I know this will resonate with parents who have felt loss. I know I will find others who grieve decades later. I know there’s many who question if it’s ‘normal.’ The answer is yes, especially childhood grief. Feel it, feel it all.
I was 13 when I held his hand. It was cold, he was nearly there. He had a few more steps to climb before his role of Daddy became a whole lot different to the majority of my peers. My daddy wouldn’t be seen anymore. He’d become my angel. His hand in this world left mine for the last time. I often wish I’d chosen that exact moment to leave him. Instead I chose to visit one last time – to this day, I wish I hadn’t. An image so frequently I try to ‘delete’.
Last night I had been engulfed with grief. It happens. Far less frequently but far more frequently since I became a mother. The smallest thing can trigger it. A lack of sleep, a movie, a sentence or a familiar place. Loss like this stays. The feelings, the sadness and the fear. It’s never an option to forget those moments, it’s a journey of living side by side with them, accepting them and allowing those lessons to guide you down paths that others wouldn’t walk. Pain has this unexplainable way of bringing joy, gratitude and strength like no other. If you choose to trust it, to walk forward with it until it turns into something else.
Since my decision to cut alcohol completely out my life and remove myself from ‘triggers’, my diagnoses with PTSD has become a little more distant in my mind. I’ve started to become accustomed to the idea that maybe I soon will be the person telling my story of how I overcame my illness, of how I rid myself of those four letters and began to live a life entirely in the present.
I speak often of stepping back in order to move forward and I feel last night was another step in the right direction. I needed to grieve. I find the more progress I make, the harder my falls become. So last night was tough. I find I grieve more for the child I was than the adult I am. I grieve for her, the little girl so very lost and alone.
This is part of my healing. My counsellor encourages these emotions and urges me to feel them. My inner child needs to be heard for all the years she sat in silence. Now I’m listening. I’m all ears and I’m sharing her story. She’s being heard and she’s helping thousands in the process. Her story counts.
Late into my teenage years I finally took comfort knowing my dad was there, he is. I just had to be open to the possibility that life would get better, that I wasn’t alone. I know he’s in the driving seat of wherever it is that guides life’s energies. He’s been given the gift to pull strings that I cannot. When my husband is absent, he’s the person protecting our front door. When my youngest carries a feather and holds it with such adoration, he’s close. When we are showered with happiness enjoying the world from the outside there he is – a robin, a butterfly, a ray of sunshine amongst it all. I have absolutely no doubt that all the ‘ wonderful’ in our lives in some way, has been helped along by his presence and guidance. Miracles happen to us because we believe. It took me time but I do, I believe it happened just as it should.
The thing is, I had these gut wrenching feelings.
“I am not ready to be that feather.”
The last few days I have been conflicted with the damages that manifested after our childhood tragedy. Stepping in the direction of the present involves awakening demons of my own from a life that encompassed so much sadness. Whilst I can hammer into my head that I am safe, that I am OK. The next step for me is to rationalize my worry of this happening to my own children. What if I were not here? What if they were forced into a world of devastation and I was not there to see them through it, to save them? I know what pain is out there, I don’t want this for them.
For the darkest parts of my life, I could not feel my father guide me, in my head he was not there on those dark nights – he left me alone. He was not there to save me. Now, I know he was. I know in some way, for whatever reason – I was meant to walk that path. As ugly as it was, it was mine. It was part of my story, it is part of me. It is not perfect. The most beautiful things in this world are beautiful for their imperfections and so, I am slowly accepting that maybe I not broken, maybe that was the foundations of making me the person I am now. A person I respect and have come to love. Now I am whole. I am in a life I created with love but also pain and heartache. The recipe of life, it led us here.
My thought process last night had me thinking about my girls growing.
I want to feel those joys, I want to be there for every single first and every moment after. I feel my fathers loss because I watch what he could have held. My hand down that aisle, cradleing his granddaughters and embracing this wonderful family we’ve created. He missed so much. Or did he?
“I am not ready to be that robin.”
This new story of mine that unfolded after months of counseling that I am only yet coming to terms with, has posed this whole new meaning of motherhood for me. I cannot fathom the thought of my baby girls being near any of the things I felt and witnessed. They do not deserve the childhood I had, they cannot have the childhood I had. I was irrationally petrified for them last night.
I am conflicted constantly between my father being here and not being here. I am conflicted between the reality of our beautiful lives and the knowing of how dark it could be. I am conflicted with the security we have and the knowledge of how quickly we can loose it. Too often it prevents me from living right here, right now. I live between gratitude and overpowering emotions of the fear of loss. I snap in and I snap out but I am learning every day to change this.
Their first breath, their first smile, their first coo, their first laugh. Their first steps, their first words, their first swim. Their first day of school, their first taste of snow and first step in sand. The morning cuddles, the afternoon naps and the bedtime stories. First shoes, first big bed, first bike. I have been there, as was my father. He still is. On my good days, most days, I believe that. That’s where I find peace.
“I am not ready to be that ray of light.”
I rationalize my fear like I did last night by focusing on what’s real. What is right now and what is stood right in front of me. A happy, healthy, beautiful family. A husband, two beautiful children and financial security. Houses, cars, ambitions, dreams and adventures. Beautiful memories, a thousand cuddles and a thousand more. I am here and that is all mine. Yes, I could loose this but that is life. Life needs to be lived. Today I am alive, today I have the life my inner child dreamed of having and somewhere, in a series of miracles. It came true. I trusted pain. Today I must focus on that, on this. Where my story has led me.
Like my own father’s love. Just how I feel it, every day. I know that no matter what holds me back, no matter if I am disallowed a body to stand by my little girls side, to hold them close and guide their hand. My love will find them. It will find them in the soft touch of a feather. It will find them in the ray of light that touches their smile and I will fly over oceans to wherever they choose to go with borrowed wings. Although maybe one day my arms may not be there to meet with theirs and my eyes may not glisten to look towards them – the sunshine will, another love will. My love will be amongst all the love they find after me. In their children, in their soulmate’s, in their friendships and in their lives. My love will be right there.
My peace is making sure they know that. That’s how I extinguish this fear.
The world is bigger than what we see with our eyes and although right now I am not ready to be that feather, I know – when that time comes. I’ll always find a way to be there. Finding spirituality in some form, finding some sense of comfort in the ‘what if’s’ is what helps to find a present form of contentment. This is mine.
Fear of loss is not a failure to express gratitude for the present. It is real, it as a strong and powerful wave of emotions that so many of us feel. No matter how bright and wonderful our present lives are, for some, a past loss or trauma can walk along with us for so very long. It’s our responsibility to feel it, to accept the emotions, talk through them and then hit the ‘play’ button again. Find those strengths gifted through falling and use them like an army of skilled craftsmen and build a life worth living.
We cannot predict tomorrow but we can live for today and envision a life outwith our own with the power to touch what we cannot see. We can find our own contentment in whatever form that is, usually discovered by speaking your truth.
This is mine.
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