Re-Adjusting: Resurrection and Transformation

looking back

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If you have ever experienced the death (or loss) of a loved one, you know that your life becomes a series of firsts. First birthday without them, first holiday, first year, and so on. So here I am in my first month without him.

These last 30-days have been a slow drip through the surreal. My emotions have ranged from acceptance to anger, but mostly I just want to be in silence. My hospice grief counselor says I am right on schedule for feeling all the feels. She mentions that after 2-3 weeks the shock usually wears off and the emotions begin to rise. This feels about right, because it has only been recently that I have felt more anger and irritability mixed in with the pre-existing sadness.

I wish I could go on retreat, somewhere in the hills or forest, and just be in silence with every emotion that arises. This feels like the ideal thing to do, but instead I go to work, and mostly it has been okay. After a full day I am exhausted and do nothing (and I am grateful for the ability to do nothing). Sometimes I get a burst of energy, but as quickly as it comes, it slips away (I guess that’s why it’s a burst).

Being in my grieving life, and “old life” has had it’s consequences. One day, I came home form work to suddenly feel a horribly paralyzing anxiety that left me feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally agitated for hours. I realized that being in both my grieving life and my “old routine” life felt like a schism, and that living in both worlds was/is probably too opposing for my psyche.

The flashbacks have been the hardest. At times I can’t stop thinking about my father’s last days. I remember the lightness of his thin body, his agitated body movements, the pained expressions on his face, and the sadness in his eyes. The inability for us to verbally communicate haunts me as I wonder if he was in more pain that we knew. I wonder if he was scared. I wonder if dying was scary for him.

Then there’s the wondering. Wondering if he really had dementia. Wondering if there was something else going on and that we could have helped him more. Everything happened so fast that we didn’t get a chance for a decent second option or tests. This helpless experience has made it easy to feel guilty for not doing more, especially before he became symptomatic.

On most days, it’s the experience of a routine that no longer is. I never realized how much my dad was on my mind. Like an idling car, he must have been a constant hum in my subconscious. I still wake with the thought of calling my dad to see how he is doing, or spontaneously have the desire to tell him what I saw that day. If I have a really good cup of coffee, I think of him and sending some to him. One afternoon I sat in a medical lab waiting for a blood draw. I imagined the many times he did the same. Even though he was relatively healthy, he had routine blood draws and doctor visits to monitor his health. I imagined how this must have been so tiresome for him.

Despite all this, I trust that both he and I are well. I trust that I will land in my new normal. I trust that dreams of him are our way of staying connected and I trust he is with me in my waking life.

With today being Easter, I find myself more aware of resurrection. It’s everywhere all the time! A resurrection is an awakening, and re-birthing, a renewal, and a transformation. On my dad’s final days, I was well aware that he was in his own transformational journey. It was intense to feel our lives changing and falling into deep stillness. At that time I wondered what both our resurrections would look like.

Today I still wonder, and yet know, that resurrection and transformation is happening in it’s own slow and gentle way everyday. Anxiety attacks and all.

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Right Now

A couple of weeks go I was under such stress that I actually felt my hair and eyes strained. All I wanted was to stay home and sleep and cry. However I can’t do that. I have a job to go to, clients to see, paperwork that has a deadline, homework to read, and classes to go to. So I took it as slow as I could and booked a massage. By the end of the week I was beginning to feel slightly grounded again.

As the weekend took place, I experienced another stressful event. My typical response is to shut down, which serves me and hinders me. In light of that, I have started to practice what it’s like to be present in these kinds of moments. Last weekend, I did both. I went to bed and the next morning left home early to practice self-care. When I came home to decompress, I began to have a panic attack.

Having talked to a few support people earlier, I remembered their words. “What do you need right now?”. This was my mantra throughout the attack and each time I asked, I gave myself what I needed in that moment. I made small efforts such as sitting up, bundling up, breathing out, and so on. It was hard to talk, so allowing for no conversation was helpful too. As the day went on the anxiety slowly released.

Although the slow and small steps were important, the biggest help came from asking myself “What do I need right now?”. I have asked myself this question throughout the rest of the week, as I am still decompressing from the stress of the lats 2 weeks. I think this is a good question to ask myself in any situation, When I ask myself “What do I need right now?”, I am not only practicing self-care. I am also practicing how to re-parent myself.

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