My favorite podcast in the world is called, “Whine Down,” and it is hosted by country singer and actress Jana Kramer. Kramer, who is a mom of two, explores life after her very public divorce to her lying, cheating, narcissistic (you can clearly tell I hate the man) husband. She dives deep into pain, grief, and navigating new beginnings.
Jana Kramer and my dad actually have a special connection. I remember so vividly being on the golf course one day, years ago, and my father pulled the cart over to show me one of his favorite songs. It was very early on into my love of country music. When he put on, “I Got the Boy,” by Jana Kramer, I instantly fell in love. After we got home, I googled her name and spent hours watching her past music videos.
Now, some of you are probably wondering why I am talking about a celebrity who publicly discusses her divorce, but as I am getting ready for bed, I find myself imagining myself having a conversation with Jana. Like if I was lucky enough to be a guest on her podcast (Jana, or anyone in Jana’s team, if you happen to stumble across my name or blog, my answer is ‘yes.’ Yes, I would love to come on and share my story), what would I say? And as I shuffle through my closet to pick out my pj’s, I really start to construct some ideas in my mind. And, so, I thought I would share them all with you.
1. It is okay to hate everyone and everything at the beginning.
I am not a very hateful person, never have been, but boy did I want to kick a million people in their shins. The “perfect” family sitting next to my broken one at dinner, laughing and taking photos; I wanted to shove my foot up their butts. The people in and out of my home, the ones who dropped everything in their own lives to be there for me; I wanted to push them off a cliff every time they asked me if I was okay or what my favorite restaurant was so someone could order food to my house. I like Anthony Francos and Seymours, you happy now? I’d much rather prefer you leave me alone and shut the hell up than pour me a glass of water with ice.
What I just described above is so normal. Grief is so exhausting and messed up and taxing. Did I really hate the happy family next to me? I don’t even know them. They could be the nicest family in the world, but I am judging them simply because they have what I want. What I used to have. Did I really want to push friends and family off a cliff? Those people helped make sure my sister and I got to where we needed to be on time and that we had lunch to eat at school. Those people held my mother when she was falling apart when Lex and I were not around to brush away her tears ourselves. I look back now and I have come to realize that at that time in my life, I just wanted a little space to breathe. And maybe to kick some shins, shove my foot up some butts, and push some people off cliffs.
2. People don’t know how to handle tough situations, and it isn’t their fault.
For a long time, I held on tightly to a lot of grudges towards the people who had made mistakes in the beginning. The family who showed up to shiva smiling, the friends who told suicide jokes at the lunch table, the fathers who told their daughters they loved them right in front of my sister and I, the couple that openly displayed their PDA next to my mother. Yeah, okay, kiss your husband when my mother just cried to you that she cannot believe she is a widow. Great move. Wanna a gold star for being an amazing idiot? Oh, I may have one in my pocket, one second. Gotta find it. Oh, here it is. *proceeds to flip them off*
But what I failed to understand then is all those people who made “mistakes” had no idea what the hell they were doing. And it is not their fault. We aren’t taught as humans how to deal with tough situations or how to help those we love that find themselves in tough situations. We aren’t taught how to comfort someone like we are taught the ABC’s, animals sounds and how to count to twenty.
Just like we have to learn to give ourselves some grace, we must extend courtesy to those around us. I doubt the family that gave me a hug with smiles on their faces three days after my father passed was looking to hurt me. They probably just looked at a grieving, sleep-deprived 14 1/2 year old girl and wondered how she was still standing on two feet.
3. Grief is just like the ocean; there are so many parts that are undiscovered.
Ever go to a beach or a look at a large body of water and think to yourself: where does it end? If I tried to swim to the “edge,” would I fall off the face of the earth? To be honest, I haven’t a single clue.
All scientists will tell you that there are so many parts of the ocean that have yet to be discovered or studied. After all, the ocean is pretty darn complex. Same with grief. Even the specialists who have spent countless hours studying pain couldn’t tell you everything about it. Because they, like scientists, do not have every puzzle piece set firmly in place. So, it is okay to not understand every emotion and feeling and outburst. If professionals don’t even have all of the answers, how can we expect that we do?
There is no need to beat yourself up if a therapist or a loved one asks you why you are feeling a certain way and you respond with, “I don’t know.” I don’t know why a song made my cry one day, but not the next. I don’t know why I can’t stand to be around this person, but can stand being around that person. I don’t know why this “I love you,” hurt, but the one said three years ago had no effect on me.
We can’t know everything about everything, and that is a-freaking-okay. Maybe, we will discover the “why,” and maybe we won’t. But guess what? It isn’t such a bad thing to not have all of the answers.
4. Some wounds just don’t heal and they never will.
I bet you we all have stories of when we fell off our bikes because we didn’t brake early enough or at all, and so we wound up with a big, nasty cut on our knee. Or, when we accidentally poked ourselves with a sharp pencil tip, thus resulting in a charcoal dot on our skin. The likelihood is that the pencil-tip mark went away, but the scrape from the bike may be there and if we look hard enough, we may just be able to see a faint scar. You wanna know why it is that the cut may not have healed fully but the small charcoal mark disappeared? Because the bike wound was deeper.
Plenty of people have hurt me in the past. Friends that I adored, and we joked would be the aunt’s of my children, left me behind because in their eyes, I wasn’t good enough or cool enough anymore. And yes, those distant memories of nights, alone, crying in my bed or being forced to witness them to move on to the girls who made fun of me left wounds on my heart. Big ones, for that matter. But none were quite as deep as the ones made by my father. Those, let me tell you, are a doozy.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, but I wholeheartedly believe that the saying, “Time heals all wounds,” is a load of horse crap. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, because so many wounds, like the scraped knee, will never, truly fade.
Now, please do not get me wrong; wounds close. Bleeding stops. But not forever. We can scratch a wound and re-open it. We can dig our nails into a scar, and still it remains. It isn’t because the stitches we used weren’t strong enough or we didn’t scratch forcibly. It is because some things don’t ever really go away.
I can sit in eight thousand more therapy sessions and grow eight thousand days older, and still, I will miss my father. Still, I will cry myself to sleep and still, I will grieve. And still, somedays I will hate him for breaking up my family.
Yes, parts of my heart will heal, it won’t stay broken for forever, but I would be a fool to think it will operate the same as it was before it was plagued with such pain. I wish it wasn’t this way and that every wound and scar was just like that pencil-tip mark, but it isn’t. Many wounds and scars are scraped knees.
5. Not every question has an answer, and we must learn to accept that.
Anyone who has lost anyone to suicide will tell you that the questions are endless. And anyone who has lost anyone to suicide will tell you that the answers are few and far between.
Just like grief is an ocean, answers are unicorns; they don’t exist. We want them to, we tell ourselves they do, but they don’t. Answers are not dinosaurs; they didn’t once roam the earth and then were taken out by a meteoroid or asteroid. They were never here or there to begin with.
That is not an easy thing to wrap our heads around because we want answers. We want to know why our loved ones couldn’t hold on anymore or why god somehow decided we could handle all of this. Believe me, I am the queen of asking questions that have no answer attached. I have a bottomless bucket full.
Just like you, I wish for clarification and justification. And just like you, I still look for answers knowing they aren’t there. Just like you cannot put a horn on a zebra and call it a unicorn, you cannot put a tag on a question and call it an answer. That just isn’t how it works.
6. You have every right to blame the person for dying by suicide, and anyone who tells you otherwise is naïve.
I hate when people try to comment on something they know nothing about. Unwanted responses on certain topics is not the same as curiosity; let me make that perfectly clear.
I have blamed my father for dying and leaving me behind; that is no secret and I am not afraid to admit it. I have gone to his grave, sat in front of his stone, and told him I hated him. And, as I write that, I am actively searching for any ounce of shame and let me report that I am not finding any.
To some people, they might think I just leased an apartment in hell, but that is because they do not understand the complexity of suicide. It isn’t black and white. There is grey and red and yellow and green and gold and purple. Suicide has every freaking color under the sun.
I love my father more than anything and there is no bone in my body that does not wince at the reality that he was in pain. But guess who is now in pain? Me. His daughter. His child. I am in pain.
And who do I have to blame, if not him? Myself? Yeah, sure I have blamed myself, but not because of my pain. He killed himself. Not a drunk driver or a clogged artery or a brain disease. He did. If I harbor all of this blame, I am going to wind up throwing it back into my own face, and I’d rather not. I have enough on my plate as is.
7. It. Will. Be. Okay.
The bathroom floor is not going to stay comfortable for forever, though I know it feels like it. Your bed won’t either.
When I was at Comfort Zone, someone told me that it seems like I have my life all put together. I had to be the bearer of bad news and tell them that, most days, my life feels like one tangled mess. My life is not perfect. Some days are rough and others feel like absolute hell. But not every day. And, now, more often than not, most are good.
It sure took a long time, but I am okay. I am happy. Most of the time, that is. More often than not, I have a smile on my face. And it isn’t fake or forced or a mask. It is a true smile. I am not Mrs.Doubtfire anymore. And one day, you won’t be either. One day, you will go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, wash your face, maybe shave your armpits, and you won’t dream of hugging the floor. One day, you’ll peel yourself out of bed, make it all pretty, and you won’t want to crawl back in two seconds later. Just you wait. One day, you will wake in the morning, and won’t curse light because it isn’t darkness.
So, this is what I would say if I was on Whine Down or any podcast for that matter. Each of these things I listed above, I believe in. And maybe they aren’t your truths, but that’s okay. They don’t have to be. But one day, things might change and they will be. And maybe they won’t ever be. Again, if they aren’t, there is always hair pulling and Will Smith-slapping. Just don’t tell anyone you heard that from me.