It’s been 5 years since my dad has passed which happens to exactly mirror my journey as a mother.
We found out we were pregnant with Keener at the exact same time my dad died. Therefore, my initial stages of grief started pregnant, a journey that was filled with a grief of its own. Finding out I was finally pregnant was an absolute joy and blessing, coupled with the most profound loss and sadness I have ever experienced. It all converged at the same time.
Now, 5 years later, it’s hard to believe how different September 5, 2015 and September 5, 2020 looked – in just about every way.
Not many of us are strangers to loss. As my practical and witty maternal grandfather said, “No one’s made it out of this world alive!” Oddly enough, I think about this all the time. He’s absolutely right. Every living thing – plant, bee and yes, person – won’t make it out of this world alive. However, when that time came for my dad, nothing could have prepared me. Also oddly enough, there are shared sentiments with bringing life into this earth — nothing could have prepared me. No birthing class, conversation, or book could have fully prepared me for raising a small human.
The passing of time
Time is a funny thing. It is one of the few constants in life yet its passing feels incredibly uneven. I feel like I have been a mother my entire life. I feel like my dad has been gone for 20 years but also maybe a week. One thing that is incredibly painful to wrap my head around is that my dad has been gone for the exact duration of this new phase of my life – motherhood.
Anyone who has lost a significant person can probably relate. The thought how are you not here for this? strikes. Sometimes it strikes hard like lightening. Other times its an intense longing. But every time, it just doesn’t seem possible. And yet it is my reality.
Some moments and some days it is easier to accept than others. In the last 5 years, I have been surprised by the moments that have been the hardest. Of course major life events have been difficult, but the harder moments have been the ones I didn’t see coming. A smell, a wonderful memory of my dad, and most often when I’m in nature. Weeding in the yard, looking out at the vastness of the ocean, and without fail when I am in the mountains. They were my dad’s favorite. On one ski run, I can find myself both sobbing and laughing at the same time.
If you’ve been following along for a while, you will know that emotional intelligence is my jam. Permission to Feel and Emotional Agility are books I flew through with a pen and highlighter in hand. Resilience, feelings, and emotions fascinate me.
The more I have learned about emotions — my own in particular — the better equipped I have gotten at helping my kids and students navigate theirs. As I heard on a podcast yesterday, Dr. Becky Bailey said, “We cannot teach children what we don’t know.” Self regulation is hard. Every day I feel the challenges of self regulation and yet I hear the shark music play when my own kids aren’t exhibiting self regulation skills themselves. I’m such a hypocrite!
My dad was the most incredible man. My mom always describes him as having the patience of Job, who remained steadfast to God in spite of incredible setbacks. In other words, the model of resilience, which is the skill I want for myself and my children more than anything else. Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
So here’s to you dad, Mr. Resilient. Thank you for living your life as a model of what patience and resilience looks like. I needed it yesterday morning as much as ever as the kids came in to watch Saturday morning cartoons, and I was laying there crying. I told them I was feeling sad because I missed you. That you went to heaven this day 5 years ago. Keener gave me a hug and Grace gave a small chuckle, not sure how to help her sad mama. After deciding on watching Robocar Poli on Netflix, I snuggled my two oldest and felt all the feels. I channeled you and reminded myself of the two things that I am always reminding my kids: feelings come and go, and I can do hard things.