Processing My Dad's Death
I’m sitting here reading To Love and Let Go by Rachel Brathen. It’s funny how someone else’s grief can hit you so hard when you yourself have been through so much. Reading of Rachel’s losses, one after another, in such a short time, hurts my heart. I feel such empathy and love for her. To see how far she has come, to know her only through Instagram but to still feel so much of her heart…it’s overwhelming. I wonder if this is what people think of me? I just share my heart to help inspire others to share theirs. To be bold and brave so that others will do the same.
I just want to help others. But then I wonder if I am doing too much. Am I doing too little? I’m not doing enough. My mind plays all these funny tricks on me. One moment I’m high on life after an intimate heart-opening conversation with someone, then another day I’m wondering if everyone would be better off if I weren’t here. The thing is, I know that my family needs me. They keep me alive. They keep me from doing anything stupid. Even before my boys were here, I had my husband and my mother. My mother, who must have been so worried about me. All those times I threatened to kill myself when I was growing up…
Reading of Rachel’s mother’s suicide attempts brings back so many memories of my own suicidal ideations. Honestly it hurts to read. Hurts to read of her mother’s pain, hurts to read of the pain that it inflicts on Rachel, her beloved daughter. Rachel is forced at such a young age to be her mother's caretaker. It’s no wonder that for so long she felt that couldn't trust her and was angry with her.
Just like I feel angry with my dad sometimes. I have forgiven him, but that doesn’t stop me from sometimes asking him out-loud why the fuck he decided to take his life the day after my birthday. Then I remember, it’s because he ran out of money in the month of April, which just so happens to be the same month as my birthday. Why couldn’t we have just paid his rent for another damn month? Then I wouldn’t spend the second half of my birthday with a sense of dread, knowing that I would relive the pain of my dad killing himself the next day. Then two days after that, reliving the pain of the phone call we received that he was found dead in his apartment. His brain blown out because he used his shotgun. When my mom later asked the police officer about the state he was in, he responded, “Ma’am, you don’t want to know.” We knew what that meant. But I didn’t need her to tell me that because I already knew. I had already been in his smoky, musty, death-filled apartment by that time. I had stepped over the blood stained floor with the carpet ripped out, painted over with a glossy white so that I couldn’t see the remnants of what my dad had done. The memory still haunts me to this day. Just as the memory of holding his Longchamp wallet in my hands and smelling him for the first time after he died will forever stick with me. It caused a breakdown in me.
I remember feeling like a zombie walking around my dad’s apartment after his death. I remember the shirt I wore that day – I had carefully chosen it because it said “je t’aime” on it, which means “I love you” in French. My dad had lived in Switzerland for a year while working for a French company called Charmilles Technologies. I went to visit him for 10 days while he was out there. The memories I have include eating pizza at the airport, walking up and down the steep cobblestone streets while shopping and listening to the bells chiming, my dad buying me my very own Longchamp purse, record shopping, waiting to ride the bus which was running unusually late due to heavy snow that year, eating croissants with jam while my dad didn’t speak to me because he was mad at me for something….He was frequently mad at me. I don’t think even he knew why. Now I know it was his inner demons that he never healed. They stayed with him his whole life.
Reading Rachel’s book, I found some clarity. In it, she described a spiritual experience she had with a shaman, where she finds herself reliving memories of her ancestors. She cries tears for all of them. She feels their pain and abuse deep in her soul, and she comes out of the experience knowing that each generation passed on hurt and abuse to the next. She would be the one to stop it. Just as I am the one to stop it for my children. I never want them to know this pain I feel. As it is, I fear for my Adam, who is sensitive and anxiety prone just like me. After all, it’s hereditary. I was blessed with this wretched curse and now I’m passing it onto my child too. I MUST be on the lookout for signs. I am so in tune with him, my sweet caring Adam. I cannot let him go down the same dark path that my father did.
I feel like Rachel’s book came to me at a time when I needed it. I needed to read it to do some of my own healing, my own processing. Now it is 3 days after I completed the book, and I am finishing up this blog. I am already in a different mental state than I was 3 days ago. I was in a bad state due to having to leave Mark for another week in California, in addition to the inordinate amount of sugar I was consuming on vacation. It plays tricks on my mind. In fact, I hesitate to even post this because it reveals some of my inner demons. But alas, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a bold brave goddess, now would I? So here we go with another post with my heart on my sleeve. I don’t know any other way, friends.
I will leave you with this mantra that Adam and I say frequently, which we borrowed from his kid meditation. I added in the third line, as we constantly discuss that being kind is the most important thing you can do. After all, you don’t know what people are battling, as is evident here. <3
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be kind.
May you be safe.
May you be at peace.
All pictures here by the incredibly talented AJ Kahn.