Turning the Page

(Originally posted on old blog on Tuesday, January 26, 2010)

My dear readers, I started this blog for two main reasons, both of which are somewhat selfish. First, due to my dad’s death, which occurred just a couple weeks into the spring semester of my second year of doctoral coursework at Boston College, two of my professors urged me to take incompletes so that I could focus on my grief, my family, myself, and not on what was happening in the world of educational research. This permission to feel and not have to think – about school, anyway – proved invaluable, but the final papers for these classes hovered over me, and their beckoning grew louder as August 1 drew near and my “I”s turned to “F”s.

Yes, I the over-achieving, grade-conscious daughter of Dr. Tom Pesola, had two Fs on my transcript, resulting in a 1.33 for the semester. (I did finish my third course with an A, so that offset the abysmal marks in the other two.)

Still, under the circumstances, the dean kindly obliged to let me make up the work within a generous time frame. In both cases, I had started the papers and knew exactly what I was going to write about, but there was still a major problem: I could not string together a coherent, education-focused sentence, much less write an entire 30+ page paper.

I considered dropping out of school (seriously) but thought before I did so, it might behoove me to try to do another kind of writing – purposeful writing for an audience (i.e., words that would make sense to someone other than me) – as a way to get back into the groove. Hence, this blog.

The second reason behind this site is that those who know me know that I process best by writing (which is perhaps why I became an English major). With family members strongly suggesting that I was not “dealing” with my grief – whatever that might mean – I thought writing about it would not only be a way to process it but also document it for those concerned to read (which is a nicer way of saying “to get said relatives off my back”).

I am happy to report that the initial goals of this blog have been achieved. Writing these short pieces did help grease my laptop’s keyboard, and I finished the two papers in question, erasing all record of the ugly “F”s that temporarily sunk my GPA. And setting aside time to reflect and remark on this bizarre thing that is the grieving process has moved me forward in learning how to (somewhat) peacefully cohabitate with this hole in my heart (and I think family members would concur).

So now what?

I plan to keep this site up and running, as I still have more to say. The majority of the writing on grief that I have read focuses on the immediate aftermath or up to the first year, but I haven’t read much about what happens afterward. As I said when I started this blog, I don’t believe grief is something you “get through” but rather something you learn to “live with,” – and live with it I will, until my time is up.

I still have posts that I started but did not finish for various reasons. I will go back and complete and post what still seems relevant, but at this state in the game, my thoughts have shifted to the importance of documenting my father’s story. When I first sent out letters – to family members, friends, patients, colleagues – asking for their stories about my dad, I did so because I could not remember what people told me as they made their way through the wake line. Having finished my 8-week grief support group last night, I now understand this request was also one of the hallmarks of grief, which is an “obsessions with the deceased.”

Obsessed? If my remark in my second post comparing myself to “a junkie looking for a hit wherever I could get it” in my quest to “wrap myself in my father’s essence” isn’t a sign of obsession, I am not sure what your definition is.

But at this point, my desire to focus on my dad’s story is not so much an obsession with him as it is a fascination with his life story and a desire to preserve it for my children, who I fear have already started to forget about him, never mind my sister’s future progeny, who will never experience their grandfather’s unbelievable love.

I thank you for your patience and support and hope you will continue to follow me as I start this new chapter of trying to more successfully integrate this grief into my life while also trying to understand my father’s complicated life and how my grief over his loss complicated that understanding.

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