Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Ten years


Ten years stretches forever and yet  is nothing more than the blink of an eye.  2014 is the tenth anniversary of my parents’ deaths; family members and I have been working on truck issues for 9 of those years to honor dad who died 5 months after mom.  After that much time you’d think I’d be able to tell the story easily, without emotion, just the facts.  That I’d be able to get my point across without having to wear waterproof mascara.  Sometimes I can.  Sometimes I am surprised to feel that familiar catch in my throat.

It happened to me at the truck company meeting two weeks ago today.  Half way through that day it became evident that not everyone sitting around the table knew our story so we were asked to give the brief version.  I wasn’t worried about telling it, I’ve told it a hundred times in all sorts of situations.  But I found I could only get the first sentence out….”My dad was driving to the airport early in the morning on December 23, 2004 when he slowed for a prior accident ahead…and was hit from behind by a semi whose driver said he fell asleep.”

And then my throat closed down and I had to take a moment.  The moment seemed long as everyone waited quietly for me to continue.  And I couldn’t.  The head of safety at the truck company who knows our story finished it for me.  I sat silent wondering what in the world had happened.

And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  It’s been ten years.  I’ve been telling people who have lost loved ones to semi crashes, families in earlier stages of grief, that it gets better.  That it will never be OK, but it won’t always be as bad as it is in the first years.  I’ve been promising them that it would get easier.  Because it does, really, it isn’t always a dark cloud hanging over, it doesn’t always invade every minute of every day.  After awhile grief just catches you by surprise, like it did me that Wednesday in a conference room far from home.

I think what happened to me that day is that I stopped being angry.  Here I was working toward a shared goal of safe roads with a huge truck company.  They pride themselves on their safety programs and they’ve gone beyond any rules and regulations, taken up safety rules on their own, made their goal zero preventable fatalities.  So I wasn’t angry when I was in those meetings.  I wasn’t indigent, I wasn’t outraged.  And when angry and outrage is taken away all I have left is sad.

I think sad will stick around forever.  Sad is a very big place, it stretches ahead as far as I can see, as wide as the Great Lakes, as high as the furthest star.  And while it doesn’t surround me every minute, doesn’t cloud every thought, doesn’t prejudice every experience, it is always just around the corner.

Sad waits to surprise me.

I don’t want those other families to know this.  I want them to have hope for an easier day.  There are families I care deeply about that are only four years into this journey.  They feel like they’re on an unrelenting treadmill, a treadmill set on a very high incline.  Every day is a struggle and they don’t know how they can go on feeling the way they do.   I want them to know it will get better.

But there will always be sad.

I know that most of you will tell me how strong you think I am, and how what we’re doing is saving lives, and thank me for the work.  And I appreciate that, every bit of it.  I know that what we do is important.  But it’s also important, I think, to recognize sadness when it comes.  And to let it just be.

I guess what I have to share with families right now is that sad is OK.  Sad is here, will always be here, there’s no fighting it.  But that the rest of us riding along on the same journey are here too.  And you don’t have to be in the sad place by yourself unless that’s what’s right for you.   We’re here if you need us.  Sad is around, but so are all of us.  If you need a hug, real or virtual just let us know.  I know some of you are facing your anniversary this week.  We’re with you.  Hang in there.  It gets better.

It gets better, I promise it does, even though today I’m feeling a little sad.

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

21 thoughts on “Ten years

  1. Sadness means you still care. And caring is what forges change. Sadness should hold a place of greater honor in our society. unfortunately many believe the sooner you sweep sadness under the carpet, the better.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When those we loved are gone, and especially when they have gone with no warning as is the case with your father, the passage of time makes it more bearable, but the void will always remain. That void will continue to make us sad no matter how much time passes. It is a natural part of the way life is,I believe. Advocating for safer roads and trucks is such a meaningful & important way to honor the memory of your father.


  3. Sad is okay. And yes–it does stick around. You are such a great advocate for safety in trucking now and your wisdom and proactive work is truly making a difference. This post had to have been so difficult to write but it is so powerful Thank you for sharing from your heart. Grief is a very complicated thing—-just when you think you have a handle on it something like this happens. And it is okay. It really is. Thanks for such an honest and thought provoking post.


  4. Its good to embrace your feelings, no matter what they are.

    Sadness and tears can creep up on you out of nowhere. But, I bet, happiness and laughter creep up on you just as much, when you think of good times with your dad. It’s a balance. Life is all about finding a good balance.


  5. memories are what keep loved ones alive within us – whether they are sad, angry or happy


  6. Everybody who’s lost somebody they care about — regardless of how — can understand and empathize with sadness, Dawn. This is a well-written post. Very insightful of you to suddenly realize that anger is diminishing but sadness is permanent. Here’s hoping the pain lessens with time. In the meantime, hang in there and keep up the good work!


  7. I heard my teen tell a friend after his dad died. I’m sad but not all the time. You described beautifully those moments that you never see coming that grab you and spin you and turn you inside out. Do you still catch yourself replaying the day your died moment by moment in your head….and somehow find it comforting? I’m prone to doing that. .. Sudden loss is such a sucker punch. It takes forever to come to terms with the reality. And in your case facing the deaths of both parents parents in 5 months just sucks.
    Good work. Strong, thoughtful post.


  8. I replay the last days I ever saw Dad…here at Thanksgiving that year. Those were two bittersweet days because Mom wasn’t here. Still I’m glad I had them.


  9. It’s the happiness you had asa family that fuels your grief at losing your parents. Two sides of the same coin. And you are a wonderful as well as an honest writer, Dawn. I know that what you share and the way you share it is helpful to many others.


  10. Very powerful post Dawn, It really hit home that when you are not focusing on a different emotion the sad can really hit you. Maybe that’s what the industry needs to be hit with too.
    Thinking of you at this huge milestone.
    I’m glad you are making such progress, even though it is such a hard task.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t lost many people close to me, but I agree. Sadness doesn’t last forever, but it will always visit. And we can sit with it for a while, and let it be. Not take over, but just accept it for what it is.
    I’m glad you’re fighting this fight.


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