365 days…

One year. One year since my world permanently altered with the news of my father’s death. Grieving took on many faces for me over the last 365 days. I was not prepared for the finality of it all…the permanence of his absence. Looking back, the shock of my new reality was surreal. I floated through those first few weeks in a haze of jumbled mixed emotions; anger and bitterness masking the exquisite pain lying in wait just below the surface. When I finally surrendered my anger to the pain, it washed over me, drowning me in sadness. There was no bargaining or denial or depression, just wave upon wave of deep aching penetrating loss. To integrate back into normal life seemed silly. Everything was trivial in the wake of what I just experienced. I didn’t want the world to keep spinning. Everything and everyone desperately needed to stop so I could process this pain, this agony. But the world kept going, oblivious to my mind’s internal protests, and after a few months, as expected, the sympathy and acknowledgment of his death waned and faltered. I couldn’t let it go, let him go; and so I dug. I wanted to know who my father was, deep down…beyond the masks he so carefully crafted. I needed understanding. I needed a small piece of him I could keep with me, keep alive; for him and for me.

As I started to gain insight into my dad and my mind received the clarity I yearned for, his absence became more marked and more painful. Only then did the regret sink in. I could finally clearly and truly see him for who he was, and he wasn’t there to share in this epiphany. I couldn’t apologize for my lack of understanding, my lack of information. I couldn’t tell him how I understood how hard it must have been for him. I couldn’t tell him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him, and it broke me a little…but it also ushered in new enlightenment not only regarding him, but also me. I could not have predicted the knowledge or insight I’ve gained over these 365 days. I am still incredulous with how my life has changed as a result of seeking dad out. It was our first and last journey together. I know him and understand him now in ways I did not think possible. It is my piece of him I can keep with me, and I am so grateful.

And although it still hurts, and the void is still there, permanently…demanding acknowledgement; and the acute pangs of grief still smack me suddenly, unexpectedly at weird moments, it is…better? It’s been a year of immense pain and heartache, yes…but also of tremendous growth and insight. I have closure and peace and I know he is with me whispering he loves me, and he is proud of the person I have become.

 

 

 

 

 

routines…

routine

My predicable happy little life was turned upside down a couple weeks ago. It was nothing earth shattering, just some car trouble, but as with most disruptions in my routine, I was traumatized. This is one area in my life that I am so grateful for an explanation to shed light on my reactions to the seemingly simple wrinkles in my day to day. I never understood why the anxiety and panic seep into my conscious blocking out rational thought.  It often gets so distracting that I am forced to mentally remove myself from the situation all together and escape through sleep or TV or succumb to a massive panic attack. Very inconvenient…and annoying, but I couldn’t explain it. The WHY. In the deep recesses of my mind resides a tiny rational voice that tries to shout over the turmoil and mayhem that this will pass. It will be OK; and my world would (and does) eventually return to my predictable routine, but in that moment of perceived crisis, the white noise in my mind crescendos and escalates quickly to unhealthy levels. In truth, there are few things in life I loathe more than car problems, but my car not working is not really the issue. It is the disruption of my painstakingly and thoughtfully crafted routines. One of the countless reasons I adore my husband so is his ability to stay calm, countering my erratic outbursts and meltdowns, and gently talking me off the ledge when I start to spiral. My previous partners’ tendencies to get caught up in my frenzy would only exacerbate the matter, but this wonderful man brings me back down to earth and gently challenges my internal anarchy. He speaks to the chaos in my mind and quiets my demons. He is the first person in my life to do so, and the effect is a bit intoxicating, but I know when my anxiety inevitably rears its ugly head, I’m not fighting it alone.

Whenever my life gets disrupted, my response typically involves focusing all energies into creating a routine so I can cope with the change. The faster I create a routine, the better I can adapt. This has affected every area in my life, and I’ve noticed it especially with my employment choices throughout the years. The jobs that were the most taxing and difficult for me did not have set schedules or parameters and allowed for many disruptions into routine. I never lasted long. The stress of unpredictability would thrust me into “survival mode” and affect both my health and my ability to do my job effectively and efficiently. I can adapt to any number of challenging and stressful situations in the workplace devoid of the typical and usual reactions, but those situations need to be within certain expected parameters. If they are not, I cannot adapt quickly or easily.

Travelling and vacations also present a unique set of hurdles for me. Where most anticipate getting away with excitement and eagerness; I always experience a sense of dread and trepidation and stress mixed in with the anticipation. I did adapt, however. As long as I allow an appropriate amount of time for mental preparation before and decompression after, I am able to enjoy time away. It is a bit exhausting, but cannot be overlooked, and it doesn’t matter if the trip is a weekend getaway or leaving the country. Because I don’t travel with any sort of frequency, there is no routine I can adhere to. If the mental preparation/decompression isn’t there, I feel “off” and am easily triggered, which doesn’t make me pleasant company. I have traveled throughout my life, and I have experienced wonderfully fantastic life altering vacations; but as much as the thought of travelling to new places is exciting and exhilarating, my reality is vastly different. Vacations just drain me and sap my mental energy differently than the average person. I am a tad envious of those who can pack up and go anywhere on a moment’s notice, even just for the weekend, but I understand now why I can’t easily do this and the potential consequences if I do.

I am my father’s daughter. He vehemently disliked disruptions of his own carefully crafted routines, and while my previous reaction was always in judgement, I cannot hide now from the truth glaring back at me, and the explanation so obviously right in front of me. He too needed time to mentally prepare for my mother’s wonderfully spontaneous tendencies to pick up and go. As years passed I believe he became more comfortable with letting my mother go out on her own to satisfy her wanderlust. He was perfectly content to stay behind. I didn’t get it. It even angered me a bit. Didn’t he want to spend time with her? With us? Many memories flood back of family trips…and dad’s meltdowns. They seemed comical at the time as we sat in the car ready to go in stunned silence, while he ranted on about a lost pencil he needed for the trip, or his sunglasses, or his keys, or a favorite hat. I understand now. How overwhelming it must have been for him! I don’t know if he was afforded time for mental preparation, but it frequently seemed as if he was on the verge of a meltdown; and he was easily triggered by items we perceived as trivial. I suspect now, for him, they held great significance as they were the pieces of his routine he needed to provide him with stability and predictability. The irony is that I possess those same idiosyncrasies, those same types of meltdowns if I do not have the items that provide me with peace and routine when travelling. Truly, the apple does not fall far from the tree; and once again, glimmers of light and understanding are revealed about this man I loved.

discoveries…

I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I have been focused on and reflecting on this man I lost. Discovering my dad. Delving deep into the relationship we developed, studying the nuances, reliving the conversations…I never dreamed the life altering discovery would be my own. It happened without warning, without any sort of build up or suspense. It just…happened. Mom and I were reminiscing about dad and she casually asserted her suspicions about his placement on the spectrum. The Autism Spectrum. It wasn’t the first time we broached this subject, but it was the first time since his death that I gave it serious consideration. After all, if it could assist me in any way with greater understanding and insight into my father, it was worth a second glance right?

Mom had suspected for several years that dad had Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As she relayed some of the symptoms and traits and triggers associated with ASD that she witnessed manifested in dad, all the bulbs on my brain board started to light up and blink uncontrollably, as they do when I’ve happened upon a major new discovery about myself. My stomach instantly knotted and I realized that mom was not only describing dad’s disorder in perfect detail and relation to him, but she was also describing me. I needed to know more.

Thank God for Google. I devoured article after article describing Asperger’s and autism, my mind coaxing and encouraging me onward as if it knew this was something BIG, and it was. Every article, every journal I read and re-read described myself to me in painstaking detail. This was my answer to over 30 years of silent suffering. The social awkwardness, the proficiency with which I express myself in text, the endless fascination with details, the inability to organize and focus and prioritize effectively, the feeling that my brain is always in chaos and cannot be shut off …I could go on and on. Everything in the words I’ve digested so far is me. All my pain and confusion and self-persecution over the decisions I have made in my life have an answer. An explanation! Of course, it does not absolve me from my choices, but I am not crazy. I am not crazy! My wacky weird little brain just processes information differently than everyone else. I needed proof. I needed someone to validate this self-discovery, and I was terrified that I was prematurely and erroneously hopeful. Everything just fit so well in the patterns and formulas I mentally checked off in my mind. I received an official diagnosis this weekend and the relief that flooded and washed over me was overwhelming. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m not ashamed of it. I am enormously grateful that I have answers to the seemingly endless questions that went unanswered for so many years.

Dad had it too. I am certain. There are too many correlations to ignore. Mom tried to discuss it with him, but as was typical with my father, he dismissed it. I am now reassessing everything about our relationship against this new found knowledge. I have to because my brain will not allow the pieces of the puzzle to remain displaced, and for the first time since his passing I am longing and yearning for him to be alive in this moment so I could thank him. He may not have believed anything was different about him, but he saved me a little. My puzzle pieces are slowly fitting together now. My life is making a little more sense and my dad played a role…Thank you dad.

correlations…

faa
I can always tell when I’ve gone too long without emptying my mind of the jumbled thoughts and emotions that seem to fill it. I get anxious without being able to pinpoint why. There is a knot in my stomach that doesn’t go away and I get teary watching commercials on TV. My internal voice, which starts as a meek little whisper, turns into a shout demanding to be heard.

It would be easy to say I’ve gotten lazy and life has been busy, but that wouldn’t be completely true. I spent many evenings camped out on my sofa trying to decompress from the day and the persistent thoughts that seeped into my conscious were ignored and thrust aside. Intentionally. I just didn’t want to delve into it. Life is so good right now. I love being married to the man of my dreams. I love this time of year when the trees are displaying their true magnificence and preparing for the cold barren winter ahead. I love cheering for the Lincalope at his football games and dressing warmer and pumpkins and crunchy leaves under my feet.

Lincalope

And I’m tired of grieving. I’m tired of handing over the reins to the little girl inside me that desperately misses her dad. I’m tired of navigating the dark troubled waters of my relationship with him. It is far too easy to shove those thoughts and emotions to the far recesses of my mind and turn focus to the present day to day….but…

Eventually I am forced to confront the consequence of this intentional snubbing. My conscious is pricked. It nags at me to sit, to type, to bleed emotionally…hemorrhage if necessary…to heal. I remind myself that if I do not grieve, then I will not heal. If I stuff down this wad of sadness and confusion it will rear its ugly head and will destroy me. I have travelled this path before, and am a master of flight, not fight; much like my father. I’ve improved at confronting my emotions head on (thank you Dr. McBride), but I still instinctively avoid emotions too painful for my mind to process. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

Although dad and I had different stories to tell; my life is so similar to his. Our lives, as a whole, have not been easy. The decisions we made, the paths we took that defined who we became, resulted in much heartache and soul searching. I acknowledge that many of the decisions I made, especially regarding my relationships, were directly related to my father’s indifferent influence. I wonder if he also ever came to this realization; that his indifference deeply affected us. That the decisions he made influenced our life choices.

Up until a few years ago, I’d never been comfortable in my own skin. Up until a few years ago, I had no idea who I was. I think he struggled with the same obstacles. He did not share those intimacies with me, and only rarely let me catch a glimpse of the man behind the façade, but as an observer, it is clear to me.

under the microscope…

microscope

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been contemplating who my dad really was and what made him tick. What drove him to act and respond the way he did to the things that life presented to him. This has come under my microscope of scrutiny because I am my father’s daughter. I respond to things in very much the same way he did, and I am determined not to travel the same path. My life story was scripted and has acted out eerily parallel to his in terms of unmet expectations and disappointments. We did not necessarily live the same unfortunate set of circumstances; but we suffered the same feelings of inadequacy, of not quite measuring up, of the seemingly ceaseless combat for validation and possession of a voice. I know he struggled with being a good dad…a good husband. Emotions that, unfortunately, I also became all too familiar with on my journey.

Motherhood was not easy path for me. It did not come naturally or organically. I struggled with connecting and bonding with my son. It is a harsh consequence of my past, and something I strived laboriously to {still sometimes} overcome. I, too, was not immune to the judgement and opinions of those who felt they “knew better”. My love and consideration for my son was second guessed and questioned…harshly, without thought to the damage it inflicted on a new fragile mother. As a result I constantly doubted my choices and struggled to accept that I was a good mom and did know what was right for my son. On occasion, I will get trapped on that same merry go round again, and the vicious cycle of self-doubt and condemnation threaten to cripple the confidence I’ve cultivated through the years. But I know how to combat this now…how to prevent the incessant onslaught of internal damnation. I don’t think my father was ever given that armor. Our internal voices inflict immeasurably more damage and carnage to us, especially when we believe and accept the outward verdicts of those around us. My dad sought the approval and validation of those around him so I can only imagine the internal dialogues his conscious would force upon his mind and the battle that would ensue.

Looking back, I have a particularly clear memory of talking to dad about being more present, more involved as a father. He revealed that he was trying and would try, but it was so hard. It was so hard for him to be my dad. The statement was raw and painful and his truth; and I never completely understood…until I had a child and my place in his life was also questioned. I was confronted with a similar set of emotions. Granted, my own unique circumstances came into play, but it was hard. It was hard to be and to be present in my son’s life. The path I chose ushered in nearly 14 years of perpetual exhausting discord with my son’s father and the battle continues still…

I am so quick to point the finger at my father and his self-absorption, his selfishness, but what of my own? Were the decisions I made years ago not seeded in my own selfishness? My own need for validation and acceptance? These are the harsh realities that I examined years later to ensure I was not travelling the same road with my son. It was a painful truth to accept as the truth often is; but my son will not grow up resenting me, or questioning my love for him. This was and is my commitment to him.

My father’s apathy was not exclusive to his children only, and my parent’s relationship was always difficult for me to define or explain. As their daughter, I did not know all the intricacies of their story; but as a participant in their lives, I sadly became very tolerant with the dysfunction of their relationship. I did not know any different. I have the utmost respect for my mother who remained steadfast by my father’s side, but I also cannot discount the impact their relationship had on me and the partners I chose. My mother is a supremely strong woman. Recalling her relationship with my father now through the years, and even more so as an adult woman; I ache for the relationship she lost, not two months ago, but over twenty years ago. And yet she stayed. She persevered. I did not have that same strength. I processed and examined, tormented and emotionally flogged myself for years; and finally accepted and acknowledged my contribution to my failed marriages. And while I cannot in good conscious place all the blame at my father’s feet, he did play a part. Because I did not have a strong male presence or father figure to guide me and protect me, I had no idea what to seek in a partner. I did not know what behavior was and was not acceptable and I made very poor decisions as a result. Lessons of the heart are often the most painful to sort out and overcome. The scars I bear serve as a reminder of the exquisitely painful education I received. And again, the realization that parts of my father reside in me and I must acknowledge the selfishness I possessed. Acknowledge and commit to change. Something my father was unable or unwilling to do.

I only have bits and pieces of a larger puzzle to explain the complexities that were my father. All I am able to do now is seek to understand those parts of him that I have inherited. Perhaps by gaining a better understanding of myself, I will receive a glimpse into the window of his soul also.

dad reading

anniversaries…

My dad died 2 days before his birthday. He kept telling everyone he wanted to make it to his birthday and I believed him. I kept thinking that he’d make it to Wednesday and then after that, whatever was to come would come. But he died on Monday, and I wasn’t ready. I was prepared for Wednesday. I was not prepared for Monday. My brain had to race to catch up with the shock and pain that mercilessly invaded my heart. I was pretty numb for a few hours until the shrieking inside my mind quieted and I faced the reality that my dad was now gone. It was a brutal jolt. The emotions that crashed into the wall I carefully pieced together to protect myself, was violently destroyed in an instant.

And so on his birthday, a day we would have celebrated with laughter and stories and German Chocolate cake and a delicious roast beef dinner, we instead gathered in a quiet softly lit room and gazed at his face as he lay motionless. He looked amazing! All the years of pain and sickness and hardship had been erased. So…peaceful. I couldn’t help but reach out to stroke his face and then recoiled my hand almost immediately as it touched a cold hard surface. Once again the reality of his absence struck its mark. Dad received a birthday card from his best friend in the mail that day. What a thoughtful gesture. I thought it was such a sad paradox that he left this world so close to the day he entered it. I couldn’t help but reflect on his birthday the previous year, surrounded by his family. We were all there. And he lowered the wall and came out of isolation and allowed us to enjoy him and love him. It was a wonderful time and one I look back on fondly. At his funeral the following day, the ladies who prepared refreshments also included a birthday cake for him. So intensely wonderfully bittersweet.

dad cake

In the aftermath of dad’s death, I find that I am acutely aware of time. The sixth day of the month, I consciously mark and remember the time, the day, as I go about my daily activities….I wonder when the moment will come that I don’t mark time passing in relation to my dad’s death. Will I be able to talk about him, think about him without my heart responding intensely with pangs of loss? I know as days turn into months and years, it will happen, but I also dread it as it means I am letting him go. I am fighting it. Even now as my parents would have celebrated their wedding anniversary last weekend, there is a small space deep in the recesses of my mind that hasn’t quite accepted his absence. Because he and I did not see each other with any sort of frequency, it is so easy to get lulled into the lie that he’s still here; and the irony is not lost on me that even though he had little impact on my life when he was alive, now after he is gone, I am fighting with every ounce of my being to keep him relevant in my thoughts and life. I am creating anniversaries in my mind to mourn him and to process our relationship. One month since dad died. Two months since dad died. This time of year always provokes a sense of dreaded anticipation in me. My school experience was not a positive one and I’ve never really lost that feeling like I’m a lamb headed to the slaughter house come the end of August. Dad loved this time of year. Sports! And so as September marks the beginning of his passions, football season especially, takes on special relevance. My son’s first football game is next week. Dad loved watching Lincoln play football and basketball. I started to send videos to him last year when he became too weak to attend the games in person. Another anniversary…another instant of time where his absence is powerfully felt. My delicate mind cannot even begin to formulate thoughts and emotions about Thanksgiving and Christmas yet. But they will come, whether I am ready for them or not. I cannot stop them and I will be forced to face the onslaught of overwhelming emotions that will inevitably invade my healing heart. And then they will pass, as time does, and another anniversary will be marked…

dad alpine

intentional grieving…

survive

When I first heard the phrase “intentional grieving” I must admit I was a bit skeptical. I mean, my dad just died, why would I need to intentionally grieve him? And then…Life. My life hasn’t stopped. It hasn’t stood still and I’ve gotten busy…negligent in my reflection of this man, my father. Time slips away and the grief is pushed into the far recesses of my mind because the items at the forefront need attending to. Getting back to this place of contemplation and reflection is hard. I feel like I must mentally turn off my brain to all other pressing items trying to monopolize my thoughts and search for that area in my mind that is still raw and emotional….it takes time for my brain to relax and decompress, to let go of the everyday busy-ness and let the emotions and the vulnerability sink in again. And then it comes. The flood of grief and confusion and anger and more grief and I realize I waited too long to revisit it. It’s overwhelming again. I miss dad. Regardless of what he was to me, I still miss him.

My last post was pretty raw, I know….but it is me. It is my internal conflict. It is real. My hostility and contempt towards my father had faded and dulled over the years to an almost comfortable co-existence. We exchanged pleasantries, discussed the weather, sports and any other inane subject to avoid delving below the surface and confronting our dysfunction. For someone who seemingly had such a non-existent presence in my life, the void left is almost palpable sometimes. I am left to ponder why.

why?

Because it wasn’t always like this. My earliest memories of my father were of a man engaged and fully participating in life. I vividly recollect him walking home over the grassy knoll in front of our apartment building to greet us after his bus ride home from work. We always ran out to meet him and he would kneel down to catch us as we’d laugh and giggle with delight. He loved to play with us and many evenings were spent in epic tickle fights, playing games and devouring his fantastic popcorn-pot popcorn. He allotted time in his day for us and sought us out to check in. My favorite childhood memories with my dad involved him singling one of us out for a “sneak’. He would “sneak” into our room and as quietly as possible, gently rouse us at some god forsaken early hour, like 6:30 AM (soooo early for an 8 year old), to take the lucky recipient out for breakfast. No one else in the family would know about it (pretty sure my mom knew about it) and he would bring us anywhere we wanted to go. Just us. I don’t remember any earth shattering in depth dialogue, but I remember the “sneaks” and how special and loved I felt.

dad hugs

He eagerly shared his passions with us then. Anyone who knew my father knew the role sports played in his life.  He especially loved playing baseball with us and would regularly rally the neighborhood kids to the open field near our home for a rousing game before the sun surrendered to the night. I only recently learned that he was scouted by a professional baseball team in California when he was younger. My dad. Apparently, it was his dream to play pro baseball. He was really good! My dad. So many things I did not know about this man. So much he kept from us. After he died, our local paper published an article about him and how much he meant to our sports community. I have never been so proud and so sad. I didn’t know this man they wrote so eloquently about, fully engaged and participating in life…{cue light bulb}…Or did I? Perhaps this was just an older version of the man I use to know? I am beginning to reflect on him a little differently, through my adult eyes. He was a person. He wasn’t just my dad. As we grew older, we grew resentful of his passion for all things sports. It took him away from us. It was his escape. His way of disconnecting from our family…so I thought. Granted, I still believe his passions significantly and adversely affected our relationship with him, but I believe I am being fair in stating that none of his children were stellar athletes. We all tried in our respective chosen sport to make a go of it…and dad was there to champion and cheerlead, but they never panned out and were replaced by passions that were more suited to our personalities. Did that disappoint him? I wonder. I’m sure he would have loved for one of his children to follow in his footsteps and mirror his passion for the sports he loved so much. None of us did. Did he view that as rejection? That we were rejecting him? It is cause for pause…

As he became more immersed with sports, he received the accolades and the recognition he seemed to be longing for. He was validated. His life meant something. He was surrounded by people who shared his passion and accepted him enthusiastically. He was human. We gravitate to things and experiences that validate us. That bear witness to us as human beings. That state “Your life is important. Your life matters and I am a witness to that.”  In many ways I did not accept him. I did not validate him, and I too, was selfish. And I know how it feels to desperately yearn for acceptance and validation, and to have it withheld. It is a painful cruel reality that eats away at ones self-worth like festering gangrene, and is something I still struggle with. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As I grieve and mourn and reflect, it often comes full circle, and I am forced to confront the reality of my own short comings and faults. As hard as it is, I must acknowledge it. I must process it…and I must find my way to forgiveness.

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i am growing…

dad hand

Dad died on a Monday in my parent’s home. Due to the nature of his disease, death did not come peacefully. I am still awed by the strength of my mother who sat with and nursed my dad, her husband, and helplessly tried to make his last moments before final surrender as comfortable as she could. She is heroic to me in so many ways. The rest of the week following his death was an odd juxtaposition of sadness and grief; and random happy, even silly, moments. I liken funeral preparations to planning a wedding…in 3 days…with absolutely no joy, except for those odd little instants of memory over something funny or insightful dad would have said or did relating to the moment at hand. The decisions my mom was assaulted with boggled the mind. Dad had been on a steady decline for a while and many decisions had already been made, but there were so many little details left. I felt like my role was to be there for my mother in whatever capacity she needed me, to keep her on track and assist with the countless things that needed to get done. It actually felt good to be busy, to have a purpose….and then cruel reality would smack me in the face reminding me why I was busy, and this uncontrollable anguish would overcome me. I would completely disconnect into a world of hazy memories, recollections and sorrow for a minute…or two…or ten, then pull myself together and keep moving.

Because my dad died at home, I was able to spend time with him before the funeral home took him to wash all traces of pain and death away. It’s such a peculiar way to describe this, because he was gone. It’s tantamount to spending time with the life sized shell of a person I once knew…and I was hesitant, but I will never regret it. The moments I had alone in that room with him were some of the most precious moments I’ll remember. Silence….just me and him. I could hold his hand, touch his face…he couldn’t hold me at arm’s length anymore. I was free to love him as me. No walls…no guards up. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. The emotions just over flowed out of me. I couldn’t help it. I could tell him things I’d always wanted to tell him. I could say I was sorry for the anger I had towards him, and that I was sorry for not trying harder to get to know him, and that I was happy he finally had the peace he so desperately longed for in the final days of his life…and I could say goodbye. There is a huge difference between saying goodbye in a small room, when death has just consumed a loved one, and saying goodbye at a visitation. It is small and intensely intimate and real. I will always covet and treasure that time.

I didn’t like funerals…and I realize as I type this…it’s a bit ridiculous. I mean, who does? I never really ascribed to public displays of sorrow. It makes me uncomfortable. I have always preferred to grieve privately, tucked away in a room somewhere so no one can watch me weep. I realized when dad was diagnosed and the inevitability of his life ending became more of a reality that I couldn’t hide away.  I also came face to face with the brutal truth that the underlying reason I didn’t like to grieve publicly was that in that moment of overwhelming grief, I was also incredibly vulnerable.

I hate being vulnerable. My dad taught me well. Like him, my life experiences have been harsh and cruel. Watching him deal with the lot that life had thrown at him, I mimicked his isolation and detach technique quite meticulously. And so, to be stripped raw and emotionally naked before people I knew and didn’t know was terrifying. But in hindsight, I gained something immeasurably valuable at dad’s visitation and funeral. With each friend and family member that I greeted and exposed my broken self to, it became apparent to me that an underlying reason I was so emotional was because they cared. These wonderful people came from everywhere to acknowledge my father. Friends and family I had not seen for years…they came for me. For us. They loved and grieved my dad, and subsequently wanted to love and grieve with us. It was overwhelming and incredibly humbling to be a part of. I am so grateful to these people for loving me and giving me the freedom to be vulnerable at one of the lowest points in my life.

Being able to express my sorrow and vulnerability was incredibly freeing and I am saddened that dad never got to experience that with us. He could have. We were ready to love and accept him and all his flaws if he could have let down the wall and allowed himself to be vulnerable with us…to be authentic with us. Those two days changed me. I grew up a little more. I am more comfortable allowing my true sensitive nature out and I have taken a step in letting down my own guard. My remaining family has grown closer. I need to touch base with them now. I need them to know they are loved and missed when they aren’t around. I am not afraid to love them anymore.

My grief and healing guides me to places internally and emotionally that I don’t necessarily anticipate, but I am committed to riding this wave. I will not shy away from whatever emotions, memories or situations that present themselves to me….and I am growing.

and so…it begins…

It’s been one month since my dad passed away. One month. The world keeps spinning, people are having birthdays, getting married, having children…and the routine predictable busy-ness of my life has returned to normal. But it’s not. My drive to and from work has become a time of reflection, tears and processing. There is definitely a void, and the irony is not lost on me that even though we would go weeks without seeing or speaking to each other, I still feel a void. I can hear his voice, his laugh…for some reason his hands are so vivid in my memory.

I have come to the realization that his actions…and inaction…throughout his life had a profound effect on me and truly did shape the person I am and how I relate to others. Sad how evident now that is he is gone. Hindsight…

My relationship with dad was complicated. I loved him. He was my father. But I also felt like I was kept at arm’s length, so I never felt free to be my true self with him. Because he was so guarded with me, I was with him. Except for the random intense dialogues I had with him, usually in or regarding conflict with him or within our family, I can’t remember any profound intimate conversations I had with him. His opinion wasn’t a factor in any major decisions I made in my life. I didn’t use him as a sounding board or go to him for advice. I often felt like an afterthought with him, and so unfortunately and I am ashamed to admit, I treated him as an afterthought. How terribly sad.

Up to the day of his death, I often wondered if I would even feel grief. He cultivated such close intimate relationships with many people, but those people did not include me. I never realized the lives he touched, the depth of friendships he had, until he died and his life was shared through their eyes. It was heartbreaking. I wanted that with him. I wanted…a dad. I can’t help but feel a twinge of anger that they got to experience this side of him and we did not. Why did he hold back with us and not with others? Not fair. I sat in that church pew sobbing as they spoke so eloquently about him, choking back tears, and ached for that connection that will never happen now.

And so I am grieving. I am grieving the small, albeit significant relationship we did forge. I am grieving the relationship that never was…again. I’m not sure what is more devastating; grieving a relationship lost, or grieving a relationship that never was, and knowing there is the permanence that it will never be. I am surprised by the ferocity of it.

Grief is such an exhausting emotion. It hits me suddenly…it sneaks up on me when I’m not prepared for it or the inevitable internal processing that must accompany it in order for me to heal. The healing part is so hard. Wallowing in grief so easy….and as I process and slowly heal I am scared that I am also letting him go. I am moving on…he is not. It seems cruel. The memory of the sad little relationship I had with my dad is all I have left; and despite the anger, the guilt, the strained conversations, the tense moments and the seemingly continuous trying to delve below the surface with him…it is what I am ferociously clinging to right now…

And then {Serendipity!} this wonderful, gentle man I married reminds me that it has also been 3 months since we said “I do”. Perspective. Choosing joy in the middle of sadness…love you hubs.