This Grief Journey…

Cat Li Stevenson
5 min readSep 13, 2020
Christmas 2018, Dad and his girls.

Earlier this year, I very unexpectedly lost my dad. He was my favorite person in the whole world — the most good-natured and delightful human I know. On January 18th at 9:55pm, I woke up to a panicked and hysterical phone call from my step-mom that I will never forget. That night as I laid in bed, I felt like I was ripped open in a million pieces. That first week following his death was an intensity that I’d never experienced, except with labor and the birth of my daughter.

Two months later, when I came home to SF, after the Phoenix trip to handle his affairs and be with my family, I went on a walk with a friend. She said, “Cat, it sounds like your work is going to be to meet the grief.” And so it has been. I’m really good at finding ways to navigate around it — it, the grief— it, like I want to poke at it with a stick. But not get too close. My go-to favorite and strongest habit pattern is to plan. Plan a trip, plan an occupation, plan an event, plan a memorial trip, plan, plan… plan a future! Plan away anything but be present with this moment and this heartbreak.

When COVID shut the world down, my planning muscle had to relax — it was forced to. Nowhere to go, nothing to plan, except to slow down and learn to be with this broken heart. Initially, the grief felt like a potent sting that would become a strong wave taking over my whole body, and leaving room for nothing else. I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I don’t understand. That was the soundtrack that accompanied those intense waves of grief. And with it, also came a surprising urge to engage as completely as I could in life.

There was also this very disorienting feeling that accompanied the I can’t believe it soundtrack. My dad, I came to realize, was my bridge to childhood, to my mom who I lost when I was twelve. In this last decade of my life, I’ve been in a self-discovery and recalling phase, and I could always come up with new questions for my dad around childhood, new curiosities about my mom. Now that he was gone, my bridge also burned over night. The pain that came from this truth felt too hard to bear at times. How would I stay connected to my roots? How would I continue to keep this most precious part of my life alive? Is it time for that, too, to be let go of? Questions came tumbling forward around this big vacancy — this bridge no longer there…

Cat Li Stevenson

SF via AZ. Explorer of the human journey, and waking up in Mamahood. I write about healing, mothering, grief, & love.✨