Ashley Peterson, LPC
Grief, so complex
My journey with grief began 13 years ago, but the trigger that brought me to blog about it happened sometime last month. It was raining and I just had a quick thought about how my Mom would tell me that my Dad loved the rain. I smiled, thinking he would be enjoying this day. Then I realized I couldn’t remember what his voice sounded like *insert spiral* but I could feel it, which was great. A gift and a reminder of how complex and ever evolving grief is. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance are the 5 stages/cycles of grief. Sharing my journey with this cycle- hoping it can help somebody, somewhere feel a little less alone in their grief <3
My Dad and my dog Oreo died 13 years ago, in the same damn month! I don’t know who had my voodoo doll, or who I was in a previous life to deserve that but damn! Back then, I just finished my last turbulent AF undergraduate semester, gaining my degree in psychology. I learned my dad had cancer my junior year. He told me he would beat it. I believed him. We both shared in our #denial. The entire experience of fighting cancer with him made our relationship so much stronger. We were closer than ever before, had more meaningful conversations and I was really looking forward to the future he promised me we would have.
13 years ago, I would wake up and rediscover everyday that my dad was gone. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I wouldn’t have to feel the crush of those waves every single time I woke up. I had so much #anger, I couldn’t understand why this would happen to me, to him, to our family. I was angry that my #bargaining didn’t work. I literally promised and offered up everything to the universe! So, you can imagine my dismay and shock when my offer to be a "better person" wasn’t accepted in exchange for my Dad beating cancer. *Let the record show that I would’ve been 100% justified in entering my villain era at this point, chaos for everyone* I would replay our last conversations over and over again. I was so upset that he didn’t fight harder.. So many people beat cancer, why couldn’t he?
The #depression hit hard and long. I told myself that I wouldn’t survive this level of pain and grief, how could anyone manage? I knew that the grief would consume me, that I would never be me again. I was right and I was wrong. The grief was heavy. I was so tired of crying but felt bad when I would laugh. How could I be finding and creating happiness with my Dad gone? Everyone said, "it’s what he would’ve wanted".. but it didn’t make it feel any better.
Once I was able to #accept that my life had changed and it would never be the same. Allowing myself to really lean into grieving, I was able to make a new plan. After undergrad, I worked different random jobs, eventually landing a job in the mental health field. From that placement, I was able to identify what I wanted to do specifically. I found a program that aligned with my goals and was able to use the financial gift my dad left me to fund pursuing my graduate degree in Mental Health Counseling (don’t you just love a full circle moment). Now I use and share my grief to connect with other people, helping them to "prepare" and cope with their own losses. I used to keep my grief in a box sealed shut, visiting it on anniversaries and holidays. Now, I visit it often. The memories and reflections can be challenging, but grief speaks to the depth of the loss and the love that you have for someone, I’m okay keeping it nearby. Grief isn't sadness, it's love.
Oddly enough 13 years later, I wish it was 13 years ago. The memories were fresh, the feelings were so raw and I could clearly hear his voice and laugh. Grief doesn’t end, but time teaches us different ways to cope, live and survive. I miss my Dad, I love my Dad and I continue to grieve for him. In one of our last convos I told him about my plans for my future and he was geeked! Naming my business Ashley Peterson Counseling, was for me and to honor him. Grief isn’t easy and you can survive it.
Sending positive vibes and energy to anyone grieving </3 Ashley Peterson