The phone rang and my mother answered. It was only a matter of seconds before I knew something was gravely wrong.
When she hung up the phone she looked at me and said my fathers’ body had been found floating in a lake in Alberta. His body was unrecognizable but fortunately a GPS device in his coat pocket was tracked to a girlfriends place and led to his identification. By the nature of what he was wearing and other factors, it was estimated that he had been there for about 4 months. He was dead. It was suicide.
Immediate sadness descended through sobs and tears for the end of his days, mingled with the strange relief of knowing where we was along with a release from the end of his suffering in only the way death can bring.
Shock. I was in shock.
How sad that nobody noticed his absence to know that he was missing.
So many questions running through my mind… What happened? What were his final hours like? Was he distressed? Was he confident in his choice to die? Why didn’t he leave a note? Why didn’t he contact me, his daughter? Was he really gone?
Finality: I would never have a chance to ask him anything or see him ever again.
Like most of my family, I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in years. It had been seven years for me, since Grandpa’s funeral.
I remember sitting in the first row of pews with my Aunties, and my Grandfathers soldier comrades were ceremoniously trumpeting their horns, and my father was seated directly behind me. I hadn’t seen him at that point in over ten years and so with that and the trumpets I was leaking waterfalls from my eyes. After the service he tried to convince me to come over to his girlfriends for dinner but I said no. Even though I could sense he was happy to see me, I felt an undercurrent of suspicion at his motives because for one I didn’t trust him and also it was likely he just wanted to show me off to his lady friend that he actually had a daughter for real.
That was the first empowered no I said to him to his face in my entire life. It was a clean and sure no. And it really felt good. And I just realized that was the last thing I said to him…Hmmm.
I had chosen to stop speaking to him as a late teenager after years of his booze soaked narcissistic psychotic manipulations and lies. He moved away and stopped being in touch.
Most of my memories of him and my childhood are unhappy and traumatic. There were some lovely moments but the thread that wove the fabric of our family together was fear, pain, and mistrust.
My heart aches with a deep longing of unfulfilled expression when I think of my father and the entirety of our relating.
He chose a difficult path.
I sincerely have a heart full of compassion, acceptance and love for him.
And it still hurts a whole fuck of a lot.
The truth is I love him more that I can ever say.
My period of grief was very complex to say the least. I syphoned through the profound love I have for him while resolving all the pain and byproducts of his actions of years past. Grief opened the gateway for me to feel a lifetime of unwept tears. Love and anger played on repeat through most of my early days of grief and it makes my head spin just thinking about it.
Part of me is not even sure how to articulate the madness. He had severe mental illness that caused abnormal thinking and perceptions. He was addicted to alcohol, women, lies, manipulation and to top it off he was a genius and incredibly charming, and creative and talented. He was like a master performer who had us all captivated and trapped in his world only to leave every single one of us high and dry (or that’s what I saw).
There was only one way I saw to deal with my grief and that is to feel my way through the heart and release all I had been holding onto. I was committed to open all the locks and cages and walls that I had encased my heart with in an attempt to prevent more pain.
But the funny truth is, when you lock out pain you also lock in pain. So open I did and little by little my heart softened and I felt free.
I held the little girl within me while she grieved her daddy. She needed to weep and wail from the aching terror of not being held or protected or loved.
I gave the wild woman within me space to howl at the moon and render her rage into tears of sorrow at forgotten yesterdays.
I prayed with my inner wise woman who brings solace and grace along with her in every breath.
I let the woman that I am discover the many bewildering facets of love and explore how to be vulnerable to my core.
I learned to trust again, mostly through the many gorgeous encounters I had lying on the earth as I unwound the illusions and crusts that kept me separate for so long.
The earth always held me, always cradled me, so gently. I created space within myself to remember how to commune and how to love and be loved and also how to bring my energies into balance.
Murray’s death (yes, sometimes I call him by his first name it’s a safer distance for me when I don’t feel like claiming him) brought me closer in my relation to him, closer to myself, closer to life, closer with each present moment. The boundaries where no longer needed. They served they’re purpose.
Now though, I remember unity as the breath of life that binds us through blood, breath, and bond.
I’ve come to understand now as an adult, that he was deeply mentally ill. That massive realization alone has soothed my aching heart.
Feel and release. Feel and release.
Be. Feel. Be. Over and over and over again… in that sea of grief until the waves didn’t break so big everyday and I could begin to acclimatize myself in all this newfound spaciousness of being.
I didn’t write to process my emotions, because it probably would have always looked like this “ Fuck, fuckitty fuck fuck…I don’t need your fucking fuckery. Just fuck off and then fuck off some more you shit bastard fucking prick dad. I fucking miss you”.
Well, I did actually write one of these and then I burned it. I was so happy to let the pain go I didn’t want to immortalize it in words or ruminate. It’s funny because I am a writer, but I don’t write to process my emotions. I prefer to feel those through my body and release them back to Nature.
I gave myself permission to really feel it though, all the way through.
The heart is my language.
I simply felt these grief shock waves and allowed the energy to pass through me as it grounded through my body. This was helped greatly by nature walks and hours laying on the earth.
I realigned my lifestyle and work to support this deep dive of the heart.
While I was living in the city and working there, I couldn’t do enough yoga or meditation to keep myself grounded and balanced.
So we moved to a beautiful little island full of forests, mountains and sea and it was then I started working from home. This was the solace I needed to emerge through my transformation from my sweet grief cocoon.
I’ve lived my whole life until very recently with my heart shut down. It took this massive grief process to blast my heart open and help me live from the heart again. My sweet dog Sasha had so much love to offer me and she is the one who has taught me the most about what love is, how to receive it, and how to give it.
When I was young, horses were my saving grace. They swung back into my life early on in this grief period and they helped me work with the energy and open my heart again.
With the profound help of Tina Barnes and the Medicine Herd at Thirteen Moons Farm I learned to redirect, balance and ground the energies moving through my system.
My dad’s death brought up all the unhealed, un-resolved aspects within myself and within our relationship. Not only was I now aching with the loss of someone I loved so dear but also, I was left with resolving years of traumatic pain. Each neural groove had wound it’s way through my body and each one required pure presence, sense and movement to liberate the specific energy.
Beyond my emotional, spiritual, mental, and psychological healing there was my physical body that needed to unwind these layers. It took time.
I refer to this period as the Tsunami of Grief. I felt like I had no control over the sheer amount of emotion surfacing, there was just so much.
And I willingly dove into the deep end as I rode the tender yet thrashing waves of grief while the timing was ripe.
This was a powerful opportunity and I seized it.
There is no manual for grief. No guide to follow. It’s a solo (soul-o) journey not for the faint of heart.
Naturally as a bold life traveller, I am all for lightening the load and clearing the past for more embodied now moments. With many heavy and challenging occurrences in my short life, I will not let these things crush me or break me down. I seek to transform these lumps of coal into sparkling diamonds of transformation and to celebrate my inherent wholeness. This gives me an opportunity to thrive and share what I have learned along my path and gives me tremendous hope that I may be a lighthouse for others on their sacred path.
I have come to discover so many amazing things about life, death and everything in between.
I used to refer to this time as a grief journey. But more accurately there is no linear timeline or start or end time. Grief is life. Life is grief. They are interwoven, interconnected and one and the same.
This period of deep grief is a lonely fraction in the whole scope of my life. I am ever grateful for the many gifts I have learned through this portal of awareness.
I know how to connect with life more now. I feel things deeply with an open heart, so it doesn’t hurt like it used to. I made a list of all the things I’ve learned through grief, a long list.
Of great surprise to me, pleasure has taken a central stage in my life in the wake of death and grief. It sounds strange to say, but honestly the spectrum of my feeling and open heart has brought me into the experience of pleasure in a way I never had access to before. There were too many walls around my heart to let love in. There was too much trauma stuck in my body to enjoy what ecstasy has to offer. Even the grief has this strange pleasure available through the sheer sense of feeling and embodiment possible. Now, I take everything as an opportunity to see, be and feel. Grief makes you alive.
Through my grief I was having a parallel journey of Love. My Beloved entered my life shortly before my father’s passing. It was like a major death and rebirth within my self on many levels.
I had done so much personal work to arrive at a place that gifted me the experience of creating the best love story that’s ever been told. And true to the epic nature of my life, my father’s death was catapulting me heart first into new territory… Love.
The unfortunate business of walls and wounding is that you can prevent more pain from piercing you but true to the nature of a double edged sword, it also means the existing wounds will fester in a locked up heart.
Unlike the stillness that exists in silence, the love inside me crashed the barriers around my heart one by one and also at times thunderously by the dozen as my walls came down and left a wake just perfect enough for the most glorious of rainbows to emerge.
It needed to rain from my eyes for me to see the rainbows.
I hadn’t been deep inside my heart for so long, it was a discovery just to commune with myself in that way. And this led to the most intimate love shared with another person, my then beautiful partner who is now my husband.
And as it turns out, the same day Bradley proposed to me was the exact same day my father was last seen alive. Weird. Life can be so damn weird.
That’s just the way grief works too; a little (okay maybe a lot) mysterious.
During that intense period I couldn’t socialize much with anyone, I was so inside myself and always aware that a rogue wave could surface at any moment.
Superficial conversations just weren’t even possible for me. I swear the brain must be in some sort of altered state with all the deep work of transformation.
Tending to my daily life was all I had energy for. One day at a time. One moment at a time.
Sometimes there was a memory with some type of story for me to sift through.
Traumatic release and the neural grooves associated with them are very distinct. In each situation it is important to honor the story, to see it, and to acknowledge it. Once that was done, the core feelings, emotions and energy emerged to be felt. When leaned into with willingness and respect, emotional energy flowed through my body in waves quite easily as it flushed through my system clearing the neural traumatic patterns and tensions. The timeline for each experience was completely unique.
As an integral piece of the experience, the story also became something to let go of. As much as I was holding, honoring and respecting the story, it became less about the story and more about the core energy that sought to move through me with each passing wave.
I used the story as a catalyst to track the energetic shift taking place.
I walked the midline between deep honor for my story while simultaneously throwing the story out!
You could say my point of focus arrived more often upon the essence of energy being released. I rode the tension between who I was and who I was becoming or more accurately, I was surfing through the sea of who I thought I was and aligning with and realizing who I really Am.
Sometimes what flowed I can only describe as ancestral grief and collective grief.
Ancestral grief arrives through the powerful culmination of genetic information passed on through the bloodline and DNA. As an intelligent human survival mechanism, my parent’s life experiences, memories, traumas, fears, phobias, and un-processed grief were encoded in their reproductive seeds that became the genetic material I was born from. And my parents came from the unique experiences of their parents and all relations through our lineage. We share the same blood and bond.
For most of my life I have felt isolated and alone from my family line. I think from all the pain I experienced and the need to create healthy boundaries, I held my dad at a real distance from me, never allowing him to come close enough to hurt me again. This was important while he was alive, yet it created a sense of separateness that needed to shift once my grief journey began.
Once I chose to claim my heritage I was able to receive the many gifts available to me from my ancestors, my father being one of them.
Where I pushed him away before, I now welcome him as one and the same as me.
These words almost seem trivial to the monumental shift this truly is for us. We are the same, yet unique. And allowing this energy to flow gave me permission to release all the stuck, stored and un-healed energy in my lineage.
Before the ancestral energy was calibrated, there were many of my own experiences, which inevitably have ancestral connections but were more directly about my own raw traumas and life stuff. I repeated the process of tracking the specific memory, story and corresponding neural groove to sense, feel and allow the flow of energy to naturally bring me to a higher plane.
I became a master of weeping. Weeping like a child. Following the now familiar impulse of emotional upheaval and allowing the energy to flow unbridled as it moved through my body and heart in sounds, tears and movement.
Like little volcanoes and earthquakes I trembled and sobbed. I took great care of myself. I creatively outsourced my emotions into beauty. I found ecstasy in the liberation and in the fullness of feeling. I felt whole in allowing all of me to be felt, owned and honored.
The earth became my midwife, my mother and my muse. I would lie on her for hours and hours just witnessing life and soaking in the comfort and support of earth under my body. As each traumatic neural groove unwound, I reformed new pathways of love and support like never before.
I owe my salvation to Nature. And to my hunky lover Babe who learned to hold such a loving space for my surrender. Bless his heart for the amount of times he has held me through my grief and trusted I would make it through.
I never knew the love and support of my father. There is a part of me that knows he loved me in his way. But I didn’t feel loved.
There is a powerful saying from one of my grief teachers Martin Prechtel who says that we measure the success of our love not in how much we love but in how well our love is received. This speaks to the fact that to love well is not just about how much we love another but more so by how much this person feels loved by us. We must speak the love language that works mutually to bring feeling loved to the forefront of our purpose. This is a dynamic dance between one another and a most worthy endeavor indeed.
So once my father died I grieved that I’d never have a chance to resolve my relationship with him in person. All would be done within myself and with him in spirit.
Actually, I truthfully joke that his death was the best thing that ever happened to us.
I have received the most amazing teachings and grace through the practice of feeling and being one with all aspects of myself: the dark, the light and everything in between.
By opening my heart to my kin who had provoked great suffering in my childhood, I bring more love and acceptance to all parts of myself.
Opening my heart is the greatest gift I have ever received from my father.
And it is through this difficult journey, through all of the pain, heartache and especially in his death, that I have discovered who I am in my wholeness.
Now I know I have always been whole and perfect and loved and lovable… my grief allowed me to find that in myself.
With recognition for the importance of digesting my experiences naturally and allowing life’s lessons to be learned in alignment with my whole self, I have become a Soul Surfer fully surrendered into the flow of the moment, a place that is inclusive of grief, sorrow and all of life’s beauty.
Through my untamed heart, a wild approach to grief has surfaced, one full of honesty and candor. This is an unknowable place, a beautiful place, and a mysterious place.
But one thing is for sure, and it is this: in the core of who we are there are treasures. The heart is a storehouse of treasures.
And I celebrate with you sister, the incredible resiliency of our nature and how much we are truly capable of being.
If you stand at the edge of your grief
And are willing to dive in
Regardless of any fears
And are willing to cross the threshold of resistance
And override the urgency to change
Or subdue or medicate or numb
And you refuse to be “normal”
By abandoning the cultural affliction of amnesia
And instead you run full throttle into the land of the unknown
And you embrace the mystery that accompanies sorrow
And you hold hands with grief
In it’s constant movement and change
You will discover
That you are nature
And your tears are what nourish the trees to grow
And your breath is a tightrope walk of living and dying in the same moment
That your songs are what feed the spirit of life
And your grief soaked prayers are a way for the energy of your losses
To move into a life giving beauty
That renews the growth and strength of families, communities and whole cultures
And gives people a chance to come together
To feed this whole symbiotic ecology called life
And keep the whole thing running, together
And give context, meaning and purpose to our experiences
If you accept your ability and the sacred obligation
To render your grief into prayers and offerings
And tears and songs that fill the life giving well
You will avoid the petrification, illness, destruction and violence
That evolves from undigested grief trying to find a place to live
If you give it a home and call it by its name
And walk with it
You will find you and your new companion called grief
In a new land
Renewed with more life in your lungs
And more space in your heart
You come through more alive, more empowered, more connected
Wrapped in the gentle magnitude of togetherness
Belonging to the stars and the bears and the otters
Riding far above the existential crisis of aloneness
Into realms of comfort and oneness that live in your bones
And fill you with a gravitational weight
That encompasses the entirety of everything that has ever lived
And informs each and every one of your unfurling moments
With All My Heart ~ Thank you & I LOVE You!