It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month that my Dad has passed. Every day there seems to be some reminder of just how much I miss him.
I went to the car wash with my Mom last week and my eyes welled up with tears. The last time I was at that car wash was back in March with my Mom and Dad, just after he came home from the hospital the first time…he was alive then and recovering so well from the first attempt at the heart surgery. And when I was a kid, I used to love sitting in the car with my Dad while we went through the car wash. It’s so hard to predict on a daily basis how I will feel or what will trigger a period of sadness. And it’s not consistent, I have many moments of peace and laughter too. I’m like a symphony of emotions experiencing and feeling it all…resisting nothing.
I’m still in a state of experiencing the loss and the absence of my Dad. Have not yet achieved the space of knowing quite how to experience him being with me in a new form. It’s all still too surreal. And yet there have been moments, when he’s made his presence known. This has raised questions and an exploration for me about death and dying, the afterlife and how we can continue to have a relationship with our loved ones once they pass this life…and just where to they go when they leave this realm. Particularly since death seems so permanent.
When someone says “He’s in a better place now” my first thought is, that’s such a crock of shit. How do we know that, what could be better than being here with the people who loved him and who he loved. But, what do I know…I’ve not yet experienced the great unknown…at least not in this incarnation.
I do feel oddly at peace in my grief and sadness. Over the last year I had so much fear and anxiety…fear of the unknown, the future, the uncertainty around work and finances and what was next as I made the conscious choice to shift the direction of my career and reinvent myself. While I was honoring my truth in following my path, it was not without a cost. At one point, I became so consumed by fear that I stopped experiencing joy. Trust me, that seems like nothing compared to what I’m experiencing now.
Looking back, all of the moments over the last year when I didn’t have consistent work, or I said no to something that didn’t feel right, or a job opportunity didn’t work work out, were an incredible blessing. It gave me the freedom and flexibility to spend a lot of time with my family and with my Dad…not knowing at the time what would come. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world….wouldn’t change a thing…except to have worried less. We had made some incredible memories over the last year as a family. I got to spend a month with my Dad when he came home from the hospital in February and we as a family got to be together for his last days on earth. And for that I feel blessed and full of gratitude. And it helps me in those moments when the waves of grief and sorrow arise. I have no regrets. I have no wondering what I should or shouldn’t have done. I was right where I was supposed to be.
In this moment I have no fear. All of the concerns and worries that consumed my thinking are so insignificant and really don’t matter. I am in a place of being surrendered and receptive and in a place of trust. Having had the experience to reflect on the last several months, I can see now that there was a greater plan at place…beyond, in my humanity, what I could see at the time. That doors were closed for a reason…that the Divine was at work…steering me in a different direction…to places where I was needed…and taking care of me along the way. As I look back on the last year, there is no way that I could ever deny the existence of God or Spirit working on our behalf. I was completely taken care of so that I could be where I was needed. My faith has been strengthened, not diminished by this experience.
I’m discovering that the stages of grief are not a linear experience and that grief is a very individual and unique experience. There is no “right or appropriate way” to grieve. And I’m unwilling to allow anyone to tell me how I should or shouldn’t behave. Just as it’s not my place to tell anyone else how they should grieve. This is my process and they have theirs. The best advice came from my brother who said, “Neen, don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve. You do whatever you need to.” And I’m completely comfortable with how I choose to experience and express it. I’m doing what I need to do for myself and asking for support if I need it. I’m in a completely new state…I’ve never been here before, so I really don’t know what to expect. But, oddly I’m not afraid of it. I know it’s all part of the grieving process and that the best way through it is to ride the wave, experience my experience and feel it all. I would say I’m being pretty healthy about it all. And who knows, I could wake up tomorrow morning in the fetal position and not be able to get out of bed for days. That’s the mystery of it all. It keeps me present, that’s for sure.
In my deepest moments of pain, I am gaining much wisdom. My heart hurts and I’m experiencing a deep sorrow that I’ve never known, yet, in my broken heartedness, my heart has been broken open and I’m present to love, vulnerability, compassion and a myriad of other emotions. There is a rawness, a sensitivity. Something has been cracked open, but I’m not broken. There is a knowing…that as devastating as this is…it will be alright…I’ll be alright. My life has forever been altered and will never be the same, but something good will come of this loss, I can feel it. Death gives birth to new life. I hear my Dad’s voice in those moments when I wonder if I can make it through a bad day. When I had a disappointment or came up against a challenge and wanted to give up, he would say “You may take a beating and fall down, but you pick yourself up and you get up and move on.” And when I would say to him. “How? I’m not sure I can. I’m so tired, Daddy.” He would say “You just do it. What other option do you have?”
I’ve become acutely aware of the preciousness of life. Long before my Dad died, I constantly felt blessed and grateful to have both of my parents and not for once took that for granted. I’ve known so many friends who have lost a parent young and I was thankful each day for still having both of mine. And as we’ve grown older, I was aware that our time together was shortening and each moment became more precious. I really did believe though that we’d have more time, that this was something I’d be dealing with 15 or if we were really lucky 20 years from now. That this time wouldn’t have come this soon. My Dad had cheated death so many times, we used to joke that he had nine lives. Which has made this loss particularly shocking. It seemed as though he was invincible. I also understand now that when we grieve…we not only are grieving that loss of that person, we are grieving the loss of the future we don’t get to have because that person is no longer with us.
I’m particularly grateful for the kindness of others. The many friends who have taken the time to call, text, email, be in communication in some way. I feel the love and it gives me comfort. I may not always have the energy to respond as promptly as is customary for me, but those words of encouragement keep me going in the moments when I feel so zapped of energy. And I feel blessed to have to many beautiful people in my life.
If I can offer anything to people wondering what they should do for someone who is grieving. Reach out, let them know you are thinking about them. They may not respond right away, or at all, but don’t feel weird or think you should leave them alone. Text, call, send them a token that you love and are thinking about them. Those tiny acts of kindness mean more then you can ever imagine. They fill the hole in the breaking heart with love…and experiencing that love…makes such a difference.
We live and then at some point we die…and we don’t know when that moment will be. What matters is how we choose to live those moments and who we choose to live them with. Who we choose to be and how and who we choose to love. And that we live and breathe those moments living our truth…not someone else’s.
My brother and I are my Dad’s legacy. And I know that he is somewhere, looking at us and smiling…proud of who we are. And loving us…as we are him…for love never dies….it’s eternal.