We meet regularly. This time we’re standing in his old office where the rooms are filled with memories. We embrace and spend (what feels like hours) together talking. I stare at him trying to absorb all of his features. The contours of his face, his smile, his hug. We walk together until he tells me that I’m not allowed to go any further. It makes sense. I can’t cross the line. I’m still alive.
I wake up.
Today marks the 6 year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Some days it feels like he left yesterday. Other days I feel as though he has been gone for decades.
As I sit down to write this in a cafe, I start to cry into my coffee.
I’m not even embarrassed by the tears falling down my cheeks because I’ve learnt enough over the past 6 years to know that when the tears want to flow…you let them f l o w .
Here are some things that you learn when you lose a parent at 23:
You cannot outrun grief. You can push it down and into the crevices of your body but it will always want to come to the surface.
You’ll keep finding shards of grief on the journey long after you think you have finished healing. That is okay.
My grief likes to turn up unexpectedly. Sometimes it’ll join me for a glass of wine, it’ll sit in the bath with me and it will tap on my shoulder when someone else talks about their father.
Sometime my grief is masked as anger. I’ll think about my dad and then I’ll mentally tell him to “f*ck off” only to apologise moments later for being so mean.
That’s the thing about grief. It’s a shape-shifting bastard. It’s like a housemate that you learn to live with….as long as it keeps its room tidy.
You’ll start to believe in ghosts because the people we love never really leave us.
The ghosts follow us on our life journey and in a weird way, serve as a comforting reminder that life doesn’t end when we leave our physical body.
Even 6 years later, I’ll turn up to a meeting to have someone (that I’ve just met for the first time) tell me a beautiful story about my dad. Days later, my dad’s name is mentioned in a radio station segment. A radio station listener has called in to retell the same story I heard a few days earlier.
And this is the funny thing about ghosts. They have ways of coming back time and time again to remind you….that they never really left.
Ghosts also get to visit you in your dreams.
In my dreams we’re standing in a garden and he is showing me the plants we have planted.
We water the plants and we watch them grow together.
When my dad passed away, I felt utterly powerless. I was a broken young woman that just wanted to stare at walls.
I was watching administrators descend on my family business. In my mind, they were heartless vultures picking at the carcass of my family with little regard for the tragedy that we had just endured. And in many ways, they really were vultures….disguised as middle-aged men in suits.
I sat in meetings with accountants and lawyers feeling as though I was always one step behind the “bad guys” who got a head start in the race across the finish line.
Once the storm washed over, I came to realise how powerful and strong my mum and I really were.
My tragedy helped me grow into a powerful, fierce and loving woman. I have been gifted lessons in life and business that I never need to repeat again in my lifetime.
That’s the power in lessons. The make you wiser and more powerful than you ever could have imagined.
Losing someone you love teaches you a lot about the human condition.
For years I was bitterly angry at the people that hurt me and my family. I was angry at the gossipers and the people that seemed to enjoy my tragedy.
I was angry at the “adults” in my world that let me down and didn’t let me talk about my grief openly.
I was angry at the people that stole from my family and the people that abandoned me in my time of sorrow.
I was so angry until I decided that I didn’t want to be angry anymore.
These days, I am grateful for those experiences. I have learnt that most people cannot understand my pain from the place where they stand. And that is okay.
I am grateful that those people are no longer in my life because that has created space for incredible new people to enter.
Immense grief cracks you open and gives you the opportunity to access another layer of consciousness that you did not have access to earlier.
My loss has taught me to see beyond the veil of our physical existence. I’ve learnt to listen to my soul and experience the many layers of this beautiful life.
I’ve been to places I never could have visited before and I’ve met incredible beings on this journey.
I’m slowly learning to understand and dance with the ebb and flow of life.
A Shift in Perspective
When you experience loss, your perspective of the world will shift so fundamentally that you will begin to question everything — societal conditioning, your identity, your beliefs and the purpose of your existence.
When my dad first passed away, I was convinced that it was the end of the world. I didn’t realise that I was feeling this only because I was living my own apocalyptic nightmare.
I have since learnt to embrace the shift and broadening in my perspective. I now love to seek out opportunities for challenge and growth. I love shedding layers, challenging my earlier assumptions and outgrowing my old beliefs.
The gift in loss is that you no longer see the world the same way.
When you lose someone at a young age you can feel incredibly vulnerable. After all, the person that kept you safe while you were growing up can no longer protect you.
When my dad passed away, I built concrete walls around me to survive the vultures and protect my wounded heart.
It took me years of healing and therapy to realise that I needed to begin dismantling those walls if I wanted to truly thrive and experience love.
The beauty of experiencing such deep pain is that you know you have survived it once and can survive it again.
This knowing allows you to truly embrace life for all that it is. You will learn that your limits are much greater than you ever thought.
And when you don’t perceive any limits, you can get onto the business of truly living.
Ironically, loss has the ability to teach us about love.
When you’ve experienced the darkest depths of emotion, you learn that you have the ability to experience all the love and joy that life has to offer.
I now look at people and feel such a fierce amount of love for them…in a way that they’ll never realise or know. This love can be directed at my family, friends, clients or complete strangers.
After years of suppressing any emotions, I now let my emotions flow. If it’s pain, I sit with the hurt. If it’s love that needs to be expressed, I express it openly.
6 years ago I learnt that sometimes you don’t get another chance to tell someone how you feel so it’s an opportunity that should never be wasted…or left for another day.
6 years ago my life took a turn and I ended up on a path that I could never have imagined.
Do I wish I could go back and change what happened? Yes.
Do I want to give back all the wisdom, knowledge and love I have acquired? No.
And that’s the thing about paths. We learn to love and accept the one that we’re on.
Originally published at medium.com