My dad died on my 46th birthday. You might think this would be traumatic or highly emotional or even a big bummer. But it was none of these things. From the outside looking in, you would think I didn’t care.
He and I weren’t close … I grew up thinking he liked my sisters better than me. I may have imagined his partiality to my sisters but still, there was a disconnect.
When he passed away, I wasn’t distraught. I wasn’t emotional. I’m not sure I ever cried about it. I know, that's so heartless ... not quite as bad as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada but almost.
Something most people don’t understand is, when you’ve buried your child, the pain of burying your 78 year old father feels ordinary by comparison. I know, heartless.
But I’ve gained so much perspective about my dad since he died in 2015.
I wrote about my first bit of healing and traction in this blog post (circa November 2016).
Then in 2020 I made a giant leap!
While earning my certification as a grief specialist, I worked through the entire relationship. I had no idea how much pain was still inside me until, during the training, it ALL came out.
I chose to work on the relationship with my dad because I thought it would be easier than talking about the death of my baby Jackson. And I thought I stood a good chance of not breaking down crying in front of the whole group … wrongo .
I started crying in the first 30 minutes on the 1st day during the “go around the room and tell us your name and what loss (losses) brought you here.”
You may not know this about me but I’m not a crier, at ALL, and “I DON’T DO VULNERABLE” (in the words of Brene Brown - The Power of Vulnerability).
Over the course of the next 3 days I allowed myself to be vulnerable, to share my story and my pain, and cry. And it changed my life forever.
The experience of resolving and reconciling a lifetime of losses and specifically my relationship with my dad … I can’t sufficiently explain it.
My best attempt to summarize is this:
I said all the unsaid things (like “I wasn’t fair to you when _____ and I apologize” or “you hurt me when ____ and I forgive you”)
I addressed the unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations
I let go of ALL the pain without letting go of my connection with my dad
Before this magical experience, I lived under the tremendous weight of conflicting feelings and a mish-mash of happy and unhappy memories forever intertwined and circling in my brain.
Afterwards, I felt almost giddy. The conflicting feelings were gone. The walls I unknowingly and unintentionally erected came down. The PAIN was gone. The only things left were the happy memories and the LOVE.
Now when I drive by my dad’s house (around the corner from my house ), I imagine him sitting in his favorite metal bouncing chair on the faded red brick patio or watering the grass wearing his black Jack Daniels swim trunks and I feel no resentment, no bitterness, no confusion. I smile and my heart remembers and feels only love.
You may be wondering, “WHY are you telling me about your dad Jennifer and trying to make me cry?” It’s what came up for me today. And I felt like sharing it with you.
Also, maybe, if you have lingering pain/grief over lost relationships, this story will give you a renewed sense of hope.
Maybe it will even motivate you … to take the next step forward on your life after loss journey.
I hope so. It’s my birthday wish for you