Hi, thanks for reading this. I am about to take you on a difficult, but necessary journey. Please share with anyone who needs this in time for the holidays.
It starts like this...I am at a family function or just sitting around my mother's house-doing nothing in particular and he's there or I hear that he is on his way. I can't ever put my finger on the specific distance between us, but I am always excited to see him.
When I am in his space I feel normal and relaxed. It's a familiar feeling, but not one that I have often these days-if that makes any sense.
....We talk casually and I tell him what I've been up to, he never responds and I always get annoyed like "Helloooo... I'm talking to you...don't you care? Didn't you miss me?! (Just being spoiled and obnoxious as usual).
...Anyway, this casual conversation normally goes on for a few and I start to realize he isn't responding to me. I don't hear his voice, nor his laugh. I don't smell his aftershave because he never gave me a hug. Ithink, "Wait. He didn't hug me??? But we've been apart so long- did I upset him?!? OMG I forgot to ask him how he's doing!"
And then like a ton of goddamn bricks, it hits me.
He has not been out of town.
He isn't finally returning from the hospice.
He never came home.
He is dead.
And has been for some time.
He can't hear me tell him about my day.
He still isn’t going to walk me down the aisle.
We will not awkwardly dance to the Chi-Lites, nor the Doobie Brothers at my wedding reception.
Because I am dreaming.
The realization always happens during this dream and it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. It's a fresh pain every time. I start to panic and reach for him and he moves further away. I quietly plead "OMG Please don't leave me again. I really, really need you. I can’t do this. "
I never want to wake up and when I do, it HURTS. I feel abandoned, panicked, and all the other emotions I felt when I received the initial call that his battle with cancer had ended. I try so hard to go back to sleep and beg my brain to go back to the dream and to revisit where I left off and it NEVER happens. My stomach drops. It is devastating.
UGLY CRY FACE.
It's never a dignified cry.
I have this type of dream pretty sporadically but it’s always the same. It always feels like the first time. It used to devastate me and I'd take a personal day and cry and just be a mess. But after a tearful conversation with my paternal grandmother, I decided I am ready to evolve this scenario and find the positive in the dream. And all of the triggers like songs we loved or movies we watched.
The positive is GRATITUDE. I am now grateful for these dreams because I realize they are visits. I find comfort in the fact that we are still connected in my subconscious. This means I have not completely lost him. I just have him in a different way now-and I must accept this reality and adjust. Just like I adjust to paying tuition in my mid-thirties, ridiculous traffic, bad breakups, etc. It's all in how we choose to process the event. For example, I can no longer stay in the space of "it's not fair, why did this happen to him?" Life goes on and we do ourselves an injustice by "crying over spilled milk" and staying there.
We owe it to ourselves to live our best lives and that sometimes requires a shift in perspective…and everyone knows a shift in perspective requires work. I accept that my life is different now. I am not just “thankful for food to eat” or “clothes to wear,” etc. I have a different level of gratitude to express.
I am THANKFUL that I even realize this.
I am THANKFUL to live in a world where technology allows me to view his Facebook page if I need to see him immediately or read his emails if I need good, honest comfort.
I am THANKFUL that I could articulate the many life lessons/gifts he gave me into words that will live on for the future generations of our family to see (when they're of age because I used such colorful language).
If I need to cry, I still cry but I also whisper
"Thank you. Thank you for visiting me."
I hope this message resonates with those of you who have lost a parent and try to get through the holiday season. We are part of a fraternity that unfortunately bonds us in pain, but we can encourage each other and make the best of it.
It is not the easiest time of year, but maintaining a spirit of gratitude and demonstrating appreciation for family and friends who are here is a great way to survive the holidays and all days. Think of the positive energy this mindset can create. In my life, there are many kind people who support and nurture me, my mom & my sibs through this-especially my uncles and godfathers. And even my Grandma who put her own pain aside to help me reach this realization and decipher these dreams when we were supposed to be watching Scandal-what an awesome demonstration of love. All of these things are reasons to go on and to be thankful.
I understand that this may not work for everyone. I wanted to get this out in hopes that it helps someone get through the upcoming holiday season. This is my gift to my sisters and brothers in the struggle during the holiday season. I am in this with you, as I would never recommend you do something that I don’t have the courage to do myself.
For those of who try this approach, let me know how it works for you?
Do you have any suggestions for coping with the loss of a parent?