I’m beginning my transition back into life and out of the bubble I’ve been living in since my Dad died, two months ago. I still have days where it doesn’t seem real, or possible or I’m waiting to wake up from some really bad dream and see him walk in the door from work, or golfing, or Rockefeller’s, his favorite hang out. This has been the most profound and deep losses that I’ve ever experienced and it has knocked the wind out of me.
I’m incredibly grateful that I have the type of career and lifestyle that gives me the freedom, flexibility and ability to be anywhere. I’m also grateful that I didn’t have to rush back to LA or to work after the funeral. It’s been incredibly healing to spend time in my hometown in familiar surroundings, with my mom, in my parents house where there are memories of my Dad. I don’t know how people jump back into work or normalcy or every day life after the loss of a loved one, or a marriage or the ending of a life that once was familiar. It’s been a blessing to slow down and experience all of it and to have the time to just be and to listen to my own inner compass guiding me towards what I’ve needed to do to take care of myself. There is no manual for this.
I also have an appreciation for the shock and denial phases or grief. Feeling the deep loss in itself is a shock to the system a month and two months out…these two phases allows one to ease into the next wave of emotions and feelings. I can’t imagine feeling it all at once. Over the last two months, I pretty much buried myself into a cocoon surrounded by those comforts of the familiar. I also focused a lot of my time and attention to helping my mother through the transition of what will not be an easy road ahead as we all get used to life without my Dad. Having things to do like clean out the basement and other things my mom needed help with was a welcome distraction to the thoughts in my own head and the wave of emotions that would crash over me like a tsunami.
There is a huge empty space, a loss, a void since my Dad died. My family is experiencing it and feeling it in different ways. I can feel it in the energy. My Dad had a presence and you could feel the energy when walked in the room. His energy took up a lot of space. Now the space feels empty, as though something is missing. Even though we know he’s gone, my mom and I couldn’t help but find ourselves waiting for him to walk in the room…filling up the space once again. I felt safe in that space. I felt love in that space. Sometimes I felt conflict in that space when we would disagree on something…both being positional and stubborn in our point of view. Mostly, I felt like I could do anything in that space, because he would be there to catch me if I fell, or at least be there to tell me to pick myself up, after I went spat on the pavement.
Then there is the clearing of the physical space after loss. As my mom and I cleaned out the basement, clearing out old boxes, belongings, throwing out items, donating items, space has gotten created. The heaviness of the physical once gone, created space, a lightness an opening. Not only in the space itself but in us as we went through the ritual of letting go and treasuring what we found and chose to keep. We also packed some of my Dad’s things in boxes….to be sorted through later…when we are ready. This has also made space..both in the physical clearing and in the mental space knowing that it’s not something we need to rush into.
Finally, there is the space left when the person who is gone is no longer there to do or provide all of the things they did. Their “role” in the family, the tasks they were accountable for, the things they provided. My Dad had a way with people…of being able to deal with difficult customers and he knew the appliance service industry like a bird knows how to fly. The space he left is being felt by the company he advised after he retired from his own business. What he provided was so seemless…they didn’t even know it was missing until he was gone.
There have already been so many little every day moments that are reminders that life is different, that the space is different. My Dad did so many little things that filled up the space, that makes his absence known like an announcement on a loud speaker. There have been moments of needing something, trying to figure out something that I know he would know or even having an experience that I’ve wanted to share and then I remember that he’s not here…and it feels empty…I experience an emptiness. It feels as though a part of me has been ripped from my heart and there is a hole…and an ache where the hole is.
As I transition out of the bubble and into the world, I have moments of wondering if I will ever experience joy again. And if I do, will I ever experience it without the immediate sense of loss and sadness and tears because my Dad isn’t here to experience it too or here to share it with. Yesterday, I held my new baby niece for the first time and as I looked into her eyes and her tiny, beautiful face, I started sobbing, sad that my Dad never got to meet her. And sad that she won’t get to experience him. He loved his grandaughters.
I also wonder who am I now…now that life has altered in such a profound way. While this is certainly a defining moment in my life, I don’t want to be defined by this experience and remain this sad girl who has lost her Dad. My Dad certainly wouldn’t want his death to take me out of life nor would I want to honor his memory or legacy by staying stuck in my grief.
Space makes room for new things, so it sparked an inquiry of what can one create after experiencing a loss. Some moments I am enlivened by that question and other moments a panic comes over me. My spiritual director provided a great image for me to hold onto in those moments when I do experience panic. Imagine my family as a school of fish, swimming, playing and traveling together in the ocean. One of us has left the school, gone, swimming elsewhere. And now there is a space where he no longer is. And we feel the loss, we miss his presence, but the space isn’t empty…God is in that space. And God is all around us, in the water that we swim in, in the air that we breath.
A friend pointed out to me that what’s been missing in the space has been trust. Trusting in God, in others and in myself that I will go through this and come out the other side OK. That there is a bigger plan at work, that some good could actually come from this great loss.
I wonder what might open up in me that space makes room for. There is an openness, a vulnerability and a rawness at the moment that creativity can dwell in, because there is a clear channel with no barriers. I created my Happy, Healthy and Hot course after my nephew died and I lost my job.
What might I create now? What would be something big enough what would honor my Dad’s memory and call me forth beyond this current space I’m in? What can we create in the space after experiencing a loss?