dealing with grief: derby style


We all deal with grief. It’s a part of life – an unpleasant part, but it’s still there. Recently, my dad, Bollock Obama, passed away. He was my derby hero as well as my dad, and I know that I can’t get him back, and that hurts like hell.

However, I feel him with me whenever I’m around roller derby, because he was such an influential character in my derby development. He is the main reason I want to become a ref, and the reason I want to get back into derby. He loved it so much, and he had such an enthusiasm and passion for it that I really want to carry on his legacy of joy in derby.

It turns out that roller derby is a safe place for mourning and grief, and nobody will judge you. In roller derby, everyone mourns with you, because you’re a family. Even if your team didn’t know the person who passed away, they know you’re hurting, and they support you and try to help you heal. They don’t force it though. Just like a derby injury, healing from a death takes time.

Even months down the line, I feel like I can still turn to members of my derby community and know that they aren’t going to act annoyed or bored by my emotions. Nobody tries to trivialize the hurt and pain you feel, which is incredibly helpful because something I’ve realized is that grief (my grief at least) comes in waves. So I might feel totally happy one day, and be enjoying life to the fullest, but the next day I might feel completely weighed down by the pain of missing my dad. Even if my team don’t understand exactly what I’m feeling, they’re ready to empathize with me, or give me hugs, or do whatever it takes to bear the pain that day. Sometimes all you need is a friend to stand by you and tell you that it’s ok to lay on the floor for an hour because the awfulness is literally keeping you on the floor. 

I’ve found that derby is also a really good place to let out bad feelings. It’s a positive outlet for negative emotions. I am the first to admit I hate exercise, but I know that after two solid hours of throwing myself at training, I do feel better. Also, getting to hit people is pretty good for letting out the aggression I feel at the world for taking my dad. It also helps me develop my hitting techniques, which is something I’ve always struggled with. I’m too pointy in the elbows, but I’m getting better. In this way, I’m taking the sadness and pain, and turning it into something good. I know dad would be proud of that. He was always trying to get me to do good things with my negative emotions. Derby is something where I’ve found that no matter what, I can always move forward. I’m always getting better, even if I feel defeated and down. I’ve learned to take that kind of thinking and apply it to the rest of my life. 

Maybe I’m having a day where I can’t get out of bed or move from the fetal position because I miss my dad and when I felt like that and he was alive, he’d be my first call, my first text, my first message. He’d know how to help me work through it. But now, I can’t call him. But if I can count to ten, I’ve made it through ten seconds. I’ve gotten through that much. Then I do it again, and I’ve made it through twenty seconds. And if I do it twelve times, I’ve made it through the length of a full jam, and the exertion I feel is the same, but the victory I feel is the same too, because look at me! I’ve made it through a really tough thing that I didn’t think I could. My dad represented strength and courage to people in the derby community all over the world and I know we’re all going to be hurting, but we’re going to be hurting together, because we’re a family. 

Dad might not know how agonizing his death would actually be for me (and for everyone), but somehow, I think he knew that I’d be able to make something good out of it. He instilled in me the skills I’d need to move forward in derby and in life, and I think he’s proud of me. 


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