Family is everything. Now that sounds like something someone would say when they’re overly enmeshed with their family. Not in this instance. I am a firm believer in healthy boundaries, consequences, and if necessary time outs from family. Because of those healthy boundaries I can have a good relationship with my family. My husband and daughters are my nuclear family. They are the most important ones because they are MINE. They are the family I’ve created and forged through everything. My mom and siblings are now extended family, but they’re still important. Without them I never would’ve survived Dad’s death. Without them I never would’ve been able to handle school and raising a toddler and infant while grieving and having PPD. My husband works so hard to provide for us, but that also means he’s gone a lot and can’t always help me through something. He does everything in his power, don’t get me wrong, but he has to make sure we are provided for financially. My mom and my siblings have stepped up where they could, when I’ve genuinely needed help, they’ve been there for me.
The week that Dad died, I was so busy taking care of everything so my mom and siblings didn’t have to, so they could grieve. I was capable of putting my grief into a compartment and do what needed to be done. It’s a skill learned from a lifetime of horrors that I’ve yet to share. However, when it was time for his funeral, I had nothing left to take care of, nothing left that needed to be done. So the compartment of grief opened and I couldn’t breathe. Mom and I had talked about it prior somewhat and we knew it was going to be hard for me. Not to diminish the difficulty for my mom and siblings, but this was it for me, this was when my grieving would start. We knew it. But, I still wasn’t fully prepared for it. Nothing really can fully prepare you for the initial tsunami that is grief. Mom told me after the fact that she had talked with all six of my siblings and told them that it was going to hit me especially hard that day. They had already had a week of grieving and were already starting to get a handle on the pain of grief. I hadn’t. Not even close.
When we walked into the funeral home, I couldn’t even go near him at first. I just couldn’t. So I hid in the back of the room and fed L who was about three weeks old. I just hid from everything. They were all up visiting him, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t breathe. J sat with me and held me close while I hid. He was my rock, my unwavering support. I don’t think he was far from my side the entire day. Finally, L was done eating and I needed to go up front. I couldn’t not see him, I couldn’t keep the image of him on the hospital table as my last view of him. So I went up to see him. It didn’t look like him. His hair was combed wrong, he just looked wrong. But, he was still my daddy. Still my hero. Still fucking dead. It was horrible. We all stood up by him and talked and made horrible jokes for a while, laughing with him one last time. Our inappropriate humour was really coming out now. We only had an hour or so with him before it was time for the graveside service and I had already lost most of that hiding in the back. It was time to leave for the cemetery. It was getting harder and harder for me to breathe, to see, to function. My brothers kept hugging me, both keeping me close to them. When K hugs me, it’s like Dad is hugging me. My sisters C1 and C2 also kept hugging me and telling me that they were there for me, letting me know it was their turn to be strong for me. Of course, that made me cry harder, but it meant the world to me. I didn’t have to be strong for them anymore, they were all strong for me. They all were there to hold me up. The funeral directors closed his coffin, and they got it ready for the pallbearers. J, both of my uncles, both of my brothers, and J2 carried him to the hearse. There’s a hauntingly beautiful picture of him being carried through the doors.
When we got to the cemetery, two of my cousins came and took L for me (Q stayed with my in-laws for the day). They pretty much only brought her to me when she was hungry for the rest of the day. They were wonderful and I am forever grateful. There were so many people there. It was intense. They were all just waiting for us and for him. J went with the rest of the guys to carry the casket, and we headed to the graveside. Watching them carry him to it was so painful. It meant it really was almost done, it was all becoming so real to me. I sat on the far left, T2 to my right, Mom, T1, and then C2. We were in the front. Behind us was JC, K, and C1 (and I think my dad’s sisters but I don’t remember for certain). J was glued to my side, standing on my left. He didn’t leave me. My cousin did the eulogy. One of these days I may ask him to send it to me so I have it. It was beautiful and horrible. When he talked about me I couldn’t stop sobbing. I have never, ever cried so hard in my entire life. I remember someone, maybe C1, putting their hand on my shoulder during the part about me. J held me as I cried, Mom held me as I cried. It sucked.
When the eulogy was over, I was sobbing still and Mom just held me and told me that we knew this would be incredibly hard for me and it was okay, she was there for me now. It felt like we just sat there forever, but it was time to talk to the people who came. Mom went somewhere, the siblings went somewhere, I don’t even know. I just laid my head on J’s chest and cried some more in his arms.
In the midst of this horrific day, my entire family supported me, three weeks postpartum, when I could not do so for myself. They held me when I shattered, they held me when I couldn’t breathe for the weight of grief. They let me grieve and took care of me.
Now, we’re about 9 1/2 months away from that day and we’re all still taking care of each other. But, now, we’re able to laugh again, to tell horrible jokes, and make stupid faces at a camera, and not be overwhelmed by the fact that our dad is dead. It still hurts, but we’ve continued on. We’ve continued loving and laughing together just like Dad would want. He would be so proud to see us, to see just how incredibly strong we are together.