Grieve Courageously

“I Did it My Way”
~ Frank Sinatra & Dr. J.T. Burrowes

I had a moment. Actually, a few moments the other morning where I just wept. It wasn’t just a regular leaking of tears this time, it was an awareness of deep sadness.

Instead of writing in my journal about it, I’m going to share my reflections with you. Perhaps it will be useful to you.

Before I start, however, I want to explain that many people come to counseling to process and heal from traumatic grief.

It’s not something you “fix,” it’s something you support a person through compassionately.

At times it may seem that you’re stuck in dysfunctional grief when it continues to impede your ability to function at work, relationships, self care, even after considerable time has passed. This is when professional help is appropriate.

A professional life myself knows how to explore pertinent themes for resolving distress by exploring and processing subconscious material. It also helps if you’ve experience this personally, as it provides a context and comprehension that cannot be taught in books.

Back to my story…

I’m not sure what was so special about that morning’s events, which set off those particular tears of grief, but I believed it was important to look for the subconscious material that I had a sneaking suspicion I hadn’t processed yet.

I was lying in bed early that morning doing my regular twittering when I noticed someone left a gif (a moving photo like a short video) response to one of my tweets. It was an image of Marlon Brando rolling his eyes, but ever-so-sexy-like.

His follow up response seemed to imply that I may not know who it was or much about that era and I took this chance to talk about my Dad, as I typically take any chance to talk about my Dad.

I adored my Dad, I was definitely a Daddy’s Little Girl.

My mother always compared my Dad to the men of that era, namely Frank, Brando, and Dino. She only recently gave me this picture and I’ve fallen in love with who my father was all over again.

That’s what little girls who have healthy relationships with their father do, and then they later mature to a generally acceptable level of respect and admiration and focus their attention and affection on boys.

That I did too. I have always been a romantic. This also leads to me being nostalgic and sentimental, so of course that would apply to my remembrance of my lost loved ones like my father and brother.

What came up that day was very specific so I will get to the point.

What was different about this grief?

I was looking at this picture after I had the exchange with this man on Twitter and all of a sudden the tears started pouring down. I had to stop and I shuddered for a few moments.

Then I sat down and held my chest and checked in with myself, “What are you feeling right now; what are you thinking; why am I experiencing this now?” I said to myself.

I remembered the last time I saw him alive. He was in the hospice care facility in South Beach after being moved from a total of four nursing homes over at least four years, maybe more.

We knew it was finally his last stage before his life would be over. I came home from my Master’s program for the summer and spent some time with him (minimal time really as I hated seeing him for too long like that). I “said my goodbyes” but I didn’t really, I just said the words, I Love You, and hugged him a few times.

The very last time I saw him alive I was kind of wet coming from the beach as I’d made a whole outing out of the visit with him at the nearby hospice. I was uncomfortable being in the cold smelly hospice in my damp clothes and wanted to leave and get cleaned up.

I said goodbye to a disoriented and emaciated grey colored version of my father (who still had a great head of hair, I might add). Then out of nowhere after I turned and walked away, he grabbed my hand and pulled me back to him and kissed my hand ever so lovingly while looking me dead in the eyes. I looked back in his eyes and thanked him and said “Love you, Daddy” one last time and walked out.

I left Miami to go back to school a few days later and then on October 17th, 2003 I woke urgently in the middle of the night, looked at the clock, and then went back to sleep. Later that morning the phone rang and woke me up, it was my mom telling me he had passed

Strangely he passed at exactly the time I had woken up in the middle of the night, she just didn’t want to wake me.

I felt a numbness take over along with a complicated sense of relief and grief. I had been grieving my father’s loss since I was a teenager when his Alzheimer’s set in.

He left in stages. It was a hard road to the end, and instead of me being mature and helpful to him and my mother, I ran away emotionally and literally avoided them much of the time and tried to not think about it. I was off getting educated after all so I rationalized it.

I abandoned him because he abandoned me.

That is what I realized on that particular morning. I felt sad and mad and guilty and hurt. What was different about it was the regret that I didn’t know for sure if he knew how fucking much I loved him!!!

I really hope to gawd that my handsome, rock-star father knew how much I adored him and admired him and am inspired by him every single day of my life.

It feels like so long ago that I had my father in my life. The healthy and normal, obnoxiously brutish, commanding presence like no other human being, Dad.

The one I cuddled with every night, the one who sang me Old Man River every night, who cooked my breakfast and fed me eggs and bacon and toast while I sat on his lap rather than in my own chair, who forced me to shine his shoes, go swimming in the cistern to clean frogs out.

The man who made me believe pearls would form in the clams we visited on the dock while he was fishing, the man who ran around the house outside naked with me when it was raining, who took me walking with him and sunset swimming with him, who would watch me dive under the boats while I practiced holding my breath so he could make sure I didn’t drown.

The man who drove me to school and taught me how to enunciate words properly so I wouldn’t sound like a heathen. The man who let me smother him with the immense love I had morning, noon, and night…

I hope to gawd in heaven he knows just how much I loved him despite the horrible way I acted towards the end of his life. I was shattered. I will always love that man, and I will always grieve him.

But the grief felt different that day.

Let it out & let it absorb. It comes in waves. Grief is not linear. 

All My Love,

Daddy’s Symphony (that’s what he called me)

P.S. Reach out if you need support through your grief, I’m trained and experienced in it, as you can see.

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