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"It's so curious:  one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief.  But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. "

~Colette

 

I'm not feeling well. My head and my stomach hurt each morning and throughout the day. Tears well up for no apparently reason and suddenly I feel like I'm freezing even though it's sunny and warm outside. I feel like I need a nap even though I took a three hour one in the afternoon. I can't concentrate on work or people or even the steps it takes to wash my hair in the shower. Did I brush my teeth this morning? I don't know. I think I"m hungry but then I can't eat, except for chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Maybe that's why my belly hurts.

I'm trying, fairly successfully, to let myself be okay with just floating along, trying not to try to be anything or anyone in particular right now.  After all, my dad just died. I seem to take a bit of perverse pleasure in telling people that, suddenly and without set-up. Not "passed away", but died. "My dad died."  The suddenness of hearing that seems to make people take a couple of steps back and I guess that must be what I want. Sure I have my roles: sister, daughter, mother, friend, coworker, but I'm not worrying about playing these roles with any enthusiasm or intention. I feel like the two and a half year old version of me looks in this photo.

People have been incredibly kind with words and gestures. I've received emails, cards, flowers and of course blog comments.  At the memorial service when people came up to me to say something kind or sympathetic which usually ended with "how are you doing?" I had my stock line that I repeated to everyone, "I've been better".  But I really just want to be left alone.

I feel very alone. The untethered feeling is rather odd, because I'm not any more alone than I was before my father died two weeks ago. I live here in California. I separated myself emotionally, financially and physically from my parents many years ago and many times. I'm surprised by the loss I feel and the sense of vulnerability.

My father was not a protector, nor was he much of a provider. I did not find shelter, comfort or safety in him as a child. Why would his death leave me feeling like a scared and orphaned infant?

I grew up too fast. I did not have a happy childhood. I learned many lessons from my upbringing that I'm grateful for and I've spent many hours with friends, professionals and wise teachers finding ways to be a happier grown-up, to not repeat generational patterns and to break free of many of my survivor coping skills.

I used to live almost entirely in my head, thinking my way into relationships and protecting my heart with words and impressive deeds. If I'm smarter, funnier, more productive, more impressive, more valuable to you, will you see the wounded little heart so deeply buried in my chest and love me?

I've allowed myself to be more vulnerable, more childlike, more open in the past 15 years than I allowed myself to be in my first 30 years. It takes courage to let in pain, to feel helpless, to release the reins of control and to experience the profound and true letting go that comes with opening yourself up to loss. Ironically, being more open, more focused on heart than on head, and allowing myself to feel loss and sadness has brought me the love and happiness I always wanted and thought I had to earn.

When I thought about the death of my parent's recently (they are in their 80s) I thought that, given all the work that I had done over the years grieving for my childhood, their actual deaths would not hit me so hard. After all, I'd already mourned, separated and grown up, the emotional work that I needed to do there had been done already, right? What would there be to mourn?  

For a time last week back in Minneapolis I thought my sadness was more about my father's life than his death, but I'm finding that perhaps there's more to it than feeling sorry for the sweet, tender hearted and vulnerable man my father was. It appears that I still have some "growing down" to do.

But first I want to find another warm sweater and perhaps take another nap.

Originally posted on patty.vox.com