When my father passed away a few months ago, I was given some information about the 5 stages of grief. At first I was confused upon hearing the news. After all, it had come as quite a shock. I mean, I knew he was ill but I thought we had much more time. After he took a bad fall, the doctors couldn’t stop the internal bleeding and within 24 hours he was gone. To say I was in denial was probably accurate. After three days of putting aside my own thoughts and feelings to focus on my children and family, I finally broke down on the fourth day and turned into Niagara falls.
On the second day after hearing the news, I was very angry. I was frantically trying to make sense of everything and book plane tickets down to see my family as quickly as possible. I wanted to be there with them to process everything together. I needed help from my mom and asked her to come early to help with the kids so I could get some phone calls and research done. When she didn’t show up and I was running around like a madwoman, I was so angry. A normal, sane person wouldn’t have let this upset them so much, but a grieving mother with the responsibility of keeping two children alive did.
After the anger was gone, I finally felt acceptance. I felt like he wasn’t a part of my everyday life and so I could carry on with our daily routines and get back to normal. Except that I knew I would be heading down to Florida to be with the family and grieve again. Just as I was starting to feel okay with the fact that I no longer had a father and my children would never see their Opa again, my oldest daughter got an infection and I rushed off to the Emergency Room with her at 2:30am on October 29th.
The date is significant because it’s my youngest daughter’s first birthday. The time that we headed to the ER was no coincidence, it was the exact time we were on our way there a year ago to have the baby. My dad was in the hospital waiting room the day she was born, but my oldest daughter chose not to be. This trip to the hospital was symbolic and as I sat in the waiting room, holding my older daughter and helping her cope with her nausea and pain, I knew that we were exactly where we were meant to be that night.
After we saw the doctor and got some antibiotics it was a long morning and day. We were having the party for our youngest daughter’s first birthday. My older daughter asked to go to her dad’s, I could tell she didn’t want to be ill in my bed while the party was going on. She is always so empathetic, considerate and caring towards other people’s feelings and she knew if she was out of the way, everyone could enjoy the party – except her. After the party was finished, I was zonked.
A few days later, I threw my back out. It’s true when they say that stress is related to 99% of all illness and I fully believe in the body mind connection. I had been trying to hold it together for my family and kids and dealing with all sorts of emotional and physical storms, that my body gave out. It’s like everything came crashing down around me at once.
With my back in extreme pain, I was unable to do basic things like sit, stand, lift my baby or anything else around the house. It was a depressing and very humbling experience. I had to rely on other people to help me care for myself, my children and my house. Asking for help is not one of my strong suits, but I had no choice. It is incredible what happens when you are at your most vulnerable state. My village came to the rescue. I had friends come over to watch the baby, I had friends come over to care for me and my back, friends came to lift my baby out of her crib and feed her breakfast and friends came over to help me pack our suitcases for our trip to my father’s memorial.
After a few days of rest, I was in less pain and could travel with my two children. I knew I would need help and was becoming better at asking for it. I asked the flight attendants for ice to keep my back in minimal discomfort. I asked them for help holding my baby and carrying her to the washroom. My oldest daughter helped with our luggage and the baby and everything else. The airline staff helped us through customs and through the airport.
At the time of arriving in Florida to be with our family, I was having some relationship troubles with my husband. This time away of grieving would also be a time of healing. Healing my emotional body, my physical body and my relationships. I am a strong believer in meditation and I did a lot of meditating while I was away. After a few days, I was starting to feel better, I had a chiropractic and massage session while I was down there and was starting to feel more like myself. I spoke to my husband and we made up. We had my dad’s memorial service and it was the closure that my body and mind needed to finally be able to heal.
Upon reflecting about the trauma of that time, it was clear to me that I had not taken the time to care for myself. Like Wendy Hamilton wrote in her blog post The Art of Self-Care As a Parent, I had become the broken down car on the side of the Malahat trying to get by on fumes. I thought I had been doing a decent job of self care, but I knew I needed to do more. The trauma that I experienced was the Universe’s way of telling me to slow down and take care of myself. By surrounding myself with the healing power of feminine energy, allowing my friends to care for me and my children, I was able to take the time to heal and to recognize my shortfalls in self-care.
Now that the storms have passed, I have a renewed sense of excitement for the next chapter in my life. I also know that I need to take more time for myself and give myself the love and care I need to be a better parent and wife. If you are dealing with any kind of emotional or physical trauma and trying to be a good parent by putting your feelings aside then you will be doing yourself a disservice. You will break down, you will run out of gas and you will be stranded wondering what the next step to take is. To get back to balance, you need to calm the mind and take the time for yourself. Meditate. Ask for help from anyone who is willing. You will be surprised at the offers that come when you allow yourself to be vulnerable.