They say grief is like an ocean. Well on January 14, 2020, a volcano erupted under the waters of my heart causing a tsunami of grief for me when my daddy passed away unexpectedly. My dad, so full of life, my number one supporter, always rocking his Parenting for Liberation shirt was gone from this earth. Since then, I have been struggling to pick up the pieces of the wreckage, the pieces of my heart. These pieces are what keep me afloat when the waves of grief ripple in and try to take me under. From this collection, I created my own grief rituals that I wanted to share with folks who may also be grieving while parenting. While I embark on riding the waves of grief with the ebb and flow, I am also learning how to give myself permission to grieve the way I want and need, which has shifted and evolves. Check out my latest blog post to read more about what I’m learning in my journey and about how to stay true to your own healing process. 
Songs/playlist: “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” ― Kahlil Gibran. For my daddy and I, music was our language. It was how he taught me life lessons as a young girl. He’d put on a Tupac song and be like “listen to the words” (which was tricky because he spoke through the entire song breaking down meanings. I compiled a “Daddy” playlist with songs from my childhood, songs that we sang during karaoke, and just the kind of music he would listen to. Some songs are slow and sad, others are joyful.  Whenever I miss him, I listen to the songs as a form of communication with him. 
Journaling: I have a special journal dedicated to conversations with my dad. I write in it often just my thoughts for the day. Some of my usual starting places are: “Remember that time when…” “Today I thought about you when…” “I wish you were here today to see/hear/feel…”
Capturing their essence: As I mentioned before, I began collecting mementos of my Daddy: photos of me and him, a shirt that smells like him that he wore with me, even his voice. I found many audio snippets of him speaking. Then I took my favorite voiceover, and went to one of those build-a-bear places that allows you to record audio and book it in the palm of the Bear. Now I have a bear that when I squeeze it’s foot, it’s my Daddy speaking to me. 
Altar: With all the things I’ve collected, created a sacred space in my home with all things Daddy. There is a small shelf on a bookcase that has my Daddy’s obituary, photos, bracelet, bear, button, shirt, etc. I also have the four elements of fire (candle), earth (a flower from his burial), air, and water on the altar. I take a few minutes to light the candle, play a song on the playlist, push the button on the bear to hear my Dads voice, and write a journal entry. 

While I embark on riding the waves of grief with the ebb and flow, I am also learning how to give myself permission to grieve the way I want and need, which has shifted and evolves. To date it has looked like:. 

  • Grieving out loud and letting my children witness and participate as they desire. Too often we are told we need to have it together for our children. Folks have told me “You need to be strong for your kids” well this is what strength looks like for me. Being vulnerable, letting my kids know I’m sad. Having age appropriate conversations with each of them. Because of that my kids have participated in my grief rituals. One day my son said “I have a for you for your Daddy station” and he goes outside. I assumed he was looking for a flower or something. But he came back in with a football. I was confused. Then he reminded me of the time when my dad gave him this football. My heart melted. He went into the room and placed it on the altar.
  • Return to my childhood self recalling my role of being a daughter. Though I am a parent the identity that is front and center during this grieving process, has been daughter who missing her daddy. My son jokes that I am becoming a kid because I have a teddy bear and I let him know that I have always been someone’s kid, but now that identity is really present in my life. 
  • Creating boundaries of folks who are not understanding of my grieving process, boundaries. Folks may be well intentioned but don’t know the right things to say to help support you. Everyone grief is different and mines began with a lot of anger and rage. I felt that my dads death was preventable and was ultimately impacted by racial discrimination. 
  • Honoring my capacity and limits and asking for help. It has been beautiful to see people step in and help in a variety of ways. The hardest part is me asking for help. To all those who have supported and continue to support me throughout this process thank you. Several of those folks are mentioned below who have helped to continue the work of Parenting for Liberation when the waves take me under.