10 Years of Grief


This is my biggest grief story (among many). 

Sister, brother, dad, and me in The Bahamas, May 2007.

Sister, brother, dad, and me in The Bahamas, May 2007.

10 years ago I had just gotten into my office, at a job I’d only been at for 6 weeks. I was there no more than 15-30 minutes before I received a text message from my cousin…”Did you hear about Theo Harry?” My heart immediately dropped to my gut. Another ping from another cousin…”Are you OK?” The sinking feeling got worse and I didn’t want to imagine what was at the other end of those messages. I ran out the door and called the cousin who texted me first.

“What happened?” I yelled.

(Muffled crying) “You don’t know yet? I don’t want to be the one to tell you.”

Then I knew.

“Tell me what happened.”

“Theo Harry died.”

I don’t remember what words came out of my mouth but I remember going back into my office and collapsing in hysterics on the floor. I remember being ushered outside, having a coworker talk to me about her dad dying. I remember calling my mom and her telling me she didn’t want me to know until my then-partner got there to pick me up. The ENTIRE family knew before I did, which sucked, but in hindsight I get why. 

The next few days were a blur of bourbon and bowls, sleeping at odd hours, not eating, crying, trying to figure out what the next move was supposed to be. I give the most credit to my sister who, somehow, after finding him, still managed to take care of everything as the executor. We buried him a week later, after his body had been driven from SoCal to NorCal so he could be next to his parents (who were still alive). 

For 5 months, I couldn’t eat, barely slept, watched a lot of Dexter (which was oddly cathartic) and smoked a lot of weed. Work was a chore, and I did it because he had been so proud of me for getting that job. I lost 22 lbs, all the muscle I’d built over the years, and was unable to function...until I had to. I moved out of my partner’s place, and in with one of the best people I’ve ever met where was forced to take care of myself again. I had to cook, clean, move, and do things for myself again. I started slowly, with easy meals that felt healthy, and started going to the gym. I began hanging out with friends again, answered messages from months before that were waiting in the wings, and 10 months later, reconnected with my now-wife.

Dad and me laughing during our Bahamas vacation, May 2007.

Dad and me laughing during our Bahamas vacation, May 2007.

Since the darkest of days, I’ve done the most healing. In 2011, I enrolled in a mindfulness grief group that helped me work through so many of the feelings I didn’t know how to process (and made life-long friends in the process). I quit that first job, got a new one, and quit that one to start my own business. I went back to school to become a nutrition consultant, so I could help people get their power back instead of being in work places where mine had consistently been taken away. I have been so passionately vocal about the need to talk about grief that I became a grief recovery specialist. I got married. I got a dog. I fleshed out the bad and kept the good. I learned to communicate, to listen, and have self-compassion. I’m a constant work in progress that I think my dad would really like if he had been here to see the progression. 

Would I give everything to be able to see him again one last time? Most definitely. I miss him every day. I regret that I didn’t pick up the phone when he called the night before he died because I was tired and had a long day. That is something that haunts me to this day. But I also know that I might not be the person I am today if he hadn’t died 10 years ago. In his absence, I’ve become stronger. I’m a better person. I’ve become my honest self. I’m not hiding anymore. And I’ve gotten back the power I lost so many years ago. 

If you are struggling with grieving the loss of a human, pet, job, home, move, divorce, relationship, etc, please feel free to reach out to me. I know first hand what it feels like to not know your next move and can help guide you forward. Schedule a free 30-minute session here.

Stephanie PapadakisComment