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Incredibly weepy this morning when starting to put up the Christmas tree. Not like I have lots of sweet, easily recalled memories of my dad at Christmas and nostalgia. (He was around though not very present.) More like a deepening of the understanding that Never Again Will I … (fill in the blank) with My Dad.

Went to a lovely holiday party last night. Elegant. Warm. An annual event. I think I knew 95 percent of the people there. Felt at ease. Among friends. Received condolences. Felt comfortable speaking of my father’s death.

Then, after talking, eating pumpkin pie and laughing with someone about foods that don’t do us right (for me it was fennel, for him it was allspice), I walked into the kitchen. One person mentioned he’d wanted to come to the party, the gifting event. He lives in Virginia, it was a weeknight, he couldn’t make it. I understood. No worries, I thought.

I tried to respond.

Suddenly, I couldn’t swallow. And I started to panic. I turned to one woman who 1) recently lost her father (and her husband lost his father, as well, within six months of her loss), 2) has helped me with sorting items before the gifting party, 3) came to The Great Gifting with her husband and MIL and 4) is a fount of love.

I said, “I just ate some pumpkin pie. I can’t swallow.”

She held my hand, put her fingers on my wrist to check my pulse, put her other hand on my heart to feel my racing heart…and to calm me. Within 60 seconds, I had a chair under me, James’s magical well water in a glass and down my throat and I knew I was safe.

She reminded me to breath, not just now, but throughout my grieving. To scream if I needed to scream. To let no one define my expression of grief, nor to define for anyone else (my siblings) what their grief should look like. We spoke. A lot. She shared. I shared. Much wisdom. Much love. And then I was okay.

Driving home, it started again. Suddenly, I couldn’t swallow. I tried breathing. Short and fast breaths; long breaths. Anything to switch up what was happening. I could swallow again. Then it started up again and I couldn’t swallow. I breathed more, could swallow, then couldn’t swallow. It went on like this for a while.

Then I went for it and started to scream. To growl. To howl. To make whatever deep, loud, agonizing sounds I could make to pop the block and open me up so that I could swallow. Comfortably. Easily. Naturally.

It worked.

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