4 Lessons I Learned From My Father’s Death
How grieving helps us get closer to who we really are & practical things to do if you’re grieving
The death of our parents.
It’s so universal and yet so bloody painful.
I push the thoughts away.
I don’t have a clue how to deal with the suffocating tightness in my chest that has no exit.
I don’t want to move. I freeze. My fists clench, my throat constricts. I want to scream but I can’t because he can’t hear me.
My father can’t hear me.
I don’t know how I’m going to move forward.
Because moving forward in a world where he doesn’t exist is unthinkable.
Because everything I knew up until this point is a world in which my father lived.
And now that he is not here I don’t know how to live anymore. I don’t know who I am anymore.
“Grief is a process by which one relearns his/her world, a world that has been permanently altered by the death(s) of significant persons in one’s life.”
~ Thomas Attig
I’m relearning how to live in a world that is foreign to me. A world without my father in it.
Everything is really the same. And yet it is permanently altered.
I am permanently altered.
The pain is unbearable and yet somehow I bear it.
Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour… I breathe. One breath after another.
How are we even able to feel something this painful? How are human beings so resilient? How do so many of us survive and even thrive after a tragedy?
The pain seems unbearable and yet we are still here. Breathing. Surviving.
We are the best representatives of those who came before us. We all carry the survival gene. Evolution has prepared us for this.
We know how to grieve.
The heart knows.
The body knows.
The nervous system knows…
The only way through grief is “through” it. Not around it, not away from it, but “through” it.
If we try to suppress it, avoid it or deny it, it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass.
Years of suppressed frozen tension will come out at the most unexpected, unwanted time.
So, our job is to move through grief no matter how painful it might be at this moment.
But everyone grieves differently.
For me, taking time off work to rest and recover was the best thing I could do.
Taking the time off to be with the loss.
At first, it was intolerable. I distracted myself during the day with chores and children but I knew it was coming…
The dark night.
The loneliness of this new, permanently altered world.
The minute my head hit the pillow, tears started pouring. The horrible reality hit me. The mornings were even harder because, after I managed to get three hours of solid sleep, I would wake up and it would hit me again:
He’s no longer here.
I can’t call him, I can’t text him, I can’t hear his voice.
And yet, I can see his name in my contact list and I can read our messages from a few days ago.
Here one day — gone another.
He left me without any warning, without any tools to deal with this enormous burden, this pain.
I have become parentless. So soon. So young. So unprepared.
What is the point of all this? Why do I have to suffer so much?
Because there are still lessons to be learned.
Lessons about myself, about others and about life.
And these are very different lessons from what my mother’s death taught me about life and love.
Lesson 1: Give Zero F*cks
Life becomes real and painful when your only living parent suddenly dies on you.
When marriage isn’t new and exciting anymore but an actual relationship you have to work on day in and day out. When children constantly test your boundaries.
When your girlfriend’s husband tells her he is in love with another woman. When my other girlfriend’s 5-year-old son says he wants to kill himself.
When you have to deal with a worldwide pandemic. An actual war. Local floods. And all the other fucked up shit that’s happening in the world.
Welcome to the grown-up world you so wanted to be a part of ever since you were daddy’s little girl.
No more hiding behind the subconscious “daddy can just fix everything.” Even when you’ve got your own life and family. Even if you weren’t that close at all.
He’s gone and so is the fantasy of how you can still rely on this greater power that holds you. The power that represents The Father. God. Universe. Spirit.
Your next rite of passage has begun…
I’ve always considered myself an independent person, left home when I was 17, made my own money and my own decisions. I even felt as though I never had parents from the beginning and yet the simple knowing that you do still makes a powerful imprint.
Now both of my parents are gone. I hold the reins. It’s all up to me.
There is no one to hold me back, give me advice, counsel or guide me in the right direction.
Now I am the torch bearer. I carry my family’s legacy.
This is why the sudden desire for more children. The strong urge to accomplish my dreams and achieve my goals no matter what.
This is why I now give zero fucks. And I have an even lower tolerance for stupidity and ignorance.
No more hiding. No more “there is still time.”
Nothing to hold me back.
I am becoming my own woman with roots and branches spreading high and wide and deep.
Perhaps all my life has led me to this moment: the moment I became parentless.
This is the moment of truth and transformation.
This is the beginning of the next chapter of my life.
This is where I expand. Take flight and grow.
I am here to shake up the world in big ways.
This has always been my destiny. Our destiny.
To play in the fullness of who we are.
Lesson 2: Let Us Pray
A few days after my father passed, I felt Spirit calling me.
I needed to be reminded. I needed a place to go and pray. Chant. Breathe. Surrender. Let go. Be held by the ground and by the space. That type of surrender when you don’t have a clue of how you’re going to live another day and yet you step forward.
I had to give in to something bigger than me. I found my devotion yet again.
Yoga has become my church. Getting closer to something bigger than me is my spirituality.
I pray when I am in downward dog. I pray when I breathe in savasana. I pray when I write Morning Pages. I pray when I pull out a tarot card. I pray when I light up my candle. I pray when I cuddle my children. I pray when I have amazing sex. I pray when I feel pleasure. And I pray when I write. This is what God looks like to me.
Is this why people often come to God later in life? Because it begins to weigh them down and they yearn for something to lift them up?
Does God replace our father, literally and metaphorically? Connection to nature and life replaces the mother, but connection to God replaces the father?
I had stopped praying a few years ago when life “got busy” with children and work. I had lost devotion and connection to Spirit and replaced it with business plans, productivity hacks and profit margins…
I had been pushing so hard to “make it work.” To help other women free themselves from being workhorses.
And in all the pushing, I had become a workhorse myself.
I forgot that if I only let the Universe conspire with me, it can make all my dreams come true. I forgot that if only I lean back and open my legs to the Universe just like I open my legs to my man and receive — things will come to me.
I’m done with running after people, clients, money, abundance. I’m ready for all of this to come to me. I’m done with working so fucking hard. Pushing and striving, hustling and bustling.
No more of that nonsense. No more of that constant hard, rigid masculine energy that’s propelling things forward and drilling things downward.
I can do things differently. I am a woman. I will utilise the natural inbuilt genius that’s in me. I can activate my magnetism and actually fucking enjoy not only the destination but the process as well.
I’m ready to make love to everything I want and seduce it into my life. I now know how to do it.
I now understand why people pray. I now understand the significance of a Sunday sermon.
How wonderful it is to gather with friends, family and community to share our pain, and our grief. To mourn and be held. To share the joy of having a new baby, getting a promotion or simply to experience a lovely summer morning.
To be understood. To celebrate with others. And with God. How wonderful it is to know that there is something bigger than ourselves. That we don’t have to be alone.
We are not meant to be alone. We have survived as a species because we have been stronger together.
Shared experiences at a dinner table. Gatherings and celebrations during funerals and weddings.
All of it is the thread of life that binds us together. To remind us that we are not alone. To remind us that there is a bigger, higher purpose here. And we are part of it.
Lesson 3: You Are Worthy of Love
Since my dad’s passing, my husband and I have developed a deeper connection.
This is the first time he saw me in grief.
Every night when we went to bed, I was weeping on his big strong hairy chest. And he just held me. Every night he held me. Every night I could feel that I could completely break down, melt and just be held.
I found out when we were driving on a highway. After I stopped talking on the phone with my family, he stopped the car, came around, held me and cried with me.
His touch was gentle and slow. He gave me time. He gave me space. He didn’t have an agenda or a timeline for me. He encouraged me to take a week off. There were no expectations and no deadlines. I was free to become who I needed to become.
Our first sex after the event was so tender and vulnerable. It felt like something deep inside opened up and I was able to feel on a different level.
As he held me, looking into my eyes, saying, “I love you. I adore your body,” tears started pouring.
He touched something so deep that wasn’t available to be seen and be touched before. It was like he was looking into my soul and loving me so deeply, so unconditionally.
And I felt discomfort. I felt tightness inside my body that I realised was my old belief coming up:
“Do I deserve to be loved so deeply? Am I worthy of such love? What did I do to earn such pure, unconditional love?”
Yet another layer of the onion has been peeled away. Yet another layer of becoming has been revealed. I’ve come to know love on a different level.
How wonderful it is not to be going through grief alone. To be held and seen in your darkest moment. To have the children taken away because you need a minute. And to have those same children distract you, make silly faces and show you that life goes on…
Nappies need to changed, giggles need to be laughed at, roses need to be smelled, butterflies need to be observed.
We need to love. And be loved.
Lesson 4: Leave No Regrets, No Words Unsaid
I have no regrets, guilt or blame about my father.
Even though we had a troubled relationship, the last seven years have been transformational.
I have managed to heal the wound that was so deep and long-lasting and I’m proud of myself for doing so. I’m proud of him, too, for going along with it.
He was ready for it but I had to make the first step.
Through healing the relationship with my father I’ve healed my relationship with men. His death and this grief is also a process of healing and a process of further becoming who I truly am.
The death of my father helped me get closer to who I am.
Thank you, dad, for showing me who I am. For showing me that I am part of you and you will always be part of me.
I am grateful to have spent so much time with him travelling the world. I am grateful for the fact that I managed to put my pride away and be willing to see him for who he truly was without blame and bitterness. Without old stories and trauma.
I am grateful that he managed to meet my husband, walk me down the aisle, meet my first daughter and my in-laws.
He was having major health issues in the last year or so and his heart was 80% blocked. He ended up calling me almost every day from the hospital. Getting ready for a bypass surgery in the next three months.
One day, while we were on the phone, he started crying and told me that he knew that he had hurt me in the past and that he was doing the best he could at the time.
He asked me to forgive him. We cried together and said we loved each other.
Five days later, he passed away.
He was planning to come to Australia again after surgery to hang out and meet his fourth granddaughter. He didn’t have enough time.
How beautiful this closure was. How grateful I am to have said goodbye in such a meaningful way. To let him go without leaving anything else to be said.
With freedom, space and gratitude.
Perhaps this is why this grief has been so transformational and so alchemic. So quick to recover from and so rich in lessons to be learned.
To anyone who asks, I encourage you to heal your relationship with parents and family members before it’s too late.
Do it for you, not for them. Do it for your own peace of mind. Do it for your own closure. Do it for your children and everyone who is going to come after you so you break the cycle of hatred, bitterness, guilt, blame and shame.
You have the power to break the cycle. That story can end with you.
The fact that you can’t get over the story of how they raised you, treated you, or didn’t love you is not yours to fix. It is none of your concern whether they will apologise, regret or understand. People heal, recover and admit when they’re ready. But they might never be. And you don’t have to wait or suffer because of that.
It is your responsibility to deal with your own shit. People do the best they can with the resources available. Even the physically abusive parents. Even the emotionally unavailable ones. Even the ones who do terrible things to their children. That’s what I realised and had to accept before I reached out to my dad to start the healing process.
So own it. Pick up the phone, invite them to lunch and just start spending time with them. Because when they’re gone and your world is permanently altered, you’ll want to say everything you couldn’t say but it will be too late.
And even if you can’t physically talk to them, do your own healing around it.
Work on letting it go. Release yourself from the heavy weight and the burden that you carry that’s affecting your relationships, your self worth, your glass ceiling.
Release what’s holding you back so you can spread your wings and fly.
“Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”
~ Megan Devine
Practical things to do if you’re grieving
- Seek support. Share with girlfriends, family members, neighbours. Allow others to hold you and take care of you. Lean back and surrender.
- Listen to meditations to help you sleep and relax.
- Sleep. Grieving is exhausting.
- Sign up for a course to understand and process your grieving. I signed up for the Resilient Grieving Course.
- Sign up for a writing course on grief.
- Follow and read Megan Devine.
- Do things that make you happy.
- Guilt is a real thing. Stop feeling guilty about moving on, laughing or doing anything that “you’re not supposed to do” while grieving. Everyone grieves differently.
- Think about the lessons you’re learning through this process. Write them down and share them.
- Connect with your spirituality. Pray in the way you want to pray. (Having sex is praying too. Whatever brings you closer to God.)
- Allow love to come in.
- Whatever your lessons are, start acting on them. What is the legacy you’re carrying now? Act on it.