You love someone who’s died, right? I mean, if you read or follow What’s Your Grief that seems like a safe assumption. Whoever that person is who died – your mom, son, daughter, father, grandparent, friend, husband, wife – don’t you wish you could talk to them sometimes? Sure, you miss them every day and you often wish you could sit down with them for a beer and a card game (or whatever it is you liked to do), but some days don’t you just especially want to talk to them so you could ask them a certain question, or get their input, or talk to them about something really specific?
I know I do.
My dad died when I was a teenager, so the adult me often wonders about the adult advice he would give me if he were he still here. For example: I bought my first house – a big fixer-upper here in Baltimore – when I was 24. I planned to fix-up the place on my own, with no know-how and a next-to-nothing social work salary. At the time I remember wondering, “Would my dad be excited for me or think I am crazy?” I vividly remember wanting nothing more than for him to see this house and to give it his seal of approval. I wanted him to say to me,”Well, you’re a little crazy – but that’s okay.” And when the time came to do things like use a belt sander for the first time and change out the faucets, I wanted to pick up the phone and call him, because those are the moments that dads are for.
Fast forward a handful of years and now I’m in my 30s. I’m making different big decisions these days, but the longing I feel for my father’s input and advice remains the same. For example: I quit my job on Friday. Well, technically I did the quitting part a few months ago, but Friday was my last day. In the months before I made the final decision (and believe me, it was months) I wanted so many times to talk to my dad; it was like the house all over again. I wanted to tell him all the reasons why this jump off a giant cliff into the vast unknown seemed like a good idea and then I wanted to ask him, “Do you think I’m crazy?” Then I wanted him to tell me if he thought it was the worst idea ever, a great idea, or maybe, or once again to say, “Well you’re a little crazy – but that’s okay.”
The problem is, you can’t talk to dead people. Scratch that; I talk to my dad all the time. You actually can talk to dead people, but the problem is they can’t answer back. And, like I said, sometimes you just really really want them to answer back.
I guess now’s a good time to fill you all in on my crazy leap. If you’re a regular reader of WYG you may have thought that Eleanor and I spend all our time making What’s Your Grief happen. In reality, WYG started as a side-project-baby and (as babies are wont to do) over the years it has grown into a side-project-toddler. I have been a working-mom to this project-baby while working a very busy day job running a family services program for a non-profit that provides grief and bereavement support to families at end of a loved one’s life and in the years that follow. I was overseeing 26 people: amazing social workers, psychologists, thanatologists and chaplains who provide outstanding grief services to families, plus an incredible volunteer coordinator, community educators and other outreach staff. In all objective ways this should have been exactly where I wanted to work indefinitely, at an amazing organization with amazing people doing exceptional work, with incredible autonomy, great benefits, and an outstanding team, doing work that excited and inspired me.
Yet . . . I quit.
Why? Well, why does any working-mom quit her job? Because WYG is our toddler and I want to spend as much time nurturing it and helping it grow as I can. This job that I had was objectively amazing, but it took away from the time I wanted to focus here. Eleanor and I have so many ideas. So. Many. Ideas. And I just knew it would be impossible to do all we want to do without giving this community my full attention.
I’ll never know for sure what my dad would think about the many sort of crazy (but hopefully good???) decisions I’ve made, but there are some things I do know. I know my dad wanted to start his own business for years and I know he waited longer than he wanted to because he had a stable, great paying job and kids and a family to take care of. I know he finally did decide to start his own business and I know it was only a few years later that he got sick and died. So while it’s impossible to know what he would think now, I can imagine what he would say based on the man that I know he was, the way he lived his life, and the things he valued. I imagine if I could talk to him he would say, “Life is too short to wait, because you never know what will happen. You never know when an illness, an accident, or a random tragedy is going to change everything. You never know when it is going to be too late and you may regret letting fear hold you back.” Okay, he might not use those exact, dramatic words, but you get the idea.
I wrote a post a while back about how grief changes your priorities. I know grief certainly changed my priorities after my dad died and it continues to influence them to this day. As much as I wish my father were here to talk to, I also realize if he were still alive that I wouldn’t be here. I would never have considered doing many of the very things that I now want his advice about. I wouldn’t have learned the lesson as a teenager that life is so short and, as a result, I wouldn’t have made the decisions I’ve made. I wouldn’t have been inspired to go in to grief work. Eleanor and I wouldn’t have met and wouldn’t have started What’s Your Grief. I wouldn’t be who I am.
We can’t ever know what our loved ones would say to us if they were here to watch us live our crazy-but-okay lives. All I know is that when we long for their wisdom, we often only need to remember who they were, to think about who we are, and to listen to our inner voices. Finding the answers is often easier than we imagined.
Who knows where What’s Your Grief will go and how it will grow. We can’t wait to do more – more trainings, more workshops, more courses, more articles, more resources, more happy hours, more conferences, more podcasts, more whatever. Maybe we’ll succeed. Maybe we won’t. Maybe we’re crazy. But as I stood back and looked at my wonderful job with a stable income and compared it to this What’s Your Grief toddler that generates barely enough income to sustain itself, I thought about my dad and the answer finally seemed clear. I could almost hear his voice telling me to go ahead, take the leap. Life is too short, it’s okay if it’s crazy.
Grief ever inspired you to take a huge leap? The dead people in your life ever answer you back, when you listen real hard? Anything else you want to share? Leave a comment!