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I lost my dad at the beginning of the summer.

The last time I saw him, my daughter and I picked him up from the hospital after his bout of pneumonia. She talked to him about her last day of kindergarten and how she would now be a first-grader. He sat cupping his warm mug of coffee in his favorite chair while his favorite blanket covered his legs.

He smiled and giggled about the kindergarten stories. He and my daughter share the same birthday so he always had that Pop-Pop proud look on his face toward her.

He was tired from sleepless nights in the hospital and the effect pneumonia had on his body, which already was doing double work with his COPD.

Thirty-six hours after we sat with him, he was gone.

It was sudden, yet deep in my heart, I expected it this summer.

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And now two months later, as I stare into a clear, beautiful sky with both my parents in Heaven, and I wonder what Heaven is like. Is it as beautiful and peaceful as we hear? It’s a weird feeling looking to the heavens and wondering what both your parents are experiencing.

It’s not common thought for most women my age. As one of my friends said, “It’s indescribable.” Another friend said, “It must be a feeling of being untethered.”

If I am honest, each morning I wake up and it feels like a dream or maybe a nightmare that my parents aren’t here anymore.

Going through grief and loss is not my strong suit.

You would think it would be with some of the life experiences I have had, losing my parents, grandparents, and friends to Heaven.

One would probably assume I have navigated this road well. To be honest, I haven’tI have struggled. After both my parents’ passings, I have struggled with heightened anxiety and anxiety attacks. Both are paralyzing, yet they’ve uncovered some of my own fears and where my anxiety is rooted.

In my conversations with friends, I have realized that my places of vulnerability in pain will birth community. It gives ground for people to tell their stories, their memories, and gives them the ability to be raw in their emotions.

Vulnerability creates a lifeline for people and allows community to bloom.

In the past, I believe my level of perfectionism created a barrier for people because it made them feel like they couldn’t be real or had to put on a front to match the front of perfectionism. And perfectionism really just covers up shame. And perfectionism will not heal my grief. It stops it and settles it in my heart—rooting and covering up the real fears.

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It can be really hard to touch the emotions in grief, and honestly, it’s undesirable to work through. It is a lot to digest and navigatethe reasons of anxiety behind it. And I’m someone who avoids pain if I can.

Through the recent loss of my father, I’m learning daily to have grace with myself. To pace myself. To uncover myself. To find myself.

And I’ve learned we can be people who are resilient in grief and intentional in how we grieve, but only if we take all the hard places, feel them to their root, uncover the root, and piece the broken pieces back together with a greater purpose.

My story is not marked or defined by grief. My story is based on what I do with it.

Sue Volikas

I've been married to my high school sweetheart, Tim, for 18 years and became a mom 6 years ago through adoption to my adventure seeker daughter. I'm trying to see the beauty and hope in broken places. I write one glimpse at a time about grief and loss, mother-daughter relationships, adoption, and faith.

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