They got the sentimental tears and loving eyes of family as we thanked folks for their kindness and support. And they got the band. You guys, the band. Talk about a party!
And the whole time, one person was missing. My dad.
What’s funny is those readers are often the same people who asked at the beginning of our engagement, “Who’s going to walk you down the aisle?” Obviously, they know there’s an absence. We all miss him. And that’s OK. There will never be another person in my life who is MY Dad. There are lots of people I can count on to be present in certain roles my dad played in my life. And for that I’m so grateful.
I feel his presence. He’s alive in so many spiritual ways in my life. I also want permission to miss him.
Grief has a lot of duality: happy and sad; light and dark; pain and joy; desperation and hope; stuckness and healing. We get tangled up and stuck in grief when we don’t let in the bothness of grief. Hell, the multieverythingness of grief.
Nothing like an emotionally charged, family and friend filled, rite of passage like a wedding to highlight ALL THE FEELS of grief. You want family dynamics, you got ’em. Oh, you didn’t want to be reminded of That Thing You Thought You Were Over? Sorry, it’s coming out again!
Despite all the feels, or (if we’re being honest) because of them, we get an opportunity to reevaluate some facets of grief that might not be finished. And they might not ever be finished. But we’re not floating down the same river twice–the current changes the shore just like the events of our lives change our understanding of our emotional landscape. What I understood and dealt with at age 16 is different than how I understand that same issue at age 31.
Our wedding was a chance for me to get back in the ring with grief. Instead of trying to fight it off, I had the chance to make better friends with it. I changed some things I didn’t do at 16. I took better care of my body. I gave myself breaks. I went to therapy. I made sure I did fun things. And when I fell off the wagon into less constructive coping (hello, picking apart my body and running myself ragged at work), I got the chance to brush off and really notice that my pattern most definitely needed changing.
So, for those of you wondering how this all comes together and who actually walked me down the aisle, it was my mom and sister who held me arm-in-arm towards my groom. My mom and sister. My team.
We all have grieved differently and at our own rates even 15 years down the road. We talk about my dad often. We definitely had our moment before the wedding remembering and trying not to cry off our fake eyelashes. And when it came to walking down the aisle, we brought all of ourselves and our stories and the power that comes from those things.
The daughter-mother-sister dance was “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” by James Taylor. We did our Sutton girl sway and twirled each other to what has become an anthem at our family home. And when the song really kicked in, everyone else in the crowd joined in to dance with us.
Because we’re all a team. Helping each other through. Sharing love and joy that is often times more transformative than pain or grief. And that’s where the magic is.
Writing about it now gives me shivers.
If you’re reading this and are dealing with your own grief, I hope you’ll give yourself permission to make space for whatever feelings you have. Find folks who honor the space you need and don’t try to fill it with platitudes. Give them grace to honor their desire to support you even though they can’t fill the absence. Find your team. And if you don’t have one, you’re welcome to contact me.