Life, love, loss and heartfelt update from me…
I thought healing might be peaceful. But I have found healing is messy and rough. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way to heal. At first had no appetite and zero energy. Then found myself eating close to my body weight in cheese and pastry while in Europe. I cried. A lot. I would often be in a daze and drift off. I couldn’t sleep. At all. Then, I slept. A lot. I got mad. A lot. I did my best to articulate my feelings.
So, things have been pretty quiet around here. Tumble weeds kind of quiet.
This post is certainly one of the hardest things I’ve had to write.
While we are very much into the swing of 2016, and 2015 might seem like eons ago for most – to me because of the emotion attached to the last year it feels just like yesterday. 2015 was a year that rocked me to my core.
I want to preface what I write with – I don’t quite fully know how to articulate everything I am about to share but I will do my best.
After a long and exhausting battle and going in and out of hospital more times than I can count, in November of last year I lost my Dad. When he passed he was surrounded by love and everyone who he held close.
That’s why I haven’t been around these here parts for a while. His passing left me heart broken, lost and depleted. In a previous post I shared a little bit about his health challenges and hospital visits.
After much internal debate after he passed I decided to use the trip I had booked to Europe with my love John as some time off and to heal.
Earlier in 2015, John and I had booked a trip to The Netherlands to spend the 2 months with his family, enjoy the festive season, travel Europe and enjoy running our businesses from abroad. Earlier in the year, when we booked it, we could not have foreseen the events that transpired and predicted how 2015 would close out.
Come the end of 2015 I was mentally and emotionally exhausted.
I’d seen him go in and out of hospital more times than I could count. He had under gone test after test. His emotions swung from being extremely frustrated with life, the doctors and his situation to then accepting it all, then back to frustration and then back to accepting. Watching his rapid decline from strong and relatively healthy to then seeing him as a former shadow of himself and slip away from this earth shattered my heart into a million pieces.
Meanwhile, while he was in hospital my business was getting by – just. I was doing the bare minimum. I’d often end up rescheduling clients or postponing sessions. I’d do my best to compensate by writing late at night. Things were scattered and not as planned, methodical or thought out as I would have liked.
With a loved one in hospital, each day it became more and more challenging to focus on work and yet I did my best to throw myself into writing a few sporadic posts and plan out a few projects late at night to distract myself. Most days were spent in the hospital and the deeper we were into Dad’s health challenges and hospital journey the harder it became for me to focus on anything but him. The harder it became for me to set aside my own personal challenges and heartache to focus on helping my clients build their dream life or business. I wanted to help them and support them but my heart was breaking, I felt shattered and exhausted. I felt like I was endlessly rescheduling – thankfully my clients understood. And then I paused my clients, indefinitely after Dad passed away. And I stepped away from the computer.
He was surrounded by so much love when he passed. Everyone had the opportunity to say goodbye and come in and see him. My sisters and I as well as other family members were there by his bed side when he passed on that Tuesday.
I held his hand until well after his last breath. I didn’t want to let go. I knew I eventually had to. But it’s as if I felt that by holding his hand perhaps, just maybe, I could help keep a little bit of life in him. If I held on long enough it would mean that this wasn’t really happening. In the end I didn’t want to let go as I knew it would be the last time I would get to hold his hand and feel his warmth.
I can remember the night before he passed, my sisters, John and I were all with him at the hospital and I think deep down we all knew in some way – but we were hopeful all the same. No one wanted to go to sleep for fear of what might happen – so we took in turns watching over him, yet I don’t think we all got much, if any sleep.
I still continue to replay those final days in my mind. I do wonder – What could I have done better? How could I have made him feel more comfortable? What could I have said or done different?
My sisters have been so strong, amazing and all round incredible during this whole thing. It hit us all extremely hard. Knowing that they are there, makes me feel like I’m not in this alone. We’ve had to talk about hard topics and things that you probably don’t want to discuss when organising someones care and affairs. Through all of it, they have handled everything with love and grace. And have all gone above and beyond.
The immediate weeks following his passing are a blur.
For the longest time I couldn’t remove the last image I have of him out of my mind. Every time I closed my eyes I saw him lying helpless in a hospital bed, gaunt and not really him – it haunted my mind for the longest time. Thinking about it now still makes me uneasy.
Given the last few months of 2015 I thought heading to Europe would be a good opportunity to heal. To reflect. To reset. To unwind. To breathe.
For the first few weeks while in Holland, all I wanted was to go home.
Homesickness hit me hard. I yearned to see my Mum. All I wanted was to be in my bed and be with my family for the festive season. I considered jumping on the next plane, paying whatever I needed in airline change fees and hot stepping it back to Australia so I could be with my family. I’m the youngest of 4 girls. My sisters are from my Dad’s first marriage and my Mum and Dad haven’t been together for a million years. Even though the trip had been planned for a while, I felt like I had let them down by going away.
Being surrounded by my guys family just made me miss my family even more.
Christmas Day arrived, John’s family welcomed a new addition. Being there for this special time was one of the main reasons we had initially planned our trip. It was a happy occasion and beautiful to be a part of. And yet my heart was grappling a mixture of emotion. I was ecstatic that a bouncing baby girl was now part of the family and at the same time, wrecked with the fresh emotion of just loosing my father and spending my first Christmas without him. I was see sawing between the emotions of welcoming one beautiful new life, while mourning the loss of a loved one held dear.
We were all having Christmas Eve dinner when John’s sister began having contractions. We raced to the hospital. John and I wanted so much to be there for the happy occasion, offer our support and share in the joy. And yet when I came face to face with the hospital entrance I froze, when I finally walked in all I could do was pace around to keep myself from breaking down. It was just a bit too much, too soon and brought back a few strong and painful memories. John’s Mum and his sisters partner were there – as well as other family members. So John and I decided to wait it out and visit the beautiful new family when they arrived home.
Grief is a funny thing. It is fluid and ever changing. It is still such a taboo topic and makes some people uneasy. It is something we will more than likely feel at some stage and it is a natural process. The emotions that come up have truly hit me for six. Sadness, anger, disappointment, loss, regret, numbness, emptiness, frustration, a sprinkling of joy, acceptance. Then a new wave hits. Or something happens that reminds me of him. Or I think “Ha I should tell Dad, he would love that – oh wait, I cant.”
I didn’t know it was possible to cry yourself to sleep each night and wake up with tears in your eyes too. But, it is. And I have, each day since that day in November.
I miss him. I miss going to his house – popping in for lunch, pinching a chocolate freckle and a piece of cheese from the fridge, sitting at his kitchen bench having a bread roll together. I miss calling him or him calling me and him saying “Only me, dear”. I miss his joking and jovial ways. I miss being able to give him a hug. I miss talking about travel with him. I miss our chats about spiritual and woo woo stuff every now and again. I miss the way he used to reassuringly squeeze my shoulder/the back of my neck when we were walking along somewhere. I miss his unique and funny reactions to things. I miss how he used to try to tell me how to drive while in the passenger seat. I miss everything about him – the good, the bad and everything in between.
For weeks after he passed away I couldn’t bare to look in the mirror for more than a few minutes. Because, when would I look at my own reflection all I would see are his eyes staring back at me. And the twinge in my heart was just too much to bear when it would sink in, on an even deeper level, that I would never get to look into his actual eyes again.
My eyes are not the only trait that I have inherited from him. My hands, my fair skin, my hair colour and my feet are all physical traits that, to me, remind me of him. Then there’s the way I say certain words with a real Australian twang, or come out with sayings that only he used to say or our shared love of cheese. I’d also like to think that a good sense of fun and the tendency to be a bit of stirrer has been passed down.
I’m still healing. The last few months have been rough. Healing is rough. Whoever said healing is easy… hmm. Him not being around, realising I won’t see him, not being able to call him – it has hit me hard – harder than I thought. This whole ordeal has felt like a bad dream that I am just waiting to wake up from. And then each day when I realise that it in fact wasn’t a dream and it sinks in even deeper.
There was the time that I broke down crying in the car when we were all on the way to John’s sisters house. Then there was the time that I thought I saw Dad at the grocery store and realised it was just someone who looked a little bit like him, and my mind was playing tricks on me.
I know that he has moved on to another part of his journey and though he is not here in the physical sense, I have felt his presence.
I’ve had to find things to make me laugh, to help ease the pain and cope with the loss. To focus on something else. To clear my head.
Amongst all of this I am grateful for the love of a man – John, who by his own admission has never had to deal with anything like this and he is loving me through the pain, the immense loss, the tears and the rollercoaster of emotion that comes with grieving a loved one. In my most unloveable moments – he has been there by my side. Holding me when I need it. Giving me space when I need it. Wiping my tears away. Shielding me from the outside world. Protecting me. Making me laugh.
Great things happened while were in Europe – and it’s Europe, so it was beautiful. Yet the mood was certainly different this time round. The purpose wasn’t as carefree. The purpose seemed to be to heal.
And then, amongst it all, while we were in Copenhagen on a weekend away John proposed. I was surprised at the timing. I was wading through loss and pain still, so I wasn’t really expecting it. It was beautiful and he told me how he had wanted to ask me to marry him for so long, but each time he planned it something else came up and that the events of late had taught him not to put it off any longer and that life is short.
Beautiful things have happened and life has continued.
Now, we are back in Perth. A new chapter has begun. While I’m looking forward to the future with the love of my life a new healing journey has also begun. It hits me in spurts. Realising that our routine visits to see Dad when I drop off/pick up John at the airport – can’t occur. I can’t pick up the phone to see if he wants to have lunch. I can’t pop in sporadically just to say ‘hi’. In the last few days I have driven by the exit I normally would take to visit him and each time tears begin to stream down my face, as I’ve had to consciously force myself not to turn off on his old exit – “He’s not there anymore” I have to tell myself.
They say that life goes on and to me that is the saddest part and yet beautiful at the same time. I’ve asked myself: how do you get over the pain? How do you move on? How do you continue? How do you breathe again? When will the pain ease?
In honest reflection I don’t think you ever ‘get over it’ as such a great loss changes you. There are moments, days where I feel depleted and deflated. The pain has floored me, I feel broken and I wonder at what point it will become bearable. I feel you simply learn to cope with it and learn to deal. I feel that the pain and ache of losing someone never quite disappears.
Lately, I’ve felt like if anyone looked at me too closely they would see that I’m still not okay. That if they really looked at me, tears would come bubbling up to the surface at any moment. I feel empty and yet at the same time I feel too full. Too full of memories, fears, hope, love and anger. I feel my heart is full of emotion and yet there is this big, vast emptiness.
This whole experience has literally and emotionally brought me to my knees. And all I can do to really “get through this” is remind myself that I need to choose to remember the good times. I want to remember how he lived. How cheeky, charismatic, likeable and fun he was. To get through the stormy rough patches all I can really do is be grateful. And appreciate the beauty in everyday life and what a wonderful joy it is to be simply be alive. To choose to see the beauty that surrounds me. To choose to be grateful for the love in my life. To choose to be grateful for the time I had, for right now and for what lies ahead. Because, there is so much to be grateful for.
“It has never failed that when I have been through the most heart-breaking passages of my life — betrayal, financial hardship, divorce, dreams dashed — the pain brought me to the floor of my being, and what was there to be found?: The simple joy of being alive. So cosmically basic it’s mind-blowing: the joy to be here, connected, animated, breathing, blessed, resilient, to be broken, to be open, to have what was, what’s left, what’s coming. The joy just to be part of reality.” – Danielle La Porte
It is ever so apparent that life is extremely fleeting.
This whole set of circumstances is teaching me to not sweat the small things that I used to. Some things, are just are not worth worrying about when, life will happen as it does anyway.
This whole set of circumstances has put so much into perspective and things that used to matter, simply don’t.
It’s made me truly see what is important and what is just secondary fluff stuff. Life is so eff-ing short and if I want something I will find a way. Period. My tolerance for certain things and behaviours has changed. I wont put up with things that I did before. It has cracked me wide open, it has made me see who I really am, who I want to be. It has changed me.
Right now, I am being extremely gentle with myself.
It is okay to feel. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be gentle with yourself and take one day at a time.
Before this, I had no idea the gravity, depth and labyrinth of emotion that entangle you when you loose someone you love. I have good days and then not so good days. There’s not a moment that goes by where he is not on my mind.
I often thought about putting pen to paper or tapping away at the keys but I didn’t know where to start. The swirl of emotion that 3 incredibly life changing moments has been something else – and to happen in the space of 3 months, consecutively? I wanted to give myself space and time to process and come to terms. Which frankly think I still am processing.
I am easing myself back into working with clients, easing myself back into writing, easing myself back into things in general. I am grateful that I have a life and a business that has allowed me to take some time out and now ease back into things.
2015 was a year that rocked me. That challenged me. Changed me. And things did not pan out like I expected at all. The events that unfolded have forever changed me. The events that transpired in 2015 have become woven into the fabric of my story.
2016 is a new chapter.
When we exit this earthly plane all of that stuff we’ve been working for — success, fame, money, a nice house/car or whatever — is gone.
It’s all totally meaningless.
The only thing that will remain is love.
How many people have you loved? How many lives have you touched? How much good have you done?
I share all of this in the hope that if you are going through something similar that you are not alone. And sincerely thank you if you have made it this far.
As each new day begins all I feel I can do is lean into the experiences in life with all I have. Go out and do the good that I can in the world, do my best to live my life on purpose and on my terms, because life is precious.
I feel all of this is calling me to step up. It has been the most painful awakening, but I vow to turn this negative into a positive.
The best thing I can do is to go out and do the things I want with my life no excuses. Is to make my life a masterpiece and design it how I choose. It is to not make this an excuse but to make this a reason.
The best thing is to love and be love with my whole being. To not close off.
Life is a gift and it is so incredibly fleeting.
And this is the only one I have.