My dad died two years ago in November. I was there when he died. This heart-wrenching experience sticks with me: watching someone I love take their last breath right in front of me.
I’d never walked this path of grief before—at least like this. This was my first major loss. I had imagined others’ losses: like the loss of a child. I had imagined that this must be the most barbaric, ferocious, removal of your heart and probably every piece of your insides. As a mother, I’ve imagined this far too many times when I realized at the birth of my daughter and my son, my heart and body were no longer mine.
Grief Experienced in the Body
But, I’d never imagined that losing a parent would feel like losing your legs and really your skin. It’s physical. At times, I felt like I couldn’t stand up any longer, I just wanted to collapse; and then I couldn’t imagine how I’d get off the floor. But, sometimes it was my skin too. The pain was so intense, that I wasn’t sure that I had skin to protect me. But, beyond physical, it is also the metaphorical representation of these body parts. The foundation I’ve always stood on was just gone and the protection he provided me is no longer there. Literally, a part of me and who made me is gone. Part of my entire sense of self is simply gone. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise me because 50% of my genetic make-up is from my dad. He was a geneticist, so this is not lost on me. It was so hard for so long to wrap my mind around how he could be gone, yet I’m still here.
When will it Pass?
And, with this enormous pain, I keep wondering when this will pass? How can I get through this, away from it, end it, whatever? Every time I’d pick up healthy food, or a comforting book, or hop in the shower I begin to think “this might be the ticket: this might make me feel better”. Then I’d realize that there isn’t actually anything that would make this pain go away. I’m stuck with it. As one woman counseled me, who’d lost her mother several years ago: it is always there. It just sits at the end of your nose, the intensity lessens, but the grief is always there.
To the CORRAL Girls
This present reality gives me enormous empathy for the girls we serve at CORRAL. Almost all of them have experienced the loss I’m learning as a 40-year-old; yet they are merely teens or children. Most of our girls are adopted or living in foster care. Those that aren’t have lost at least one parent in some fashion.
The circumstances are quite different, but the reality is the same. Sometime, early in their lives, or even more recently, they’ve experienced this tremendous loss of a parent. As an infant, toddler, child or teen, they felt this loss of their legs and skin: their foundation and protection. And they have been walking around with the grief of this loss on the tip of their nose ever since then.
To these ladies, I want to say: “I’m sorry for your loss” and now more than ever, I see you. I see your pain and I admire that you are still standing. Whether you lost him at birth or just last year, whether she died or he left or you escaped. Whether you’ve met her or not, I’m sorry for your loss.