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Tag Archives: Grief

Re-Adjusting: Resurrection and Transformation

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If you have ever experienced the death (or loss) of a loved one, you know that your life becomes a series of firsts. First birthday without them, first holiday, first year, and so on. So here I am in my first month without him.

These last 30-days have been a slow drip through the surreal. My emotions have ranged from acceptance to anger, but mostly I just want to be in silence. My hospice grief counselor says I am right on schedule for feeling all the feels. She mentions that after 2-3 weeks the shock usually wears off and the emotions begin to rise. This feels about right, because it has only been recently that I have felt more anger and irritability mixed in with the pre-existing sadness.

I wish I could go on retreat, somewhere in the hills or forest, and just be in silence with every emotion that arises. This feels like the ideal thing to do, but instead I go to work, and mostly it has been okay. After a full day I am exhausted and do nothing (and I am grateful for the ability to do nothing). Sometimes I get a burst of energy, but as quickly as it comes, it slips away (I guess that’s why it’s a burst).

Being in my grieving life, and “old life” has had it’s consequences. One day, I came home form work to suddenly feel a horribly paralyzing anxiety that left me feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally agitated for hours. I realized that being in both my grieving life and my “old routine” life felt like a schism, and that living in both worlds was/is probably too opposing for my psyche.

The flashbacks have been the hardest. At times I can’t stop thinking about my father’s last days. I remember the lightness of his thin body, his agitated body movements, the pained expressions on his face, and the sadness in his eyes. The inability for us to verbally communicate haunts me as I wonder if he was in more pain that we knew. I wonder if he was scared. I wonder if dying was scary for him.

Then there’s the wondering. Wondering if he really had dementia. Wondering if there was something else going on and that we could have helped him more. Everything happened so fast that we didn’t get a chance for a decent second option or tests. This helpless experience has made it easy to feel guilty for not doing more, especially before he became symptomatic.

On most days, it’s the experience of a routine that no longer is. I never realized how much my dad was on my mind. Like an idling car, he must have been a constant hum in my subconscious. I still wake with the thought of calling my dad to see how he is doing, or spontaneously have the desire to tell him what I saw that day. If I have a really good cup of coffee, I think of him and sending some to him. One afternoon I sat in a medical lab waiting for a blood draw. I imagined the many times he did the same. Even though he was relatively healthy, he had routine blood draws and doctor visits to monitor his health. I imagined how this must have been so tiresome for him.

Despite all this, I trust that both he and I are well. I trust that I will land in my new normal. I trust that dreams of him are our way of staying connected and I trust he is with me in my waking life.

With today being Easter, I find myself more aware of resurrection. It’s everywhere all the time! A resurrection is an awakening, and re-birthing, a renewal, and a transformation. On my dad’s final days, I was well aware that he was in his own transformational journey. It was intense to feel our lives changing and falling into deep stillness. At that time I wondered what both our resurrections would look like.

Today I still wonder, and yet know, that resurrection and transformation is happening in it’s own slow and gentle way everyday. Anxiety attacks and all.

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Speaking of Winter…

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Winter is my favorite season, however there is a bitter taste in my mouth about it now. I feel betrayed by the season which I usually find so much comfort in.

This winter was a colder than usual one for both my father and I.

This winter I turned inward to feel through and gestate what is important about my career path, as well as my use of time and energy. I was giving quiet reflection to how I would emerge in the spring as an adult embarking on purpose, into her life, her career, her finances, and so on.

This winter, I symbolically married my career, with my father’s blessing, and his request that my career take good care of me.

Meanwhile, my father was turning inward as well. Withdrawing from others, being less active, wanting to complete his time here and be with loved ones on the other side.

As the chill began to wear off, winter ever so gradually stole my father from me. Winter cloaked my father and gradually prepared him for departure.

I understand this, and yet, feel so incredibly angry at myself for not noticing what it was doing and where it was taking him. I thought spring would help my father find purpose again. But winter had it’s own plans for him.

Earthquakes and Landscapes: Day 1 without Dad

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Today I awoke on my first day home without my father.

I had spent the greater part of February in his home 3-hours away, in an unexpected whirlwind of emotional chaos, intense vulnerability, and the eventual release of him as I watched him being taken away for cremation.

I know enough to not expect that I’d return home to life as I knew it. “Now back to your regularly scheduled program” does not apply here.

I know that my life is now altered. Yes, everyday, our lives change. Each day is unlike the next. But this is different. There are these life-altering events that completely changes the landscape. Subtle shifts become earthquakes and aftershocks.

Upon waking, I take it slow. “What’s next?” in every moment. I try some “old life” on by checking e-mail (that felt okay, let’s try…) listening to a recorded call from a training I’m in (yeah, not quite feeing it. Let’s try…) suddenly it’s too much. My heart aches and I feel my energy in my belly. I remember a song that feels the way I feel now.

I listen to “Winter” by Tori Amos on repeat and break down sobbing just as I need to. Every part of me vibrating in grief. Why does life seem so stupid. All the things that took up space in my life seem so ridiculous. I should have spent more time with him. Should have, should have, should have….

 

Tamale Power

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My family has gone through many challenges over the years, and this year proved to be quite intense. Two of my brothers passed away (one in May, the other in August), after battling cancer. As these things go, each member of my family is dealing with these loses in their own ways.

Like many men, my Father absorbed his grief somatically (in his body) and spent many months in increasingly debilitating pain. This effected his ability to sleep, move, sit, walk, and keep food down. As a result he lost quite a bit of weight, and at the age of 81, these symptoms have greater consequences. As you can imagine, I was pretty scared. I’ve only known my dad to be a strong man who never let anyone or anything get in his way. To see him in so much pain and to hear the distance in his voice was terrifying.

Months of Dr. visits and tests resulted in some understanding of what was going on, and provided information on what he could do to get stable. He has degenerative disks in his spine, which causes the nerve pain, and stomach ulcers that kept him from being able to eat.

These last few weeks have been a gradual improvement and I am really thankful that my dad still has fight in him. This is how I’ve always known him. This is how everyone who knows him, knows him.

So what do tamales have to do with all this?

Per last years “Vegan Tamales” post, you’ll read that making tamales is an annual Christmas tradition for my dad. This year, as October came around, I would hear my father say, “May God give me life so that I can make tamales this year.” Due to his physical pain, I figured he may make a small batch this year instead of his usual dozens. Boy, was I wrong.

The Saturday before Christmas, despite his physical pain and decrease in energy, my Dad managed to make 20 dozen tamales. Making this amount takes a lot of time and energy, so when he told me this, I was a little concerned. “Wow Dad, how are you feeling?”

Without hesitation, he replied, “Como un TIGRE!!” (Like a tiger!).

That response is my Dad in a nutshell.

It was good to hear his familiar self again after so many months. To hear my Dad’s energetic response filled me with pride, gratitude, love, and much needed happiness.

After losing two of his sons, this annual tradition was all he had to look forward to. It may seem trivial to some, but for him, making tamales is his way of paying respects to the poverty he grew up in, and showing gratitude for the prosperity he created.

This is what tradition and culture can do. It can give us a sense of normalcy during times of loss, and allows us to live from a place of agency when we feel vulnerable. It allows for some joy to grow in our hearts, and makes way for healing. For this, I am grateful.

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