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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….

 

Mercy

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Edvard Munch: “Death and the Child”

Most people say “When my time comes, I don’t want to be hooked up to machines! Pull the plug, just let me die!” Oh, but it is not that easy when you, as the family member, have to make the decision for your loved one. In my case, my father.

To treat or not to treat? It is a gut-wrenching, sleep-depriving, desperation grasping, doubt-filled, guilt-ridden nightmare. It’s the Serenity Prayer incarnate.

Sometimes, death doesn’t stare you in the face and take charge. Sometimes death dares you to dig deep down beyond your own existence, beyond everything you thought you knew. Sometimes death calls bullshit on your spiritual capacity to allow, surrender, and trust. Sometimes death turns you into a terrified child lost at the department store, worried she will never-ever go home again or see her parent’s face, or feel their embrace. Sometimes, death just sits back, and watches you writhe, like an earthworm in the dry daylight, as you wrestle with your humanness.

And then there is the one who breathes an inconsistent breath, whose fate is in your hands. And all you can offer is the the most tender mercy that arises from a place beyond the psyche and without words.

2/26/2016

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