comes to my dad we have an unspoken understanding. He never knew him but he gets it and he gets me. Thank you for being my Toby, Christopher.
Thank you, Chrissy Metz, for basically playing the role of me and killing it. You make me want to reach into that tv every week and hug you and tell you ”were going to be okay!” Kate is my soul sister!
To my dad, thank you for all you did while you were here with me. Thank you for now guiding me from the clouds. I will never stop missing or needing you. I hope that where ever you are you are proud and at peace.