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.

Holding Space and Co-Dependency

Monday afternoon, my brother took his last breath. He was surrounded by his wife and three kids, who so beautifully ushered him out of this world. I stood at his bedside and filled my heart and mind with love and gratitude for him.

In the two weeks leading up to this, I concentrated on being present with my brother and holding space for my sister in-law, nephews, and niece. I focused on being there for my brother, caring for myself, and wanted my brother to know that I was there for his family. I spoke with my brother about all my good memories growing up with him and prayed over him, affirming peace, trust, and love. As for his family, they expressed their gratitude for me being their to anchor their anxiety, confusion, and sorrow. I felt very honored to be there for them and my brother during this emotionally and physically exhausting time.

Later that day I was lucky enough to process the whole experience with my therapist. In the end she reminded me that I had just put out a massive mount of energy, and asked me how I was going to replenish it. That night I decided to make an appointment for a Reiki session, and luckily, was able to get one in the next day.

During my session I was reminded that grieving breaks open the heart and creates opportunity for deeper feeling and growth. As the session continued, what came up for me was that I was having feelings of no longer being useful to my family. My connection to my (brother’s) family was pretty intense for the last two weeks. We were there gathering information and making decisions regarding my brother’s care, and I sat with each of them when it all felt like too much. Now it feels like it has all come to an abrupt end. I know that I am still connected to them and am still here for them, but I can’t help but feel alone.

Add to this that most of my family is out-of-town, and so they will not be arriving until his services take place. Until then I am alone. This is not how I am use to grieving a family member. Usually we are all together for several days afterwards, but not this time.

So during the Reiki session I was able to allow this feeling through and was reminded that, not only was I mothering myself and his family during this turbulent time, but that I can now come back to myself. I can now continue to re-parent myself as I have been over these past two years. Knowing this brings some comfort, but I’m not gonna lie. I really don’t like not having my family near by for this.

Being with my brother as he passed was intense. I felt (and feel) honored, sad, and scared. I feel a heavy family burden so what will become of that is yet to be seen.

For You My Brother; My Teacher

I am sitting at the airport waiting to pick up my sister. Every time the phone rings I cringe. It’s surreal to think that as I sit in this parking lot, an hour away my brother’s breath is heavy and labored.

For three years now my brother has been under treatment for cancer, but this week his kidneys began to fail. It’s only been three months since my other brother passed away from liver cancer. I believe that because it was so recent, a part of me is more accepting of what’s happening with this brother. A part of me has a larger understanding of what’s happening and of release, but of course there is a part of me that is angry, confused, and sad that my brother (whom I have wonderful memories with) is dying.

My brother is the kind of guy that expresses what he enjoys freely. Everyone knows that he lives for swap-meets,  car shows, and antiques. That he prefers the era of Marilyn Monroe and pin-up girls; when men wore hats and women wore gloves. He’s well-known for being a thrifty man who is conscious of how he spends his money and can always find a way to make a dollar out of fifty cents.

This brother has a special place in my heart for he is the one who I share my learning experiences with. When I get excited about a new theory or piece of information, I immediately want to share it with him. In many ways he has always been my teacher. As a child, he always tried to teach me new things. As I grew older, we became philosophical sparring partners. We call each other randomly with the latest existential question or curiosity regarding politics and society. There is safety in knowing that we can always call each other and contemplate any matter together.

As a child I remember our annual family trips to Mexico. We would take breaks at rest stops during our drive through the desert at night. I was a fussy traveler and very impatient, so he would try to entertain me by pointing out the stars, moon, landscape, and the changing colors of the desert sky as the sun rose. He would also trying teaching me about miles and time.

During lunar eclipses, he would try to keep me awake till three in the morning to try to catch a glimpse of these phenomenons. I was so little and could never stay up that late. But I could stay up late enough to watch Benny Hill reruns with him. My brother taught me many things, and ultimately, his lessons were about being a better person in this world by being kind, generous, and forgiving. Perhaps the greatest lesson he ever taught me was that of gratitude for people, for moments, for the blessings.

So this brother is now in the hospital. His breathing is heavy and labored and he is surrounded by his family, friends, and old coworkers. The veil of this world is slowly being lifted and it scary seeing him waver between this world and the next. I’ve never seen him so strong before and so excepting.

Although I know that he is transitioning into the greatest consciousness one can ask for, it’s difficult to know that I won’t be able to call him anymore. I know that I’ll be able to speak with him and that our relationship will change. But I’ll miss hearing his voice during a late night call exclaiming, “Did you see the moon tonight?”

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