October 18 marked the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. I approached this date with a lot of anxiety (about falling into a dark depressive state), nervousness (could I make it through the day in one piece?), and wonder (how the hell has it already been a year?!). Unless you’re a part of this unfortunate club, it is hard to put into words how one anticipates the anniversary of their parent’s passing. What do you do? Should you celebrate their life? Should you curl into a ball in your bed, pull the covers over your head and desperately plead for the world to go away? Or, do you get up, get ready, and try to live the day as ‘normal’ as possible? I opted to do a combination of these three.
Leading up to the 18th, I went through a depressive episode. I don’t mean a single day, I mean, for two weeks I was not ‘myself’. Perhaps some of you can relate. Old traits came back; not being able to get out of bed, even though I had slept. Needing to have a nap, even though I had a 9 hour sleep. I stopped running and on the few times I did run, my legs felt like sandbags. My nerve-endings felt like they were outside of my skin and every little motion, thought, word or action brushed against me with the subtly of stubbing your toe into a table leg. The difference this time was that I recognized what was happening. Before, I would have pushed through and ignored the thoughts and physical symptoms. Now, I stopped to breathe, took a minute to be kind to myself, and I gave myself permission to feel these things and worked through it. Look at me, learning how to work through my depressive episodes – success!
This year has been a tremendous year of growth, change and reflection. You can’t lose a parent and NOT have it change you. Things that seemed important no longer held a strong hold over me. I have learned to have difficult conversations, which lead to healing and allowed me to start this new chapter. This year was the start of my new chapter and I’d like to share some of my ‘lessons learned’:
- Grief changes you forever. Although the rawness is going away, the intensity of missing dad hasn’t changed. I have forever been changed by my grief. My grief has forced me to look at my past, present, and future with a new found appreciation for my life and what/who is in it. My relationships with friends and family have a new level of love and respect. Those who have been in the trenches with me (you know who you are) will forever be my ride-or-dies. I try and bring intention and love into every conversation that I have. Grief changes you, and I am fortunate that it has changed me for the better.
- Why do I have so much stuff? As you’ve read in previous posts, we have spent this year examining the material items in our home. Why the eff do we have SO MUCH STUFF?! Since getting rid of boxes and bags of stuff, I feel lighter and not as stressed. I look into my closet and see clothes that fit properly and make me feel good. I guess the theme for this year could be ‘living with intention’ and I am making a valiant effort to bring intention to my purchases.
- Death makes people super uncomfortable. I know my friends and family love me. However, death makes ALL of us super-duper uncomfortable. When I’ve gone to a party or social gathering, people sometimes look at me like a delicate vase, that if they say the wrong thing I will break. If I didn’t want to talk about my dad’s death, I wouldn’t have gone to the event. In that moment, I am strong and have courage to speak about him and how I am doing. When I feel vulnerable and scared, that is when I’ll decline and stay home, safe on my couch, in sweatpants, watching Netflix. So, if you haven’t seen much of me this year, that’s why. Big group gatherings make me feel really vulnerable and I prefer smaller group settings. Which leads me to my next point…
- I am an introvert. This one surprised me. I figured this out during a rather intense therapy session, when my therapist pointed out that, in fact, I am an introvert. Most of my life I had been labelled an extrovert, but I always felt so conflicted. If I was an extrovert, why did parties make me so anxious? If I was an extrovert, why could I stay home for the weekend and not feel bad about it? I love talking and presenting to people, which most people assume only extroverts can do. Surprise! Us introverts can do that too! Since realizing this, I have found peace with these conflicting feelings and have been much happier.
- I am my fathers daughter. If you knew my dad, you knew he was an academic, a dreamer, a lover of food and drink, adored his family, and loved God. He lived a life which wasn’t dictated by ‘should’ and others’ definition of success. Yes, he could be selfish and short-tempered. Yes, he could be curt and had little time for incompetence. However, he made you believe in yourself. He made you believe that with hard work, faith and focus, you could do anything. On October 18, 2016, I lost my biggest cheerleader. Whether it was dealing with a toddler temper-tantrum or deciding to change career paths, dad always cheered me on. If I was frustrated and ready to give up, he always knew a way to calm me down and put on my game face. Throughout this year, I found out that I am more like him than not. I have learned to become a dreamer and make a life not based on ‘should’ but what brings me happiness and fulfillment. I have learned that family is precious, and it doesn’t necessarily mean blood-related. Friends, who stay with you through the darkness, quickly become your family.
I learned a lot this year. I have grown and matured in ways I never thought possible. This blog and the outpouring of comments from you, has helped me voice my thoughts and feelings in a way I never thought possible. Thank YOU, dear reader, for continuing to engage and follow us. I have had so many incredible conversations with people who have read this blog. Thank you – those interactions mean more than you’ll ever know.