My dad died when I was twenty three. It messed me up. Emotions came and went with such power and velocity that I did not know where I was.I could not understand the turbulence within me. And it struck like lightening, seemingly at will. There was no steady ground.
I remember nights of sobbing. Why did he have to die? How could he do that to me?
The pain was unbearable and no doubt made worse because my dad had felt like a stranger to me. His alcohol induced world was built to protect him, and to shut others out.
Grief effects everyone
The power of grief does not evade me now. Most weeks I meet people locked into their grief, especially at work. Their loved one has left them and they cannot reconcile their grief with getting on with life.
They begin to look inwards. Their motivation dwindles. And depression sets in.
I was lucky. Lucky in a way. Because I went on a silent retreat. And I began to write to my dad.
‘Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.’
It started with “I hate you”. That simple fact.
I wrote honestly and voraciously. I could not and would not stop. Tears streamed down my face. I felt worn out, battered, at times unable to face another day.
Dealing with Grief is the doorway to a beautiful message
And then it came. The words, “I love you!”. The words, “I know that you didn’t want to die!”.
The understanding that my dad was the way he was because of the conditions that made him that way. That in essence he had no choice. That he was doing his best in a messed up world.
A huge calm came over me.
‘I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’
Suddenly my dad was no longer estranged. I was part of him and he was part of me. The separation so obvious in life had now vanished.
Only love remained.
Grief presents an incredible opportunity
Some people are locked into grief and they cannot see a way out. But grief presents us with an invaluable opportunity. Through grief we can come to truly know the person who has left us behind.
But to do that we have to face our pain.
Many get through grief by focussing on work, by hitting the bottle, by entering another relationship. This I can understand.
But they can miss this doorway for healing.
‘Every angel is terrifying.’
Grief is not an accident. Grief is not something ‘bad’ to be avoided. Grief is an angel in wrathful form.
Dare we sit with it and see what treasures it might bring?
(Please feel free to leave any thoughts this article elicits in the comments below. I’d love to know about your experience of dealing with grief. What worked for you?)