Friday, September 30, 2016

Losing Dad: Part 2

Since my last post, my grandpa passed away.  I received word right before I went to a women's weekend retreat.  In the last five months, I have lost my uncle, dad, and grandfather.  I spent the time at the church serving, praying, and socializing.  Oh, and I cried a few times.  I think, out of all of the weekend, the praying and being close to my heavenly father helped a great deal.  All the "churchy" things, like group prayer and mass, talked about love and coming to peace.  Now, I am sure that I will struggle over the next months and the rest of my life, but I am strong at the moment.  Granted, I am going home this weekend and may face more tears.  I will continue to drive forward, not by avoiding grief, but by acknowledging the process.

The book I read about being an orphaned adult that I discussed in my last post talked about how "Death has been sanitized and institutionalized," page 11.  Our culture no longer takes care of the body.  All preparations are done by the funeral home.  Now, I don't know which is better, but I do know that the world expects those of us in mourning to be done with it once we leave the funeral.  We have to go back to work and get on with life.  Many people have no guidance how to proceed with the world.  They try to block the pain away.

Dad's well used library card.
"No one can help you to get 'over it (grief).' You don't need to.  Grief is something you get through, and if you let it get through you as well, you will eventually find that you have enough room in yourself to contain it.  …you will find that you are able to face, and conduct, your life in a new way," page 28.  I find comfort in knowing I will always grieve for my dad.  This might sound odd.  Who wants to grieve forever?  But how can I not?  I will always miss him.  In the missing, I will continue to grieve and that is natural.  Now, I don't plan on crying and being depressed the rest of my life.  But it is perfectly normal to acknowledge the loss.  My new life is a life without my dad.

If I didn't look at my loss this way, in essence, I would be avoiding grief.  That is not healthy.  We have to grieve to get on with living.  But how do you get back to living?  The book helped.  I found while in the deepest part of my grief, I had a hard time getting anything done.  I was faced with a weekend retreat that I needed to prepare for as one of the workers.
  How did I get it done?  I kept my jobs small and simple.  Originally, I wanted to do a lot of fun creative things for all the women.  This was close to impossible.  So, I did simple little projects to begin with.  As I finished each one, my mind cleared up and I was able to do some more complicated work.  Once the weekend arrived, I finally had my creativeness back and could work with more complicated concepts and enjoyed myself immensely.  Now, I am starting to garden again.  I am keeping it simple and doing one small thing at a time.  I don't know if I will get everything done by the time the snow flies, but it is better then avoiding it all until spring.

My dad loved to fish.  Here is my gifted metal fish from dear friends.  It is right outside my writing window.
Another way to help get through, not over, grief is to have a support system.  I am so very blessed in this area.  An older couple traveled all the way to my hometown to attend my dad's funeral to support me and my daughter.  Another friend brought dinner, cookies, and a metal fish for a lawn ornament in my garden to remind me of dad.  I received cards, messages, and hugs.  One dear friend walks with me and listens.  At my retreat, I received a downpour of love, laughter, and normalcy.  One friend spoke about the death of her father.  Yes, I cried, but I also healed a little more.  Best of all, I have a sister, children, and husband who are always by my side when I need extra support.  Oh, and the project for the weekend retreat?  Two dear friends helped me work on that as well.  I am truly blessed.

Health is another area to remember when walls crumble due to loss.  Though I haven't made it out to the mountains to hike, I have walked almost daily.  My dog and dear friend make sure I get fresh air a good six days out of the week.  I have tried to eat my veggies more.  I didn't skip my dental or doctor appointments.  I advocated for a new med for my rheumatoid arthritis.  I am even thinking of walking more and trying to lose a little weight.  Of course, these are tough areas for me in the best of circumstances, but I am feeling better, so maybe.

The book talks about taking a break through rest, recreation, and distraction.  I am pretty good at this, though I do get impatient after a long period of not being productive in my chores.  When my health declined in 2008, I learned to take breaks by resting.  I either read or watch a little television.  When I am in pain from the arthritis, I distract myself with music and fun little tasks that keep my mind preoccupied by playing with paint and words.  Since I lost my words during the extreme grief, scrapbooking helped to distract me.  I am becoming an old pro at this method.

Prayer has always helped me through life struggles, so this was also an easy part of swimming through the grief process.  God has helped me through my husband's deployment, my daughter's illness, my health issues, and a number of other struggles through life.  My faith keeps me strong and helps me persevere.

I am a project person.  When each of my boys left for college, I redecorated a room in our house to keep me distracted from the loss, so when my father died, I knew I would have to do something creative in his honor.  As I read through the book, when they mentioned memorials, I chuckled.  A garden idea had already been developing in my mind.  On Monday, I broke ground to make a memorial garden for the loss of 2016.  I am going to plant a tree, peonies, and rhubarb.  Next spring, I will continue with the design.  The garden will be at the edge of our lawn facing my writing window.  I want to get more metal fish for the garden, but the original fish from my friend will stay in the garden next to my window.  I like looking out at it as I work. 

Our new sugar maple for my garden for Dad.
Though I miss my dad and will grieve for him always, I am feeling very strong this week.  His picture, with the James Dean pose, hangs on my wall.  The tree is freshly planted.  I chose a sugar maple.  I can watch the wind blow the leaves through my writing room window.  Dad's library card sits on my desk.  He is with me, and I still feel his love.

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