In my last post, I shared my thoughts on my Father’s life and death. His physical existence ended more than five weeks ago.
Many of you may have wondered about my experience which wasn’t so much about grief. What I shared here was more about reflecting his difficult life, our often challenging relationship, and the specific experience to be with him when he was in transition over the rainbow bridge.
The forgiveness work was very important for me to set myself free. Ultimately, it was also important to my Father, to set him free. As soon as this underlying negative energy that came from past negative actions stopped to exist between us, things changed for the better. Rapidly. It was only in the last few years that I have found my peace with him. And as far as I could observe him, he had finally come to a state of peace as well. After all, I was simply happy for him that his physical suffering has finally come to an end.
Giving this background, why should I be in grief all the time, processing rituals people expect me to do? Rituals such as wearing black, sitting at my Mother’s house each and every day, going to the cemetery, or stop working for some time never felt right for me.
As in many other cases, I have my way to deal with certain situations and experiences. I’m still not in the expected phase of grief, even if I am a very sensitive and vulnerable person. And I won’t get there. I don’t wear black all the time, just when I want to wear black as before. I didn’t stop working, and I’m not sitting each and every day at my Mother’s house. And finally, I never was, and I never will become a cemetery person. I don’t need to go to the cemetery to be in touch with his soul. All of that made me very quickly the “certified bad daughter”. In the opinion of my Mother’s neighbours and her broader social environment. My Mother never had a problem with that, but her environment projected that on her, and therefore back to me.
I could easily say “not my cup of tea” and move on. On the one hand, this is true, but it’s also too simple to me. Instead, I want to use this blog post to write about misconceptions so many people have about death (and therefore about life as both belong together).
My Father would want me to do my work and to live my life
I haven’t got a lot from my Father regarding my personality type, but a few attributes are for sure from him: discipline, staying power and a strong focus on work. Even if our perception about work was different (for him it was a duty and something to make a living; and for me work has to be meaningful, creative, and connected to a bigger vision and goal), he wouldn’t have expected me to sit somewhere, grief about his death and follow other people’s expectations.
My Father suffered from two heart attacks. One happened in his 70s, the other one in his 80s. When it happened the first time, he was still working in his engineering office and told my Mother to postpone all his meetings to the following week. Yes. No joke. That was my Father’s perspective, his extreme capability to neglect his body’s reality. I worked together with his cardiologist to convince him to go to a rehab for a couple of weeks. The doctor’s instructions were the only way to get him convinced to do so. And it worked. The first time in his life that he has taken three weeks only for himself.
The next heart attack happened in his 80s. I was at a meeting in Frankfurt, more than two hours away. When I got the information, I left the meeting, drove immediately to the hospital, where he was in intensive care. Can you imagine what he said to me when I arrived there? “Why aren’t you at work? I’m fine.” It rarely happens that I don’t know what to say. That was one of those situations. I guess that explains a lot …
Those and other death situations
When my older brother was killed in a car accident four years ago, that was a totally different situation. It was unexpected, he was only in his 50s, and he left his wife and two children behind. Furthermore, our brother/sister relationship was never an easy one, and the challenges we had for many years were not solved. There was always something more important to do. For me. And for him. I simply didn’t care. And he didn’t care. Probably for the same reasons. So, his death happened all of a sudden, and it forced me to question a lot. I was rethinking my relationships, not only this one. I wanted to get clarity in the very few relationships that were really important to me. I never wanted to get in such a situation again, with lots of unsolved issues brushed under the carpet. Just because of laziness. Just because of “being busy” or other excuses that are no longer acceptable for me. What I missed while he was alive, that’s what I had to work on after his death. Because nothing ever goes away until we learn what we have to learn.
The situation is very different in an expected death situation, especially when illnesses and suffering were involved over a longer period. If so, death doesn’t come unexpectedly. For the person passing away, death often comes as a release. Death knocks several times at the door to make us aware of getting things solved and healed, for those passing away and for those remaining here in this life. In my Father’s situation, death knocked at the door with both heart attacks, several pneumonia infections, a broken shoulder and a couple of broken ribs over the last ten years.
Enough trigger moments indeed, to show me that each and every moment can only be lived once. No moment can ever be repeated. Moments cannot be taken somewhere. Moments cannot be “saved” or “filed”. There are moments, and there are memories. Only our memories can help us to remember those moments. Understanding this simple truth, means to understand that every moment of our life is irrevocable. And that’s exactly the character of death. Death is irrevocable. Definite. Final. As each and every moment of our life. So, life and death are not so far away from each other…
But aren’t you very sad and don’t you miss your Father?
Yes and no. The sadness occurred along the process I went through, in many iterations. This process of forgiveness and letting things go lasted a few years and specifically the months from August to his death early in November. I experienced that in a very conscious way, I wanted to make sure that I don’t brush upcoming emotions and happenings just under another carpet. I observed myself carefully and precisely what was going on with me, in different iterations. This process came to an end with his death, November 4th. This is maybe what’s difficult for many people to understand.
I experienced that my writing creativity was gone, down to zero when he passed away. I was feeling empty and tired. Not sad. A long process came to an end with no return. This emptiness lasted a few weeks, and the actual breakthrough was writing my recent blog post about his life and death. An inner voice told me to write about it. Once I did that, my writing creativity was back. Interestingly, my peaceful soul food creativity did not stop. Instead, I was very creative in this area. Maybe it was just as a reminder to keep me healthy and peaceful – with Peaceful Soulfood.
My Father left this physical existence. That’s the ultimate part of it, of a cycle, not of a start and end point as we often think in the Western world. Thinking in cycles resonates much more with my soul. His soul is somewhere in the universe, hopefully, reunited with his beloved dogs, without physical pain and suffering, in freedom. That’s my wish for him.
“The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die in us while we live.”
– Native American proverb
I also learned during this process that so many little things we often find disturbing or annoying about other people become irrelevant. Completely irrelevant. Facing existential questions between life and death, many “problems” are no longer “problems”. In fact, what we find annoying about others, is often something that has a lot to do with ourselves. It’s just a trigger the universe shows us, to solve it in our own garden. A good reminder to practice patience, with ourselves, and with others.
Most of the time we miss context to really understand what’s going on in another soul. Just look at this story. So, don’t judge people you love. Simply love them, with no attachments.
And love yourself. And be patient with yourself.