The biggest catalyst for finding my authenticity and living even remotely comfortable in my own skin began when I lost my dad. The series of life decisions I made in the days and weeks immediately following his death clearly show I was, in many ways, a ship adrift in the sea of life, no anchor, no captain, no navigational charts, no charted course, merely going wherever the waves and storms of life took me.
There’s no way I could tell my story without this crucial life altering event.
I’ve learned that sometimes you must go backward to go forward. If this happens, it’s important to remember it’s not the end of the world.
By the grace of God, I was in the room when my dad’s spirit left him. I saw it happen with my own eyes, and nothing or no one will convince me otherwise. That night, I learned there’s a miracle in death as there is in birth: both are sacred.
The events that followed, were in some ways emotional torture. I have often hoped that I would wake up and find that it all was simply a nightmare. There were things that made no sense to me, things that deeply hurt me, things that all but destroyed me, and things that I truly regret.
Now we go backwards a year maybe 2. My divorce was final and I came to realize that almost my entire circle of friends had crumbled almost immediately. In retrospect I see many things so clearly, although at the time it was truly painful. I had never felt so alone.
Up until my divorce, I would have said I had many friends who loved and cared about me. I went to church with the majority of them and the others went to another church. The problem is this particular religion believes divorce is immoral, and whoever is “wrong” in the divorce is going straight to hell. I was awarded the title of the scapegoat.
Now we go backwards almost 2 decades to 6 days after my wedding. My then husband and I were sitting outdoors at a restaurant, and the next day we would be heading back home as Mr. & Mrs. As that thought swirled about in my mind, my chest tightened, I couldn’t breathe, my heart raced, and I felt trapped. I said, “I can’t do this. I’m not ready to be married. I’m not ready to be a wife.” His response, “You’ll be ok. We’ll be ok.” (Note – you may want to run, fast, far and not look back if your new bride says this. Just a thought.)
So when I lost my dad, there I was with a couple (I mean 2) people who were actually my friends and are still dear to my heart, divorced (the scapegoat), and feeling like I was being smothered with family and “friends”.
I believe when someone dies everyone means well, but what few seem to understand is we all process emotions differently. Some of us need to be surrounded by people, while others need to be off by themselves. This difference started a chain reaction of events that if I’m not careful, I can still get angry.
The day of my dads funeral, the following processional to the grave site and at the dinner that night, if anyone asked how I was, I said ok: I knew what I was supposed to say. It was expected that I would participate and go along with what everyone else decided: whether I agreed or not was irrelevant. I’m a recovering people pleasing enabler, of course I would agree. But, I was also expected to participate when no one let me know the plan the day after the funeral. What I needed was some space and time. One person seemed to understand.
I desperately needed some time to be alone in my own thoughts so I could breathe. This was not the case for the rest of the family (except maybe my youngest son). They all seemed to thrive on being together.
Early the next morning following my dads funeral, I got up before everyone except my mom and got ready to take off for the day so I could clear my head and take at least one deep breath. When I was leaving that morning, mom asked if I knew when I’d be back. No I did not. Just heading west. She laughed, smiled and said, “ok, have fun.”
The rest of the entire family woke up later that morning, including my 2 sons, and asked my mom where I was and when I would be back. My understanding now is she told everyone that I knew there was a plan to meet at the grave site early that afternoon so I’d be back before then.
The cold fact is no one had said one word to me. I knew nothing of this plan.
When I wasn’t back “on time”, I was _______________________________ (fill in the blank). According to my family, I had abandoned them and I had abandoned my sons.
Nothing could be further from the truth.