Saturday, February 25, 2012

One Way to Keep Living After the Death of Someone You Love

Living Life After the Loss of a Loved One © Katrena
The news of my father's sudden death just a few days before Father's Day due to an automobile accident left me numb for weeks and even months. My dad had been my soft place to land. He was the kind of person with whom I could spend the afternoon working side-by-side without talking and yet somehow feel as if we had connected and had the best of conversations. I loved my dad. And I still miss him terribly. I still get a huge knot in my stomach whenever I see road construction signs. So how could I pick up the pieces and go on?

Honor a Loved One's Memory © Katrena
First, I want to be honest and say that I don't have all the answers and I don't think there is any one easy answer. Grief is a process that can take a long time, yet it is highly individualized. Studying the stages of grief is not the same thing as living them. Some days may be better than others. An anniversary date, a word, sight, sound, or even aroma might suddenly bring memories flooding back even years after the loss of a loved one, even when you think you are done crying. Most people want to remember a loved one who has died but many find it painful to pick up the pieces and continue to trudge forward through life.

How to Grieve After a Loved One's Passing © Katrena
The year I lost my dad was one of those years that brought one incredibly tough challenge after another for me. Big stresses. Huge losses. Silent suffering. Even when I tried to be positive, I would often wake up in the morning and look around me thinking, well, what is going to go wrong today? I didn't want a crystal ball because I was sure that whatever the future held would only deepen my pain. I didn't find much comfort in learning about how other people had made it through grief because they were talking about it after the fact. I knew that my life would forever be changed, but could I enjoy living again?

Enjoying Life One Day at a Time © Katrena
That first February after my father's death brought me to a realization, but in a way I never expected. I had finally decided to take down the Christmas tree. The one that I had forced myself to put up a very short time before the holiday only because the kids had begged. I had dreaded putting it up, but not like I dreaded taking it down again. Yet it was February and I knew the project was long overdue...but then came the snow.

Loving Father and Grandfather © Katrena
My daughters sent up a shout and a flurry of activity ensued as they began to don their winter gear with smiles on their faces and feet that were moving so fast I had a hard time catching them to put them inside the boots. I halfheartedly sent them out the door, still determined to dutifully place the Christmas decorations in their boxes despite their pleas for me to join them. As I stood in the basement, I looked around, wishing that I had a magic wand that would put away the decorations and repair my heart with one simple twist of the wrist.

Celebrating Holidays © Katrena
Instead, a thought came to my mind. My grandfather, Dad's father, died when I was a very small child. Dad was young with a wife and four small children to support at the time. Yet he worked and saved enough to put all of us kids through college. He took me fishing, drove me to high school, took the family on vacations every summer, played the piano with me, and simply said "those things happen" after I wrecked the Firebird. Our family celebrated holidays, birthdays, thunderstorms, and sunsets...all after the death of Dad's father. That was a great gift from my father to me and I had taken much of it for granted.

Dad Grilling and Spending Time With Family © Katrena
I guess some sacrifices are never really noticed until you are looking through life's rearview mirror. At that moment I knew what I needed to do, what I must do. Suddenly, the urgency of putting up the Christmas decorations faded as I put on my hat, coat, and boots, walked outside, and simply played in the snow with my daughters. After all, snow doesn't last forever, and neither does childhood.

Healing After a Loss © Katrena
It was a small step forward, but I realize that even if I slip and fall right on my face, I have still moved forward in this process called life. I can honor my dad by trying to be a loving, caring, gracious mother. I hope that my kids will be able to look back on these years with fondness in their hearts. Perhaps I can even learn how to be a soft place to land. No, I don't get it right every day, but I can learn from my mistakes and move on. I can give myself permission to be human even on those days in which I wish I were perfect but failed miserably.

Finding the Sun Past the Clouds © Katrena
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, perhaps you too may find something to give to others that may continue that person's legacy. It doesn't have to be fancy or full of fanfare. Simply giving of one's time and talents may help the healing to begin and perhaps bless the lives of those around you.

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