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.

Author: mom2shelby

Mom to 13 year old Shelby - Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. A rescue dog that was born in New Orleans. Shelby is a spirited, smart and happy little dog who loves to run, play, go to the beach (we live in LA) and ride in the car! She is my best friend and the true love of my life!

6 thoughts on “Grief is a funny thing”

  1. Allison, I’m coming back, but for now I just have to tell you how much we all love you, we hear you, and we do not judge you! Your feelings are yours and that makes them true and real and valid. None of us would ever dismiss what you are feeling as being inconsequential.

    As you know, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. I’m sure your coach has learned from you, just as you have learned from him. He is strong. You are strong. He will get through this with more wisdom and insight than he ever thought possible, and the same applies to you.

    I’ll be back tomorrow. For now, wrapping you up in a great big hug and sending you love

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

  2. oh Allison, you silly girl. You know no one here judges, it’s why we all stick around. and, for what it’s worth and I don’t recall who said it, “In one grief are echos of every other grief.” I for one am not at all surprised you fell apart, overall I’d say you’ve earned it. As for your emotions being heard, well I, for one, am hearing you (also for what it’s worth, that is one of my issues as well). And my guess is when your mentor and friend starts rehab, you and he may well swap roles – he will need your support and maybe coaching(?)
    And I would also like to applaud your courage in the vulnerability of laying all of this out for the world to see. Brava!
    Hang tough, chica – you will get through this and be stronger. (“What the hell am I going to do with all this strength?”)
    and as always, love, love to see pictures of you and Miss Shelby!
    Teri, the Roxinator and Angel Isa

  3. Teri said everything so well.

    And yes, everytime we grieve, we grieve subconsciously for all our other perceived lpsses.

    Hope I can express myself in a way that makes sense to you. You’ve gotten a lot of validation from your friend/Coach. It’s important to remember that all those “accomplishments in your personal growth” that you give him credit for, have all been within you this whole time. It’s just that now, in this point in your life, all the lessons from your Dad, from Shelby, from Jasper Lily presented to you because you were ready! Ready to realize YOU VALIDATE YOU!!! Lofe experiences just help you do that…help you grow beyond needing others to validate you.

    And as far as how your Coach/friend heals and what life lessons he will learn as a result….well….try not to feel “sorry” (in a tragic sort of way) that this has happened
    but recognize that he will grow and flourish as a result!! Only his Soul knows what his life lessons are. And, of course, you are presented with more opportunity for Soul’s growth and self awareness as a result.

    Soothing yourself with calm and lve and compassion is an inside job. You HAVE the ability to love yourself, to calm yourself and to be compassionate to yourself. We KNOW you have those traits within you, because you give them so willingly to others!

    Besides, you know you can always come here for an extra dose of love, comlassion and calm!

    Now give yourself a hug from us….and go smooch on Jasper Lilly and post a picture! 🙂 and noooo…not on facebooger…!!! 🙂

    Lots of love

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

  4. There is no judgement from any of us. Glad he is out of surgery and on the road to recovery. I am sure if it were someone else they would be having a harder time with recovery.

    I am sure he will let you visit once he is up to it. Stay strong

    Michelle & Angel Sassy

  5. I’m so glad your friend made it through. There’s nobody better to recover from a surgery like that than a healthy guy like him. And of COURSE he values your friendship silly! That you would be there for him says volumes about the care and concern you both share for one another. I’m sure he would do the same for you if you fell ill (but I hope that day never comes!).

    I hear what you are saying about losing your father at such a young age. My own father lost his mother at nine years old, and he’s paid the emotional price for it his entire life. However, he was not as brave as you have been when it comes to sharing feelings, seeking therapy, etc. Had he sought the tools to cope better, I’m sure his life would be different. But YOU my dear, are a strong lady who has embraced the tools to help you cope as best you can. Of course it’s not easy to go through life while missing that critical part of a human being’s upbringing, but you shine like a rock star and have come such a long way despite the trauma you had to cope with. No, you won’t ever ‘get over’ any kind of loss like that, but each time you challenge yourself physically and emotionally you are that much stronger and able to bounce back when grief does hit.

    And you always have us to talk to as well. Thanks for letting us know how you’re doing. {{{{hugs}}}}}}

  6. Hi there Stewie’s Mum, Petra here.
    I want to say that you are truly a beautiful person! You obviously have a heart of gold, to care so much about your (life) coach! He’s still young at 60 & I know you’ve heard this before, but heart surgery really isn’t what it used to be! Your Coach has a difficult healing journey ahead, but I’m sure he will be back with a more vigorous lust for life. My husband (61) went through a double bypass (open heart surgery) 3 years ago and it is his lust for life that has made him a fitter and happier person than ever before!
    I think it is admirable of you to be able to tell the world that he is like a father figure to you, I think that would make both men proud! Your Daddy looked to be a very gentle soul and it would be hard to find a person who can match up to him…
    I too lost my parent when I was 11 yrs old and subconsciously looked for a substitute… but who could ever fill those shoes.! I am now in my late 40’s and can honestly say that I have found my Mummy substitute, funnily enough, they would be the exact same age. She even gives lovely Mummy hugs!
    I don’t think it would hurt either one of you to let him know that he is a pretty special person in your life. Maybe something else can grow from your relationship?! Just a thought…
    I believe that when we grieve deeply, we’ve loved even more! Embrace your lost loved ones, no matter how or when. They are there to support and strengthen us in our time of need.
    I hope I haven’t stepped out of line with my comments, but my heart goes out to you after reading your post.
    Take good care
    Sloppy kisses from Stewie👅🐾
    & all the very best from his adoring pack,
    Petra, Paul, Mr. Spike, Chester Molester & Miss Lily 🐾🐾🐾❤️

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