What happens when a(n adoptive) parent dies?

It sucks. That’s what happens.

Dad’s accident occurred at his work. Much of that day is seared in my mind. Each month after the accident and after his passing, I would get super anxious near and on those dates. I kept thinking, it’s been two months since that date. It’s been five months since that date. After a year, I finally quit marking the month.

I often relived the phone call that changed my life. I felt like revisiting the trauma was the closest I could get to him being here still. That’s terrifying and so sad. My foundation had been totally shattered. All the things I thought I could count on in life suddenly felt like a crumbled house of cards. Nothing felt stable. I remember wanting to keep my mom and Brother in a room with me. Where I could see them. And NO ONE was allowed to be on a ladder. (Dad fell from a tall agricultural tank.)

A few things really helped me through the first year. A few weeks after Dad passed, I found out that the local hospice center was hosting a grief group one night a week for seven weeks. I signed up. I was pretty nervous driving to the meeting place that first night, but I’ve gotten much braver in the past 10 years. I knew it was what I needed. We got a binder with handouts for journaling, quotes, and articles to read. We discussed our loved ones and processed grief out loud together. It was a safe place to cry and do the hard work of grieving, away from my family for whom I was trying to be strong(ish). I was also (oddly) blessed to have a couple close friends who had suffered similar grief in their lives. My one friend and I would call or text each other for support on days that were particularly hard or triggering. I called her my grief buddy, not a very poetic term, but descriptive nonetheless. We still check in now and then.

That first year…I never felt like I wanted to die exactly, it’s just that I didn’t want to live. I wanted to hop off the ride for awhile. Just go away, no one expecting anything from me. I just wanted to sleep. And wake up to either my dad back, safe and sound, or to the absence of the pain. So I found a therapist close to my hometown. He was qualified to do EMDR, of which I’m a huge fan. He helped me a lot. I started to come out of the fog.

I plan to do several more posts about my grief journey. Being a pretty emotional adoptee, grieving for Dad got complicated…

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