Right. So it’s the Olympics now and I’m super into them.
I thought I was the only one but my friend Haven is also super into them and she doesn’t even remotely seem like the type of person who would be.
(I don’t think Haven reads my blog which is good because I definitely just completely outed her)
ANYWAYS, as an established fan of the Olympics, I of course watched Mikaela Shiffrin in her bid to win a medal in one of five downhill skiing competitions (my *favorite* Olympic competition).
But… I was also morbidly curious because she had recently lost her father.
She’s all “Olympics-Famous” for her having won multiple gold medals and World Cups and other high-level slalom+ completions so everyone expected her to just roll into Beijing and dominate.
But she recently lost her father.
Sure, sure, they did the interviews and features on Mikaela and her father and everything and how he was an amateur photographer at every one of her competitions…I mean, how sweet. I bet she misses him.
Anyways! Olympics time! Go slay, Mikaela!
There was so much press and commercial coverage. Her face was plastered over every media surface.
But she recently LOST HER FATHER.
It feels like grief makes a great story but American society doesn’t really expect it to go much beyond that.
“Just brush yourself off and get back out there.”
And, yeah, you DO have to do that. But the problem is how most people don’t see grief as a meteor that simply keeps crashing over and over in someone’s life.
And because society doesn’t accept that grief essentially changes a person – temporarily or permanently – it expects the bereaved to simply pick up from where they left off.
Like nothing had happened.
And it’s not like a person reeling from grief doesn’t want to be able to do that but grief is a monstrous flower that simply has to run its blooming course.
Ideally, grief reveals us. We change but… we endeavor to pull meaning/perspective from the bloody carcass of our lived experience.
So for Mikaela Shiffrin… my God.
So her story goes, she couldn’t get out of bed for a while after her dad died. She also contemplated quitting her career of competitive skiing.
But her brother pulled the “Dad wouldn’t want you to quit” card.
And that shit hits home sometimes. You don’t want to disappoint your dead person. You have to keep going.
So… not only did Mikaela get out of bed and resume her crazy, high-pressure, intense and public career and competed well enough to get back to the Olympics but she tentatively committed to competing in five different contests.
She hadn’t done that before. That’s a lot of competition on the biggest world stage.
Grief is so evil. You think you’re all “Okay. It got ugly. But now I’m back. I survived. I survived. I lived through the worst think imaginable and so I can take on anything now.”
It’s like we have to overcompensate when attempting to rejoin society though parts of ourselves are now missing.
We have to prove ourselves.
And… that sometimes works. The experience of grief is different for every single person. And this makes it feel selfish and isolating at time but there is no getting around your own individual experience of life-shattering, world-falling grief.
So to see Mikaela “inexplicably” fall in her first race and then go out before the fifth gate in her second race…
and then – after doing so – have the media relentlessly focus on her as she skied off to the side of the hill
… where she sat for a relatively long time…
it felt like NBC coverage couldn’t quite believe it.
Like, what’s wrong with her? How can this be?
What’s wrong with Mikaela?????
Uh…HER FATHER RECENTLY DIED.
But yesterday, she did her third race and for the first time she completed it.
After intense loss, all we can do is keep going. Whatever it takes.
Fake it until it’s real.
Go through the motions until the motions feel real again.
Sometimes it feels like rising from a ruin.
And sometimes we may feel we’re “all better” but then we realize – oops – we still aren’t.
After my dad died, I couldn’t even go as a visitor to Badger football games.
This is because, after each game, I’d call my dad.
And, after he died, why even bother going to the game if I couldn’t call my dad to talk about the game?
After my dad died, I selfishly thought “Now no one will care when I arrive anywhere safely.”
Because only my dad genuinely required that I call him whenever I traveled anywhere and arrived.
If I didn’t call, he would: “Are you okay?” he’d ask. “You didn’t call. Did you make it?“
Now no one notices if I don’t call to announce my safety or holds me responsible for not calling.
And back then I told myself, “You’re 34 years old. Grow up.”
And so I got over it. Kind of.
But I can’t imagine having to perform at an event that was inextricably linked to my father when still in that raw early stage of loss.
Hats off to Mikaela Shiffrin for getting out there and having the stubbornness/gall to keep trying, even if it potentially endangered her physical safety (downhill speed skiing is essentially wearing swords to slice your way down a giant icicle at a very high speed and not something to do when you’re not in a great head space).
When you’re in that early visceral stage of grief, you may not care as much about your life because you’re in an active battle for your own survival.
And if you die trying to stay/feel/be alive again, so be it.
Because, after all, you’re alive. That feels really wrong sometimes because your person is dead and they shouldn’t be and also the very reason you can’t fuck it up further because life is clearly so precious.
Uhhhhhhhhh.. That Was Heavy… Forget I Asked… um, what about the dog…? 😬
That 👆dog is now going through some serious tough love.
Can you tell?
June Carter Cash is also experiencing grief. She’s lost her couch.
Well, she lost Couch for the daytime hours when we are at work.
No more sitting on the couch all day and watching daytime TV.
After our dear friends came to visit for birthdays and brought their adorable little pug, Wednesday, June Carter Cash was not a gracious host.
Again, she GROWLED at Wednesday as he padded around her bed and her spot on the couch.
Sure, that’s a great sign as she is possessive of her areas and feels they are hers.
But… the dog needs to branch out. We need to find her some other spaces to growl about.
Also… there is now no eating on the couch. Previously, she only ate while being hand-fed on the couch in the evening.
So now we wake and she goes outside and then has breakfast in the kitchen.
She then spends the day in her bed upstairs which has carpet and a view of the street below.
Plus a secret window so she can keep her eye on the kitchen below.
Then she gets her evening walk and dinner in the kitchen.
And then she gets prime time access to the couch when at least one of us is there with her.
If she didn’t eat during the day, she isn’t eating at night on the couch. Her vet approved this plan. 😘
June will recover from her couch grief.
For the rest of us struggling with grief and whatever else that is making us feel so utterly overwhelmed… well, I’ve found that howling helps.
You’re in a battle to survive. Howl.
And, if you haven’t yet experienced the kind of grief that makes you fall to your knees literally…
Please dig deep and find a little more understanding for those going through super tough times and don’t be all “EW DID THE GRIEF GET ON ME” about it.
Grief and loss is tough enough without having to deal with a bunch of people being stupid about it.
Hope you’re all staying safe! I didn’t die from a crazy bad stomach bug this last week so… everything is coming up roses over here in my little preach-bubble. Hope you’re experiencing the same kind of sensation.
After all, it’s an absolutely crazy world but please never ever give up on it.
7 thoughts on “Not Everyone “Gets” Grief (ask our dog)”
A very wise person once told me this true thing (which I hesitate to share):
Dogs understand Always and Never.
Dogs don’t understand Sometimes.
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A lovely piece, Hillarie. I related to so many things you said about the grieving process. But I cannot even fathom going through all that emotional work while 1) trying to perform at championship level and 2) having the world watching your struggle. It’s hard enough to do in private. Things do get better, though. My Aunt Dot used to call my mom every spring when she saw her first robin, and when she died, my mom used to do the same with me, saying “I saw Dot today!” After Mom died, I was so bereft at that first spring robin, I never wanted to see another one. Blessedly, when I shared the story with my daughter after she had left for college, she took up the tradition. Now it’s not so raw, but it’s still happy/sad. Anyway, hopefully June will also find a way to deal with her couch grief. Good luck!
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Ohhhhh the first spring robin. 😭😣😘 For sure. Never ever wanting to see another one again. For a time. Yes. Gak… I lost my people in March, April and June so I started to hate the entire season of spring. 😂 But the world is better with robins and spring… I guess. 🤢😂It does get better. And I love that your daughter has continued the first spring robin tradition! That’s the stuff. 🥰 June is doing great. Two whole bowls of food today! She is responding super well to the new routine. The transformation has begun. 🙏HUGS TO YOU!!!
I lost my mother and sister in 2018 and 2019 and don’t have any of my nuclear family left. It’s a strange feeling for sure, like you’re untethered in the world. Especially after we recently moved outside my home city, then I felt it even more. I was driving home one night and suddenly felt completely lost, like I didn’t know where home was. Grief is a mind-fuck for sure.
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Isn’t it terrible, Naomi? Me neither. An orphan too. Losing your entire nuclear family! 😞💔 And when *it* happens all at once (basically), it’s such an intense almost unimaginable blow. My heart goes out to you. There have been times recently where I can’t even believe my parents are dead! As if it’s not even real! And this is now YEARS after they all died. I empathize with feeling lost. No more “home”. Having to really adopt the “home is where you make it” mantra which so often rings hollow and causes us to say “Home is gone” sometimes. Because they’re all gone. Hugs hugs hugs. Hold on. 🖤
I suspect part of the problem is that unless & until you’ve experienced a major grief of your own, it’s impossible to grasp just how devastating and overwhelming it is. At least it was for me. I remember trying to comfort my sister after her first marriage broke up, and just completely not getting it. I learned in my own time of course, as we all eventually do.
If looks as if you’re on the right path with June Carter Cash. She looks like she’s right at home.
Thanks for A Lovely Day. I love me some Bill Withers.
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Oh yes! Bill Withers is amazing! So glad you liked it.
And I fully agree… until we go through it ourselves, we simply can’t quite grasp it. It’s difficult to grasp it when we are actively experiencing it. And everyone’s experience of loss is completely unique.
It would help if people were simply more kind in general but that’s asking quite a bit from humanity.
Hope you’re staying safe and healthy, Kathy. 💙