Two days after Christmas my dad was out riding his motorcycle on a quiet country road when a huge pit bull ran right out in front of him. He had no time to swerve or stop, and he slammed into the dog like it was a brick wall. His bike was wrecked, his body was wrecked, and the dog was wrecked – killed instantly, never again to run out in front of cars as we later learned was a habit for the stray.
The event stopped more than the poor dog’s heart. My family was scared – the words “motorcycle accident” seem to spark instant fear in a way that we were all unfamiliar with. He ended up with multiple broken bones, surgery, a long road of recovery ahead… and the uncertainty of whether he’d ever want to ride again. I was immediately – and still am – devastated for him on so many levels. My dad does not enjoy sitting, and with a broken foot and shoulder there isn’t much else he can do for a while. Riding his bike was a way for him to decompress and escape the stresses of life – and now he isn’t sure that it’s worth it to ride if it could cost him his life so easily. And I can’t even imagine the levels of pain he’s endured and continues to. This accident has added so many difficulties to his life that had never existed before, and now he has to adapt to them being a part of his everyday life.
I’ve never been in as much physical pain as my dad is experiencing (childbirth aside). I’ve never had something hit me so out of the blue that one minute I’m moving through life with the wind in my face, and then the next second that same wind is being knocked out of my body with such force that I’m not sure I’ll ever take another breath again. Physically, I’ve lived an extremely healthy life – no broken bones, no major accidents, no discovered illnesses. I don’t even have allergies.
But a few days after my dad’s accident I encountered a pit bull of my own, and I began to notice some very real similarities between our situations.
Grief is a powerful and terrifying creature.
I’ve never had anyone close to me pass away. I’ve lost grandparents and my great-grandmother, but because of distance our interactions were few. There’s one thing I’ve been told over and over though, and that’s that divorce is very much like death. I have heard this from therapists, people who have lost loved ones, and people who have been divorced. Even from people who have divorced AND lost a loved one. Many times I have been told that in some ways divorce is worse because there’s never really closure when kids are involved… you still have to communicate and interact with the loved one you’ve “lost.” One of the best pieces of advice I received during this process is that I need to look at my divorce as a death – and that seeing it that way will help me move on. And truly, it has. Accepting the death of my marriage has forced me to keep looking forward and has enabled me to hold onto my faith, my hope, and my belief in the goodness of people.
But death is death, and grieving a death is natural. And I HATE IT.
It’s awful. You’re moving along with the wind in your face and not a care in the world, and then out of nowhere, the pain of grief hits like you’ve just slammed into a pit bull while riding a motorcycle. There’s no warning, there’s no preparing for it. You’re fine, and then you’re not. Things that weren’t hurting suddenly are, and you realize that there’s a long road of recovery ahead. You can lean on others for support and love, but you know that all the healing is on you – no one can heal you for you. You have to do the work yourself. And there’s no way of knowing whether or not you’ll ever fully be healed again… in fact you’re faced with the knowledge that you will most likely never be whole again. It can make you consider giving up what you love, especially things related to the pain you feel. It can cause your relationships to strain because you’re hurting in ways others around you just don’t understand. It’s lonely where you are – even if you know others who have been through the same story. You remember the life you had before the pain and want it back again – but you know nothing can or will ever be the same. And the worst part is, you have to adapt and accept these feelings as a part of life now if you want a chance at getting better.
I never really knew what true grief was all about before my ex-husband left me. I had experienced sadness at the loss of others, but nothing compared to the death of my marriage. Now I get it. It’s a club I never wanted to be a part of – and I do hate it – but going through it has helped me to become a more compassionate and patient person, and I’m learning to be thankful for the experience of grief because I believe it’s turning me into a better person.
We have a choice on how we allow life’s pains to impact us. My dad may or may not give up riding. I may or may not choose to date or marry again. But in either case, we get to decide if our experiences make or break who we are deep down. We get to move forward with joy or bitterness – whether we ride again or marry again… or not.
Bring on the pit bulls. They’re only going to make this woman stronger.
PS – Please say a prayer for my dad! ❤