“Just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field, and you see a flower and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. You know, you think, ‘Maybe I’m not going to make it, man.’ Because you feel at that moment the way you felt the day you got the news.”

Joe Biden on the constant weight of grief.

Joe Biden talks about grief triggers. He talks about music, flowers, and the night reminding him of his loss. There are some triggers in this world you just cannot hide from. Not if you are going to live.

This is the seventeenth year since my dad’s suicide. When his death date, April 17th,  rolled around this year, I felt it more—I think—because the date landed on the same day of the week, Friday, as that day. Next year, I’m sure I’ll tell you another reason.

I’ve written how Easter bothers me, especially the Passion of Easter. Sunday School lessons on the betrayal and suffering of Christ weave around the guilt I have about my father. It just kills me to think about my father’s mindset that day. I really believe I’ve developed a phobia to the Easter season. The death of Christ isn’t something a Christian can avoid.

Pressing down my feelings and pretending everything is just fine doesn’t work. For me trying to stop a tide of grief is like trying to make kudzu stop growing. I can’t stop it unless I kill all my feelings and the earth around me. The only way I’ve found to get on the other side of the pain is to let go and just grieve. After the storm of feelings pass, I feel lighter. Perhaps that’s the way of the Holy Spirit, too. Being there with you as your soul heals; even providing the triggers so you can heal.

Suicide grief is not a straight path, but it does level off. My first year or two were overrun with turmoil, filled with visions of his death. That rawness subsides as time goes by. When I think of my father now, I— more than not—remember his sweet voice and his laughter that always sounded like water bubbling over pebbles. I think how he used to make up comical names for my sister and me. I think first of helping him work on something in his garage, not finding him there at the end.

Joe Biden also said. “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye,” Biden says. “It will happen.”

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