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You died... I didn't feel anything

Grief can come in many forms. The obvious, sadness, sense of loss. Then there is disbelief, maybe anger. There can be feelings sometimes of relief when they have suffered for a long time. August 21 2023 was a day that... I hardly felt anything. People don't really talk about when they "feel nothing". It is often looked at as taboo to not feel "something". Instead, people hide it, they distract from it, they put the focus on something or someone else just so they don't have to say out loud or share that they don't feel "anything." I felt nothing when my dad died.

To give you some background, my dad is not actually my biological dad. However my dad EARNED that title and there is no one else more deserving. He was the epitome of that Brad Paisley song "He didn't have to be". He came into a very fearful 7-8yr old little girls life, and he showed her safety. He showed her kindness. He showed her compassion. In the almost thirty years the lessons he taught me were.

  • Look around for the best prices. At 9 years old I wanted so badly this teddy bear. I had saved up my money from birthday gifts, special occasions and I wanted a teddy bear. [I had lots of dolls and barbies, but really no teddy bears. A little girl needs a teddy]. Instead of letting me just buy the first teddy I fell in love with he reigned me in saying "hold on, lets shop around a little bit, lets go to a few different stores." Millwoods Town Center had just been built and it was such a treat to be going there. It was "the place". He took me into all the brand new stores and we looked at all the options. He asked questions, "do you want a smooth, or fuzzy bear? Do you want squishy and plush or do you want a firm and stable Teddy? " He had me look at the stitching and showed me how to tell if it was cheaply made or going to hold up... Then after I had answered the questions, knew exactly what I wanted, we bought THE BEST TEDDY BEAR a girl could possibly have. For the BEST price.

I never forgot that money lesson. I always shopped around and still do most times. It has definitely come in handy during this crazy inflation and carbon tax time:). I wonder if.... Now that I am a parent if it was lesson about money or more about just spending time together. Hand in hand, walking with a little girl that he wanted to be his. Enjoying the banter, the giggles that only little girls can have and the sheer wonder and excitement when they reach their goal....

Another lesson that I learned from my dad was to always search for the reasons underneath.

  • Many preteen and teen arguments where I was standing on the stairs, him standing at the bottom and he repeatedly asking "what's the real reason? That is what you are telling me but tell me what the real reason." Now in coaching... and twenty years later we use phrases like "tell me more. What does that do? Why is that important?" The curiosity he had to unearth what the "target" was. He was ahead of his time for an "old school mennonite first generation immigrant"

The way he chose to parent. To practice traditional values yet remain curious was filled with flaws. So many tears, yelling, silent treatment done by this "pre teen, teen" little girl. There were many times where he got it completely wrong... However, there were more times he got it right. He stayed firm in what he believed and how he wanted his home. However there was always grace, forgiveness and willingness to listen to understand. I tell my girls this all the time now. "If you choose not to share major event that are going on in your life. I can not parent you appropriately. Whether that is just giving an ear to listen. Parent guidance, or intervention to help.... I may be angry at the situation, but at least I will know what is going on so that I can adjust myself to meet you where you are at." My dad did that for me and now I am doing that for my kids. [When the 15 and 18 year old choose to let me:) ]

When my sister called me that Monday and asked if I had heard from dad recently, there was no hesitation in my mind. As she raced to his place 3hrs away, I knew that I was going to chase her. That I too was going to do that drive. I told her, "If he's just being irresponsible and ghosting us like he sometimes does he's going to get shit from me too... If he does need help, or if he is gone... You are not alone there. I will be there with you." Within the first 20min on the road, I KNEW he was gone. [That is another story]. My spirit and my mind recognized that he was no longer on this earth. I cried a few tears that I never got to see him one last time, that I would never have the opportunity to heal so much that needed to still be healed in our family relationship... I spoke out loud to him and said thank you. Thank you for being the perfect dad to me and that was it. I didn't feel anything. I wasn't sad. I wasn't angry or confused. I felt nothing about it.

Six years ago our lives changed completely. Changing family dynamics forever. I was in a head on collision. Marley my youngest daughter died instantly and I was physically shattered from the hips down. Doctors and nurses were unsure if I would survive at first. When a tragedy of this magnitude happens. Dynamics change. Disfunction can not hide. Everything is exposed. In the first five weeks actions, conversations and decisions were made that ripple throughout the coming years. This fractured our family. My bones healed from their shatters. [Titanium woman now, but they healed:) ]. Our family... was still struggling. Extended relationships still shattered. I loved my dad. I know he loved me. The man that was working to adopt me as an adult at my request before the collision was hurt. Had built walls and believed that there were somethings that were not worth rebuilding or opening himself up to "incase hurt" would happen again. He had been in his own mental and emotion collision.

For this reason, I believe I felt nothing. I had not seen my dad in almost a year. I knew he had come into town and even though I was repeatedly saying "lets get together". It never happened. He created a distance with me because of family choices I made for MY immediate family. Our relationship was strained. Our love for one another never changed. Our trust in one another never changed. However the hurt that we caused each other was real. No matter how justified each of us were.

Some of you may say this sounds like "shock." I can promise you, it was not shock. I know shock from when my mother died on mothers day when I was twenty five years old. The going through the motions, distracting and then... I relived those last days for months. It was my dad that was able to guide me out of it. Readers, remember grief is NOT linear. There is no five steps, five stages of grief. That is the BIGGEST lie that western society told us. The five stages of grief was initially intended for those were were given a palliative diagnosis. Over a few years psychologists and doctors starting apply those five stages to those that grieve. Giving them a "protocol" and if that protocol does work, then it's the person who is not "getting over" the death. Their fault

Grief is something that does need to be felt. No matter when it decides to come. It was only leading up to my dads funeral [a month later] that my grief mixed with anger started to come forth. The dad that was going to adopt me had life not gotten in a way was gone. The only adult mentor I had to go to when my kids were driving me to my witts end. I was feeling the loss of that person I would ask "what would you do? Can you help me?" I was feeling the loss of what could have been, had he just had more time to move through his hurt. I was angry for all the life events that year he chose not to be involved in. My kids would never have those moments again. No time to make up. I was angry as I cleaned his house and saw evidence of how he had been sick for so long and didn't tell any of us... We would have come. We would have helped. Honouring his talks that "no kid of his, is going to look after and prolong my life." We could have supported though. Made things easier. The anger that the only thing I ever asked for in his will... "to be called daughter and viewed as such. As an equal" Absent. Never to be changed or explained. Grief has many faces and anger is one of them.

Now, being in a new year. Six months later. We have entered a year where he will not exist at all. No more stories of golfing with his boys. No more tails of down hill skiing with his grandkids. No more boating adventures of tubing, water skiing and wakeboarding. I have always said, life prepares you for what is coming. Having lost grandparents, a mother, a daughter and now my dad I know that each loss does feel different. For me, I needed the distance that had been created in the last year. I needed to learn and realize that I AM the leader of my family and the go to "elder". Besides my older sister... I am next. I needed to learn to trust my wisdom, to trust my expertise. Had my dad and I not had this distance in the last year, my world would have shattered again because it was HIM that I leaned on most when life went sideways. In the last six months I have learned that I can create my own "elder group". It has forced me to become more open to other conversations with people I would have never even considered. Not because I don't love and like them, but because they are rarely in my orbit. I needed to expand in order to be able to accept and move through what this loss means to me. This loss is just one more piece of my mother. This loss is one more piece of my family. Leaving myself and my immediate family only. I will never get to grow old with my parents.

This distance has infused and strengthened these thoughts. I am the one that teaches and shows how family is supposed to lean on one another. I am the one that can decide if family can experience growth and healing, or if it stays the way it is. The last year prepared me for this realization. I choose growth. I choose love. I choose to show ALL the lessons my dad showed me from love, acceptance, to wisdom, to where we could do better. Readers, if you are grieving... Know that what you are feeling is ok. Give time for those feelings. Give time to process them and learn the lessons that those feelings have to offer. I say this all the time. Emotions are not liars. Emotions are the way the body tells you how your body is doing. Listen. They can whisper and they can scream.... I prefer the whispers. They are gentler. Kinder. When I refuse to listen, when I refuse to give time, they scream. They knock me over, they catch me and hold me. Listen. Give time. Give space and if you do find that you are stuck. Reach out to me. I can help you make sense and move through vs avoiding and distracting. Wouldn't it be easier to know how to move through instead of feeling stuck?

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