What we have gone through since our father died has been nothing short of Lifetime drama material.
Someday I will write about it, more than what I have already shared on the odd Facebook post, Instagram photo tribute, and this blog. When your last parent dies it is all just so final. And to have the person they chose to spend the end of their life with just shut you out is MEAN. But I’m not there yet. Not ready to peel the onion, to share all of the layers of hurt and to relive the emotions and the pain. Not yet, not in full.
But what I can share is that my experiences of “living in my post-dad world” have taught me a few things.
1. I am learning to draw the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and learning that this is a key part of “keeping whole” when you are working through grief and hurt inflicted by others.
One of the best things said to me when I got back from the US in August was that I needed to find a path through the terrible acts done to us, the exclusion and the isolation and feeling robbed of time and space for grief, so that I would not lose myself in the process. So that I could keep my faith in the goodness of people, despite having this tread on in the most egregious of ways since dad died.
One of the things I have been exploring as a part of the healing around the hurt inflicted on us in the post-death process has been the practice of forgiveness.
I am not there yet – not ready to forgive the wrongs that have happened. I am not sure I can ever truly forgive the extra layer of pain that has been handed to us.
But understanding the boundaries of what I consider “right” and “wrong” has been a huge part for me in dealing with how I feel I have been treated.
From what I have read (although like I said I am not there yet in bringing this onboard into my healing process), by defining boundaries of “right” and “wrong”, when you eventually forgive you do not excuse the crossing of the boundaries.
This post on Tiny Buddha is a great walk through on how to explore forgiveness in situations that defy believe and which seem to cross the boundary of forgiveness.
When you decide what boundaries to put in to place, and what you will and won’t stand for, you release the fear that “it” will happen again. What “it” can touch you when you’ve already decided that you aren’t going to let it penetrate?
You can forgive an individual while keeping your boundaries intact. And by seeking to forgive you free yourself from the situation, the hurt.
This post on forgiveness by Phillip Moffitt really helped me to understand that I needed to define my rights and wrongs to get to the point of finding peace and not losing myself to the injustice I experienced:
If you hold on to a personal claim because of what you lost, you assume the identity of the victim. It may seem right and proper, but oftentimes it is just another form of self-imprisonment.
Both of those pieces are incredibly good and worth a read. And a re-read. I still reflect on them weekly.
It must be working a little. Last night I dreamed about letting go of the hurt, realising that I did not cause the way that I feel – but that I can control how I react to it. In my dream I did not lash out or yell at the person who has caused me so much pain. Instead I just told her she has fated herself to be alone because of her actions, whereas I am not alone no matter what is happening. I have my family. Love. My integrity. I can’t tell you how at peace I felt when I woke up from this dream. Stunned that it was not a nightmare. And pleased with my dream-self’s reactions.
2. Sometimes things are so awful that the only way to survive is through humour.
This past weekend I watched The Martian. If you haven’t seen the film, I loved it. Sure, it is a typical Hollywood movie in that the good guy always wins. But the build up and uncertainty in getting to that point kept me on the edge of my seat.
When faced with life or death, Matt Damon’s character decided to give his best and to fully commit to life. In a fairly dire situation he turned to humour as a survival mechanism.
My sister and I have done the same thing when it comes to grief and working our way through things following the saga of July. We recently went on a road trip to clear out the storage unit we took when we were asked to remove items from dad’s house. As a part of that process, we had to have a valuation of all items we had taken. Including the absurd decorations that my father collected, such as the Candy Man (part of his treasure trove of Hallowe’en things).
Since the Candy Man had already returned home with my sister and spent Hallowe’en with her family, we had to take him back to my father’s town. But rather than just chuck him into the trunk, we decided to take the Candy Man on a road trip. To take photos and to tell the story about the Candy Man’s trip back to northern Florida. One in which he road shot gun, in which he was valued as a part of dad’s estate, where he lost his head, and where he helped us to laugh through the grief and pain and finality of it all.
Thank god for humour.
To paraphrase one of my sister’s friends, we chose to laugh through the pain, rather than to cry from the grief.
And thank god for my sister. Sharing this experience with her has made all of it infinitely more bearable.