Tuesday September 29, 2015
Last week was the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death and wow, what a mess I was… like, on my knees with my heart breaking into a million pieces kind of mess. I was not expecting to be such a mess. What the heck? I kept asking myself. I felt worse than I felt the day he died.
Why? I kept asking, in between my tissues, tears, and sobs.
Last year I was numb. I was in shock. He got sick and passed so quickly that I never really had time to process anything. This past year was time to process all of that and then, at the one-year marker, it got really real.
Oh, right – he is REALLY gone. He REALLY won’t ever come back.
It was not only suddenly a reality but also as if all the times I missed him the past year were suddenly compressed into this day – the one-year anniversary of his passing. One year. It went so quickly. Suddenly it will be two years, I thought. I didn’t want his memory to get further away from me. I didn’t want the pictures of him to start to look old. I didn’t want more time to pass without him here. I wanted time to stop. Actually I wanted time to rewind so I could hear his voice and hug him again.
The grief that flooded me on this day almost felt worse than what I’d been experiencing since he passed. Those of you who’ve lost loved ones know that grief comes in waves. This was a multiple tidal wave day for me. I could barely lift my head up above the wave to catch my breath before another one crashed on top of me – another memory, another topic I so badly wanted his advice on, another loving text from a friend or family member telling me they were thinking of me. Wave after wave I kept getting knocked down to my knees. I wanted the waves to stop. I was resisting the pain. I wanted to celebrate him-not be sobbing about him. And then I heard the voice of my mentor, Lissa Rankin, in my head saying, “soften into the pain”. Lissa and I had a conversation earlier in the week. She was grieving three dear souls she just lost and the advice someone gave her was to “soften into the pain”. (She wrote a wonderful blog post about it here)
As Lissa described so beautifully in her blog, softening into the pain is allowing it to be felt so it melts the armor around our hearts – the armor that we so desperately want to put up to protect ourselves from heartbreak; the armor we put up each time we fear losing someone or something that has touched our hearts. As many of you know losing my Dad was the most difficult thing I’ve experienced because I lost him on the heels of watching pancreatic cancer take his life from the inside out. Watching him suffer and then pass was a heartbreak I’d never felt before. It would have been easy to armor up so I didn’t experience pain and loss like that ever again. That would have been typical behavior for me and yet, the past year since losing my Dad included allowing myself to actually grieve him fully; to feel the pain and sadness of the loss. I broke the habitual behavior of stuffing my uncomfortable emotions and instead, felt every last one of them. I knew it was the only way I’d be able to heal not only from the pain of watching him suffer and die but also the pain of many old wounds that resurfaced as a result of his death.
But on the one-year anniversary of his passing I found myself wanting to resist the pain because, after all, it had been a year. It was time to celebrate his life and the happy memories, not be sobbing about how much I missed him – that’s what my ego wanted me to believe. My ego wanted me to get on with it, to move on, and just stop feeling all the uncomfortable emotions that I’d been letting flow for the past year. My ego had had enough. Yet, grief knows no time limits and has no rules. It’s directly related to how much we loved. There was endless love between my Dad and me. My grief for him reminds me how deeply we loved each other.
I spent most of that day doing just what my heart and soul needed and what I’d practiced for the entire past year: I allowed myself to feel the sadness of missing my sweet Daddy. I cried many tears for how much I ached for his presence in my life. As Lissa told me during our conversation, the quickest way to heal is to soften into the pain. I woke up the next day feeling a bit lighter and also feeling my Dad’s presence around me more strongly than I had the day before (ironically enough). Was my heart healed? No, but it heals more each day and each time I soften into the pain. I rode an unexpected tidal wave of grief because I allowed myself to feel every part of it. Eventually there will be another wave I’ll have to ride and I know that each time I allow it to wash over me and I soften into the pain of it, I enable my heart to open more and more to the fullness of all life has to offer.
Are you experiencing the loss of a loved one or grieving the loss of something dear in your life? I encourage you to try to soften into the pain, ever so slowly, so you can experience the fullness of an open heart.