Today marks three months since my Dad passed. There have been so many lessons in my grief, so many revelations and truths. These are but a few of them.
Instagram is the snowflake on the tip of the iceberg
What I’ve posted on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t even begin to depict what grief looks like, or what I’ve been going through. In the past months there have been days I didn’t want to get out of bed, moments of absolute heartbreak and tears. I’ve cried so many tears I’m surprised sometimes that I have any left. There are days I can’t seem to think about anything else, days I feel alone… What’s on social media doesn’t even begin to touch on the layers and multitude of feelings and experiences that can happen with grief and loss.
I will never be the same
This experience has changed me at my core. Over the months I’ve felt things shift physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, there is no place that grief hasn’t touched. It’s changed the way I think about things, it’s definitely changed how I feel about a lot of things. Like birth, death can bring perspective. I’m sure the heartbreak will ease over time but there’s a piece of me that died with him. Those that have danced this intimate dance with death will know what I’m attempting to explain. I am forever changed by ways I can barely put into words.
Everything is a potential trigger
Anything, anytime, any place, anywhere.
Love never ends
He may be gone, but our love will always be there. I sometimes find myself confused when we say “loved” when referring to how we feel or felt about a person that’s passed. I adore my Dad as much as I did when I was 5. The love and bond we share has always been profound regardless of where we are in our journey, and it’s as alive now than it’s ever been.
The physical loss is only a part of it
Physicality is only a bite sized piece of it. My situation is a little different to those that grew up living with their father. Mine wasn’t physically present in my daily life. He was always at the end of the phone. In my grief I miss his presence, it breaks my heart to think that I’ll never see him, hear him laugh or get to talk about life with him, but I’m grieving far more than that. I’m grieving our relationship, one that was difficult and complicated at times, I’m grieving the times I was too angry and hurt to talk to him, I’m grieving my childhood, I’m grieving our bond and our love. I’m very much grieving the time we had, and the time I wish we had. Those who experience grief, grieve it all. Every moment with and without them, every moment, every thought and feeling. We feel it all. I wish things had been different. I wish we had seen more of each other, I wish I’d spent less time being angry at him over the past, I wish we had more time.
When someone dies, when they leave their body, I believe they don’t “go” anywhere. I believe they return to the same source energy from once they came and that source energy is everywhere. I have a different experience with energy than most. Being a Reiki Master allows me to work with energy in my daily practice. I experience energy in a very intricate and intimate way. So when my Dad passed, I felt him go from being in one physical place to feeling him everywhere. Source energy is to me what others call “God” or “The Universe”, it’s the thing that gives life to living beings, the thing that connects us all. It’s all energy.
Having the honour of working with my Dad, his energy and Reiki before he died, (and of course knowing him my whole life) I recognize his energy now. He’s everywhere, as source energy is. And that brings me comfort, yet it also reminds me his physical body is no longer with us (bringing up the grief all over).
Grief can be all encompassing
The grief and loss I feel from my father’s death is present in every aspect of my life. It’s all encompassing. This can become very apparent when it comes to socializing. Know that when you’re asking me to “hang out”, you’re also inviting my grief. The two are not separate. I can (and will) not switch it off. To my initial surprise, grief snuck into every piece of my life. Rather than run from it, I’m choosing to witness it, converse with it and learn from it. As the loss brings up past hurt and trauma, I consciously use it as an opportunity to bring my shadow to light, let go and heal. Shadow work is incredibly important in the healing journey. My grief is everywhere and it only takes a trigger for it to surface, but it’s also bringing my shadows to light.
There is beauty in death
Nature reminds me of this continuously. My father’s death is heartbreaking yes, but some of what I’ve witnessed has been absolutely beautiful. The outpour of love for my Dad, being closer with family, lessons learned in the midst of grief, rising to the challenges since, seeing the strength of my Dad’s wife, even the way I feel his energy now. It’s beautiful.
Memories haunt me
All of them. The good, the bad and everything in between. Conversations we had, witnessing his heartbreak when his mother (my Grannie) died, watching The Simpsons with him after dinner, the moment my Dad saw me in my wedding dress, spending weekends with my brothers, the last time I saw him, the things we did together, the time we spent in the car together. Most of our bonding and learning of one another took place in between places. The times we sang or talked as he drove, or as we sat in the car outside my house at the end of a day together. I am haunted by them all.
We are all experiencing life from our own little world. Some people will show up at your door with containers of food, flowers or a hug, some will show up in other ways and some won’t.
In conversations I’ve had with others also experiencing loss, this is something that is repeated again and again. I think the society we live in doesn’t prepare us for what we consider to be negative things, be it stress, pain, hardship or loss. There’s not much ceremony here in the west (in comparison if you look at other cultures around the world) when it comes to death. There’s a wake and then a funeral and then it’s over. The thing is, after the funeral is when the healing really begins. Maybe, because of the way we handle death in our society, not everyone can be of support – and that’s ok.
Relationships will change. Some relationships will grow, become stronger and deeper. Some will fade and become a part of your past. Both are ok.
If I can offer any insight to those who haven’t danced this dance with death or grief before, it’s this:
- Ask questions. Like, what do you need? Is there any shopping/taking care of (fill in the blank)/ Can I watch your kids for an afternoon to give you space?/ Any errands I can take care of for you? Have you eaten/slept/showered? Would you like some company/ time to be alone? Ask what you can facilitate for them and how you can be of support.
- Be honest if you can’t be there. Say that it’s triggering or that it makes you uncomfortable. Tell them that they are loved and you are holding them from afar.
- Don’t make it about you. In the moment where you’re there with this grieving person, do not make it about you. Don’t overshare. This can definitely overwhelm the one grieving.
- Hold space. Hold a safe space so the one grieving can be whatever it is that they need to be in the moment.
No two experiences of grief and loss are the same
Everyone’s journey with death and grief is different and there is no one size fits all solution to how we process our experiences either. Even as I type, the words I speak are that of my own, personal experience.
We need to talk about it
The way we are taught to avoid things that are negative or cause pain (although a survival mechanism) is really problematic. We don’t talk about the shadow side of things. It creates isolation and can really damage one’s healing. There’s not much of a conversation on how to support one another in community when it comes to birth or death. Think about it, we’re there to celebrate, but where’s the support once the celebration is done? I feel how we talk about things needs to change. Honest communication needs to take place, we need to share our experiences and our hardships. We have so much to learn from one another. It’s how change takes place.
Honour both life and death, and everything in between
We are living a human experience, and the human experience is one of both joy and pain, of life and death and both need to be honoured. Balance requires both the yin and yang. No matter how hard we try, we can not escape either one. To understand life and it’s sacredness, we must experience death. Life is a cycle as the world we live in continues to show us. Death is just as much a part of the cycle as autumn is a part of the seasons.
Sadness and grief, heartbreak and loss are an important part of the human experience. It’s ok to feel them, we need to.
Thank you to those that have supported me in these past months. The lessons have been so profound. Thank you to those who have been with and around me, near and far, silent and vocal.
Sending love to each and every one of you,
In love and light,
In remembrance of my darling Dad,