Who knew love and loss could be such a beautiful thing…
It’s 6 months almost to the day since my dad died and I’m only now feeling the gentle waves of loss.
This delayed response feels natural and right to me. I interpret that my heart and mind needed space to allow all these feelings to blossom.
Hours after hearing that my dad had died, I started a full-time 9-5 job which was a welcome distraction at first. However, it soon became a desolate island upon which my mental energy was spent, focusing on the needs of the organisation, as opposed to the needs of my heart.
I needed time to stop. And breathe. Thankfully, this year I have that space.
Grief, as you probably know, is a unique blend of emotions. We automatically equate sadness with grief: we are marking the loss of something, therefore to feel sad seems the most natural response.
But grief can just as readily be an outpouring of love. A way of remembering and reconnecting with aspects of that person (or pet) that you so dearly loved.
I loved my dad at a deep level. We had a special connection.
We shared many traits and characteristics. Unfortunately, those same qualities led us to butt heads, often.
In some ways I felt that my dad was in competition with me. His insecurities would irk me and I’d shun his advances to connect because they seemed old-fashioned and one-sided.
He wanted to be seen, heard and understood.
But I, the child, felt I had more right to those things and so I rejected his needs, positioning my needs above those of his, the parent.
How dare he want of me?
That’s my right, not yours.
Now that he no longer exists in physical form, I am enjoying connecting with him on other levels. He lives on in my mind and heart. And what’s lovely about that, is I now have room to invite all of him in, because there’s no ego to press up against and therefore need to reject.
When I connect with my dad’s presence I’m now much more aware of how he comes from a long line of ancestors. Each of whom lived a life that lived inside of him, and still exists within me. Whether I know the anthology in detail (I don’t), I can feel it.
This morning I sat looking out over the ocean. The sun was rising which is now the place where I like to think my dad resides.
Tears lightly streamed down my cheeks as I felt his silent presence all around me.
Memories of his goodness – that I was more likely to shun when he was alive – softly swirled inside my awareness. It was as though he was there, reminding me and educating me on the greater truths of life.
My dad was a good man.
Unfortunately I couldn’t always see that. My ego would barricade his jokes and bluntly shut him out claiming he didn’t know how to connect with me; that our interactions were always about him, and that he had no curiosity about me, me, me.
I wanted to be seen, heard and understood.
He and I were two peas in the pod of life.
My deepest fear is that I am not wanted. And I realise now that maybe my dad’s deepest fear was the exact same thing.
Wouldn’t one hope that your own offspring would love you unconditionally? Is that really too much to ask?
When my dad was moved into a nursing home in late December 2022, I flew to England the following month. I dropped off my bags and went straight to the nursing home to see him.
We hadn’t seen each other for 3 years.
As soon as I walked into his room he reached out his arms to me and cried. “You’re here!” he wept. “I can’t believe it!”
He was so happy to see me. It seemed as though my presence was indicating that despite our clashes, I believed in him. It were as though I had finally ‘chosen’ him.
In that moment, I understood how alike we are.
It took his impending death, but for me, it was worth the wait.
So now I am breathing into the space between stories. I thought my grief would come in ways I’ve known before: howling tears and wracking sobs, but this time it’s different.
This episode of grief is moving through me gently. Warmly, even. It’s like soft rain on a summer’s eve.
Each moment of sadness seems equal parts love. I couldn’t separate the two if I tried, which I’m not.
Every tear that leaves my eyes finds a resting place in my heart. It’s as though love is leaking out from the depths of my DNA and is joining hands with life – and my dad. Then together, we sing psalms of joy into the multiverse.
And it makes me wonder; is this really sadness then, or something else?
Is this a side of grief I’ve never known before? How is it so soft and tender when in the past it’s felt like a wrecking ball.
Maybe I was younger then. Less experienced. Or maybe those times prepared me for a loss that feels less like something has gone, and more like I’m witnessing a transformation that is gifting me with new ways of seeing the world.
I think my dad would have planned it this way if he could.
I’m pretty sure if he could leave a lasting legacy for me it would be to feel less pain and more love.
Maybe that’s what he was carrying around all those years in that scrunched up napkin he always had in his hand.
And so in a way, I’m glad he’s gone. I feel a sense of relief that I can let go of my battle with him.
I’m finally free to see him in his full glory. The sweet poet that was funny and wise and always there for me, no matter what.
So today I honour my dad’s life through these tears and I welcome the grief.
Let it wash through me like a waterfall of love, cleansing my pain and soothing me in a way that only a father could.