Grief is a funny thing

Grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it. When you are moving forward in your life and think that you are finally over the hump. Over the biggest hurdles. Life is good. You have good friends. You have a good support system. You have a fun little sidekick. You live at the beach.

And then bam … grief not only stops you in your tracks but knocks you off course and down about 150 notches and 28 years …

Twenty-eight years ago when I was 15 years old, my father, my best friend, my idol, was diagnosed with terminal lung and brain cancer. He was given less than one year. He lived 7. Four years ago – my soulmate Shelby was diagnosed with terminal hemangiosarcoma.  She was given 1- 3 months. She lived 8.

Last week, my spin coach, my mentor, my friend … passed out while cycling with a client. He was rushed to the ER. He was diagnosed with a heart valve issue and I found out Sunday that he would be undergoing a procedure to replace the valve and make him well again. He is 60 years old. In better shape than 95% of the country. He’s an athlete, trainer, could kick my booty any day of the week. How could this happen? It was, of course, genetics.

But it has stopped me in my tracks. From the second I found out on Sunday,  I have been riddled all sorts of emotions. Relief for finally hearing from him. Fear for this is major surgery. Sadness because I know his life will change for several months (his life is cardio/exercise and he will be on a break). I had to see him.

I went to visit Monday before his surgery. While he was in good spirits… he looked frail. It stunned me and what is even more, it stunned me that I saw my father in him. The wave of emotions I had from dealing with my father in and out of hospitals came back in a rush. I held it together for him as we really aren’t that close and then this becomes an “about me” thing vs. an “about him” thing. But I was terrified.

And until I got the news that he went into surgery and came out … I was useless. I was anxious. I was pacing. I was doing the same things I did when Shelby was ill. Until I got the message he was in recovery… I was not going to be calm.

I got the news at 2 a.m. I thought I would fall back to sleep but I did not. I needed more. Because with Shelby, I could go visit her anytime. With my dad, the same.

With my coach… well, he needs space and time to process all this and peace and quiet. And I am not family.

The last 48 hours have been a roller coaster for me. Between tears of joy and tears of sadness… memories of dealing with my dad are coming back. And dealing with Shelby.

And through this … what strikes me as the hardest is that I don’t – once again – feel heard or valued for my emotions. I have heard “he’s just a spin coach” to “he’ll be fine, this is a standard procedure” to “I don’t know why you are so upset – he’s in the recovery room”.

Because when I was 15 years old and facing life without a father – no one understood that. No teenager goes through that. This ‘not being heard’ thing is really hard and really familiar. PTSD is REAL. The tears are genuine. The absolute love and adoration I have for this person is undeniable anymore.

Over the past year of our working together… I have slowly started to see that I have looked to him like a father figure (not sure he would appreciate that as much since he likes to think he’s a young spring chicken). But the relationship has been confusing to me on many levels; why do I value HIS praise on my workouts more than my own praise? Why do I look to him to guide me along in life at my age of 40something? Why do I always need to make sure he “sees” me in class? Why do I need to be in his presence many times a week and how do I miss someone SO much that isn’t even gone?

Because …I feel like I have been given a second chance with a father figure. Someone who can see me as an adult. Appreciate the choices I have made in my life. And be proud of me. Where I can and never am of myself.

So yeah… the grief is real. PTSD is real.  At this point – I want to get through a day without tears. I want to sleep well. I want to make good choices (food and exercise). I want to soothe and calm myself with love and compassion not chocolate and wine (not to say those both aren’t in my future for the weekend).

And I want to be heard. I need to be heard.  It might not make sense to other people but this man is one of the most significant people in my life right now. He is a mixture of tough love (lots), fun, education and has helped teach me so much more about self-love than I ever though. He is my trail guide in life … helping me navigate the ups and downs and the pauses.

I have no idea how much I mean to him (I think I mean something since he let me come visit in the hospital) but I would like to think he cares a little bit about me on a level deeper than a running coach.

And so … as he has told me a million and one times … I must practice patience. He will recover from this. He will let me visit when he is ready. He will call me when he is ready. He will lean on me when he needs me. And that will be the best feeling … but until then, I send him all the prayers, the positive & healing energy in the universe and I ask that my daddy and my Shelby watch out for him. Because many people (especially me) need him to get better. His impact on this world is profound. He has been right about every thing he has ever told me – from fitness training to emotions. So I have to trust that this too shall pass… As hard as life feels right now.

So thank God for the sidekick … thank GOD for the penny I found earlier letting me know that Shelby and Daddy are with me … and thank God for the tools that I did not have 28 years or 4 years ago to know in my heart of hearts … that life will go one and things happen FOR us … not too us.

The 80s! A girl with her daddy and her dog!
Me and the love of my life!
Me and my daddy when I was in college!
Mother’s love … best friends forever! One month before her diagnosis.