What my grieving process has taught me about death

I had so many memories with my dad. More than I can count. So much about the way I live my life right now is because of him.

I had so many memories with my dad. More than I can count. So much about the way I live my life right now is because of him.

If you're familiar with my blog series, The song on my mind, or a part of my newsletter family, you've already seen the tribute I did for my dad back in December.  I wanted to extend my tribute in this post since there's a few things I'm learning that I really want to share in hopes that it may bring some comfort to anyone who is experiencing a difficult loss.

My dad passed away at 7:45am on December 9th 2013. He was a kind, gentle, generous soul who spread his love to everyone he knew, especially his family. Every time my sisters and I walked in the room, he'd light up and smile. He had always encouraged me to follow my dreams, and to never settle for just a piece of the sky. “Why not go all in?” That was his motto. We loved to listen to all kinds of music together and I’d often record myself singing songs for him to play in his car. (this marked the beginning of my “show biz career”). The funny thing is, he thought I was the best singer in the world.

All loss is unsettling whether you have time to prepare for it or not. Things got so complicated towards the end as my family and I were rushed around from doctor to doctor wondering if we were making the right decisions, since the doctors themselves rarely even communicated with each other. I felt so small and defeated, knowing I couldn’t postpone the inevitable. What went wrong? How did his health get out of control so fast, and what could we have done differently? The guilt, frustration, and confusion set in, bigtime.

The word, death itself is so ambiguous; we want to know what it really means. Where did our loved ones go? Are they ok? Will we really see them again? Religion, spirituality, yoga, etc can play a huge part in what you choose to believe, along with a few other beams of light that have shined through for me.

1. It’s okay to feel your feelings- Pain is exemplified when you cannot find the space to feel your feelings. When you lose someone through death, it’s a combination of frustration, guilt, confusion, and other times complete sorrow, which can sometimes feel oddly refreshing because it’s not attached to responsibility. No blame. No wondering what you did right or wrong, just a feeling of longing in your heart.

What I’m learning is that it’s okay to be sad and grieve. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to sit with your pain and let yourself unravel. Not sure if it’s because of a lack of control, or because we think if we let yourselves get sad, it’ll stay that way. I have found that it helps to cry; to let out the tight knots of sadness that get bottled up inside. Teaching a yoga class, or counseling  nutrition clients also brings true solace. Just the realization that he’s there with me, cheering me on.  

2. Learning what matters  In the weeks before my dad’s death, I had packed my schedule with classes and clients, only to find out I had to reschedule all of them. If it were any other circumstance, I would’ve stressed about canceling them. Today, my priority was this, and nothing else mattered. The second thing I noticed was that when I was sitting on the bus on my way back home to rush to my dad’s side in the hospital, I wasn’t worried about who saw me crying, or what I looked like. All that mattered was being home with family. This event really changed the way I view my daily life, and that good people will truly understand when you have to put your needs first.

3. Gratitude, Wow- As you grieve with your family, you notice everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so we’re there to always help each other out when the rough moments hit.  For the first time, I’m learning to see my sisters and mom in a whole new light and it’s brought us closer. And need I mention friendship? A simple phone call, plate of lasagna, or shoulder to cry on. (and yes sometimes wine). It really makes you stop and think how much good there still is in the world.

4. Learning to Let go  To be honest, I’m still struggling a bit with this part, but so far, I’ve learned this...Letting go doesn’t have to mean the person is no longer with you.

The last night I saw my dad in the hospital, I sang to him, surrounded by my family. I wouldn't trade those 3 minutes for anything. I knew he could hear me, even through the coma he was in, through my tears, and my nose running all over the place.

There was a moment. A passing moment, when I knew that everything was going to be okay. I was certain that he would continue to be with us, just in a different way than he was before. It doesn’t mean there aren’t days I’m sad, scared, or angry, it just means I’ve learned to trust the process. The beauty in this is that out of the wreckage comes full certainty that love is very much alive in this world, and it’s a hell of a lot stronger than death.