The Big Awful Thing

My sweet Lokean friend tagged me in this image on Instagram tonight. This is our truth, and if nothing else, I’m not afraid of honesty. What I’m about to share is a brutal truth, and it’s something I’ve been strongly affected by these last few weeks. It’s part of why I decided to start this blog: something awful happened recently, and I’ve been struggling with it. My family, my friends, and my community have been extraordinary in stepping up and helping me, and in doing so they’ve reminded me that I’m not only loved, but worthy of their help. The best way to ask for help and to work through terrible things is by being honest, facing the chaos, and coming out stronger. I’ve been a writer for most of my life, and I’ve found that there’s no hiding from truth in written word. It’s also how I make sense of the chaos around me and inside me.

TW: suicide

I mentioned in my piece about The Story from ECT that my father wasn’t fatherly, to put it mildly. That all my life I’ve been terrified of him. Even though we haven’t had the slightest communication in 14 years, I still had nightmares about him showing up on my front step, ready to do god knows what. I’ve been in therapy for PTSD from the experiences I had growing up with him. My mom, my amazing, strong mama bear, tried to protect me and shelter me from him as best she could until we made our literal escape, but unfortunately, I was – am – still traumatized by what he put the two of us through.

Last month, he killed himself.

When I first received the news, I was shocked, but not terribly upset. There was a profound sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to be afraid anymore, he couldn’t hurt me ever again. At first, I didn’t know anything other than he had passed and funeral arrangements were being made, so Mom and I rushed to be at each other’s side to help each other through the shock. It was several hours before we heard anything, but from the moment I’d received the message that he’d “passed away,” I knew it was suicide. My intuition is strong, and though my mom hoped for my sake that wasn’t the case, I was right. I knew it. The gods had braced me for it, I felt it in my own blood, even though we’d been estranged for so long and he was several states away.

I knew right away that I wouldn’t travel for his funeral. There are so, so many reasons why I didn’t go, too many to unpack here, and there were no reasons for me to attend. But, regardless of the relationship and history, regardless of the man he was, he was still my father, and I still needed to acknowledge his death. As a funeral director, I know better than anyone the importance of a funeral. Believe me, the need to acknowledge the event and say goodbye is disturbingly underrated these days, the need for mourning and grief is vital to the survivors, especially in an unexpected death like suicide. There needs to be a chance to make some kind of peace with the situation, to shift and adjust to the new reality. So I said my goodbye in the heathen way, calling the gods to witness my words and the libation I offered. I said what I needed to say, and Odhinn, Thorr, and dear Loki were with me, listening, weighing my words and giving me strength. I did my duty as a daughter, whether he deserved it or not. I am his only child, so the responsibility was mine alone. And I was fine.

Well, I was fine that night. The shock wore off the next day, and without warning, I crumbled beneath the weight of what had happened. The knowledge of his suicide finally hit me, and it brought me to my knees. The grief hit me all at once, and it hit me hard. I couldn’t understand why I was crying so hard for a man who had been so cruel, so terrifying, so violent, someone I hadn’t heard from in years. I hadn’t even known where he was living until I heard where the funeral would be. Why the fuck was I suddenly so overwhelmed by mourning and tears?

I wasn’t mourning him. Those tears weren’t for him. They were for me, and for my mom. I wasn’t grieving him: I was grieving the man he should have been been. I was – and am – so angry at the choices he made throughout his life, so livid about the kind of person he chose to be. And I was wracked with the knowledge that I had a parent commit suicide because in the deepest parts of the depression and anxiety I suffer thanks to the PTSD, suicidal ideation is something I’ve faced myself.

I warned you this was going to be brutally honest, didn’t I?

I was scared. My greatest weapon against suicide was spite. My life was a “fuck you, you’re not going to win” against him. With him gone, how can I continue to spite him?

Well, I can continue to spite him. My entire adult life has been an attempt to be as unlike him as possible. I’ve avoided following his example for years. I won’t go down that same path. I look like him, we share a family name and a history, but I’m not like him. I am loved, I have an amazing mom and stepdad/dad, I have extraordinary friends who have rallied around me, I’m part of a community that treasures me. He had none of that. He used people, but he didn’t befriend anyone. He was above “friendship” and all that nonsense. I’m not. I’m not better than anyone, I’m an equal with my friends and in my heathen community. I am wanted, and I am loved, and I can never be like him. It’s not in my nature.

So now the family legacy is mine to do with as I please. Not only am I his only child, I’m the only grandchild in that family. I’m unable to have children, so the family line ends with me. Our family has seen generations of abuse, cruelty, and narcissism, but I have the opportunity to rewrite our legacy. I can end this family line on a high note, one of love and laughter instead of bitterness and anger. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change the wyrd and luck of my family line.

My family is a military family, descended from Viking warriors, built on strict order and discipline, but they do not bid me to take a place beside them in the halls of Valhalla. That is not my place. The time for fighting and anger and fear is done. The time for violence is past. With Loki at my side, I can laugh, something it seems my ancestors were incapable of doing. I can delight in the company of friends, amplify the joy around me, and do my best to be the kind of person that the community and the world needs. I’m ready to be done with anger and fear. That is no legacy for anyone to leave. Love, laughter, joy, friendship, really being a part of the world rather than just in it: that will be our legacy.

Loki is an agent of chaos, and he can spark the demolition required to build a better world. He can make even the hardest individual laugh. He can show compassion and offer love. He wasn’t the god my family wanted, but whether they like it or not, he’s the god we need. He’s the god I need.

My father is dead. I am not.

I’m in control now. And I embrace the chaos.

3 thoughts on “The Big Awful Thing

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