About Love

Author: Jason Stout

As I was walking through the grocery store this evening and past the shelves stocked with Valentine's gifts, I looked at the calendar on my phone, and it occurred to me that the anniversary of my dad’s death was coming up. Standing in that aisle and shuffling through the candy, stuffed animals, and cards got me thinking about grief, relationships, and my own journey through both. 

It was this week, 37 years ago, on a frigid Sunday morning, that my younger brothers and I found my dad lying in his bed lifeless. Although it feels like a lifetime ago, I remember it like it was yesterday, especially the flood of pain and fear that took over every part of my existence the moment I realized that my dad wasn’t teasing us like he often did, but that he had died during the night only a short distance from where I was sleeping.  

Jason with his brothers and dad

It’s been a long journey since that day, and just when I think I’m over it, some new feeling comes up that forces me to confront the aftermath of losing my father at such a young age. It feels like my grief is an onion that keeps peeling back layers as I move through the stages of my life.

I’ve learned that love and grief are tied together — that we express our love as differently as we express our grief, and that love, like grief, is all encompassing and can consume us. The way we express grief can be as easily misunderstood as the way we express our love. It’s a part of everyday life. Both can permeate every aspect of our daily lives. 

Through time, I have become aware that when I’m suffering I tend to move away from the people I love, when what I actually need is to move closer towards them. Connection heals!

In my late 30s, I was standing on top of a peak in Colorado that I had climbed in honor of my dad. I looked over the valley below and said out loud, “Dad, today was for you…I love you,” and, in that moment, it was like I was hit by a lightning bolt. I felt closer to him in that second than I ever had when he was alive. I realized at that moment, that although my dad was gone, the relationship still existed. I felt him in my bones, and my love and appreciation for him has only grown stronger since. 

In my 40s, I became a parent and another layer was peeled back. The love for my daughter came with fear and insecurity that was equally as intense. There are days when she is loving towards me and days when she can do without me. With this, I realized that my dad had died a perfect person and we put him on a pedestal, while my mom, who was left to care for three wild grieving boys, received our misplaced anger and judgment. He was just a man as imperfect as anyone, but when he died, we only remembered his best qualities.  


Jason and his daughter

Jason and his daughter


Now I am in my 50s. Through my love and grief journey, I’ve learned to listen more closely, to empathize more deeply, and to have gratitude for every moment I get to spend with those I love. 

So, as we approach this Valentine’s Day, I reflect on the love in my heart, both for those here and those lost. Though I will always miss my dad, I’m reminded that grief — the grief I’ve walked decades with — is an expression of love. And, as we know, “where there is deep grief, there is deep love.” 


Connect with TAPS

If you or someone you know is grieving the loss of their military or veteran loved one, TAPS is here for you. We understand. You can connect with TAPS support and resources 24/7 at 800.959.TAPS (8277).

If you are a military survivor and want to share your story with us for consideration for future publications, please email editor@taps.org.

Jason Stout is the Youth Programs Advisor for TAPS. 

Photos courtesy of Jason Stout.