In Memory of my Dad & Dealing with Pain

In loving memory. Kon Dimakis 15 Aug 1928 - 26 Aug 2009

1928 – 15th Aug – Dad arrived on this earth.

1954 – Dad left Greece and settled in Australia.

2009 – 15th Aug – Dad turned 81. This was also the last day I heard his voice as I played a Youtube clip of Zorba the Greek on my iPhone, holding it up close to make sure he could hear it. His words “Oh, you’re lovely” will live in my heart forever

2009 – 26th Aug – Dad left this earth as quietly and dignified as he lived his life.

2010 onwards – I will ALWAYS miss him…

A man of great style – emotional, affectionate, intelligent, loving and the most generous soul I’ve ever known. He was a true “gentle”man and the reason for any of the good in the person I am today.

Writing about my Dad as I approach the 1st anniversary of his death may well be painful as all hell for me, but it’s something I must do for me. I must acknowledge that the pain is not just going to go away even if I do manage to stay busy and distracted.  I’m a talker. I need to get things out. It’s how I’ve “dealt” all of my life. I need to give a voice to the pain of my loss and pay a small tribute  to the wonderful man who continues to guide me from heaven, what/where ever that may be.  Dad was very emotional, and wrong or right that’s also my style. Talking about pain is how I deal with it…

“Dealing”

We all develop different  strategies and styles of coping with pain. None are wrong or right – they just are. Many of us use denial and avoidance hoping to escape until the pain disappears. But while this may appear to work for a time the pain eventually resurfaces and often with renewed intensity from having been buried for so long. All of life’s challenges, hurts and triumphs  shape the person we become and all of us “deal” differently.  Some of us try to avoid painful triggers and memories. Some mask pain with work and busy-ness. Some party-hard and laugh when they really want to cry.  Some turn to drugs or alcohol.  Some surround themselves with people while others retreat. But none of these methods really work in the longer term if we don’t give our pain it’s voice. It just lurks under the surface of our being, waiting to be given the recognition it deserves as an important chapter in the book of our life.

As the saying goes…(Or was it a song about a bear? Not too sure…)

“Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it – just gotta go through it”. It can take a long time to get through it but eventually (with lots of patience, love and support from both ourselves and others) we can come out the other side. And no, on that other side the pain won’t be gone nor will it ever be completely erased from our memory. But with time the intensity of emotion we feel may ease slightly (or so they tell me!).

“Think Positive” they say….Arrrgh!

Have you ever met someone who has just been diagnosed with an illness (perhaps life threatening, or at the least, life-changing)? How often have you found yourself issuing platitudes like: “Think positively. You’ll get through this! I know of so-and-so who had the exact same thing and he/she’s just fine now”!  The thing is, we don’t know that it is the “exact same thing” and let’s be honest. While they’re coming to grips with their new situation it’s bloody hard to “think positively” isn’t it?  Think about it – put yourself in their shoes! If you were told you had a terminal illness – or were diagnosed with a chronic disease that will mean pain or disability and major lifestyle changes in an effort to just be able to live as normally as you can – could you honestly find one thing to feel “positive” about at that moment?  Sure, in time some degree of positivity will usually surface as you accept and decide to fight as best you can – but that journey knows no time limits and it can only really happen if the person (and those supporting them)  acknowledges the natural periods of sadness that are a part of dealing with pain.  Allow them time for wallowing. Let them genuinely get in touch with the reality of their new situation. To ask them to “be positive” just adds more pressure. It’s cruel and only serves to make them feel guilty or weak because they can’t yet genuinely act or feel as positive as  you want them to.

Helping others through life-changing pain.

As confronting as it may feel to be reminded  of our own mortality, when someone we care about is in pain, we must remind ourselves that it really is so much harder to be THEM at this moment.  No matter how much we may hate hospitals; no matter how much we may hate talking about illness or death or anything “negative” – at this moment it’s not about our fears  or our own need to be positive. It’s our time to be there for them, to support them and give their pain the voice it needs in order for them to journey through their own personal pain. It’s their pain and how dare we add more pressure with more shoulds or presumptions of how they should start to fight their way back up.  They need time to get to their own place of positivity. And during what is still for them a pretty bleak, negative situation,  just be there and give them permission to feel. Let them be real. Let them be honest.  They need your shoulder and they need your ears. Some days, they may need your sick jokes. Some days they may need your kitchen bench and a glass of wine. Some days they may need a shopping trip, a fishing trip, a game of footy or a movie. Other days,  they may need a coffee, an email, or text or phone call. But  it will be different from week to week, and that’s all OK!

Why do we ask people to “think positively”?

Because it makes US feel better and we think that a positive attitude can cure most anything! But the reality is, sometimes it doesn’t. Being positive and trying to remind myself of the wonderful times I had with my Dad may work sometimes, but no amount of celebration of his life is ever going to ease the pain I feel in losing him. Sure, I know it’s the “natural order of things”. Sure, I know he “had a good innings”. Sure I know “we’re all going to die” one day. But you know what? No matter how old I get (or how old our parents or children get) I doubt I will ever be truly ready to say goodbye to anyone I love. And I also won’t apologise for feeling the intense sadness I feel because I just plain miss them!

What good can come from pain?

Pain can teach us empathy and compassion and gratitude.  I believe some good can come from our pain if we use it to open our heart to others’ pain.  If you think about it, if we lived a life where we never experienced lows, how would we even recognise or truly appreciate the highs, let alone be able to walk in the shoes of others and help them through some of their challenges? Pain teaches us to come outside of ourself and to reach out to others. There are always going to be other people with far worse problems than our own, and we can help them if we look for the opportunities and force ourselves to get outside of our own little world.  Because “The best way to make yourself feel good is to make someone else feel even better”.

The hands that never stopped giving...

My Dad lived to help others. He was only happy if he was doing something for someone else. He needed to be able to look after his family. To serve others. To thank others. He just couldn’t sit still and struggled to allow others to help him. When he became ill and eventually became totally dependent on others, I think that’s when he “died inside”. To him, he was no longer himself. Physically and emotionally he gave up the fight and I can’t say I blame him.  I can also say I will never ever stop missing the most beautiful man who was my father.

I love you Dad… And Happy Birthday for Sunday…xx

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11 Responses to In Memory of my Dad & Dealing with Pain

  1. Big Al you are so good at saying things just how they are! This was such a lovely post to read. I really enjoyed this alot – thank you! xx

  2. Al this is such a genuine and heartfelt post. So often it’s hard to know what to say / do when someone we care about is going through a difficult time, but i believe it’s so important to let them know they have our love and support, and the right to express whatever they are feeling.

    Another thing I believe…your Dad would be incredibly proud of you and your tribute!

  3. OK guys…so you just made me cry again! Geeez…thanks for that! (kidding).
    While it ain’t no secret that I’m easily moved to tears at the best of times (yeah…so what if I cried at a Lost Dog sign at Robina roundabout the other day and never even saw the dog’s photo!) I do acknowledge that I may be a little “extra sensitive” at the moment. Let’s add to the fact that Milly – my cat – is dying (kidney failure, but I’m trying my best to give her quality of life with daily insulin injections for Diabetes!) and I’m not too well myself – and YES, you just may have a teary little Big Al waiting to be set off again! But hey, isn’t this all just life!? Well, it’s my life at the moment…
    Can’t go around, over or under it…just gotta go through it! And I will! And with the love and support of beautiful friends, supporters, readers, hubby and kids, I know I’ll make it! For me. For Dad. For my family…Thanks again for your kind words…xx

  4. Big Al. Nice tribute to your dad.

    I think it was a song,
    Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham


    So high, can’t get over it, so low, can’t go under it, so wide, can’t go around it, gotta go through that door.

    If my memory serves me correct, this might also be a smaller notable anniversary for me of the first time I read your blog. I remember seeing that picture of your hand with your dad.

  5. Thanks Ron. Yes, that’s the song! Knew you’d put your finger on it! How lovely that you remembered that photo of Dad’s & my hands. You would’ve seen it first about a year ago when I posted it on FB.

    Time marches on, we lose those we love, but memories live on in our hearts forever…

  6. Hi Al… This was a truly wonderful tribute to your dad, your hero, your friend and someone whom you looked upto. He would be and is still so proud of you with all that you have achieved… Don’t ever forget that. As we both know losing our dads is so painful especially when you share that kind of bond. I miss my dad every day so understand exactly what you mean. Just remember those around you love and care about you including me. If you need anything, just someone to listen, shout at or have a coffee with let me know. Take care love Shaz xo

  7. What a beautiful way to remember your dad as the 1st anniversary approaches. I could not help but feel such joy through the pain as I realised how much you loved him and what a special man and father he was. Gentleness is such a rare characteristic and so many father daughter relationships don’t have that sweet gentle side yours did. I remember your Dad as appearing very strong in his stillness and his quiet spoken nature spoke very loudly to me how much he adored you. You were certainly the apple of his eye. When you are a parent you want an abundance of love and happiness for your children and I know your Dad would be at peace knowing how much you strive to live a a very full life with the same joy, kindness and sweetness he did. love you Al…xox

  8. Thanks also Sharon. You are very in tune with this sort of thing, I know. A truly gentle soul you are, and I am sure your dad feels exactly the same way too! Maybe he’s even met mine “up there” by now? And they’re both reading our comments and smiling down on us? May sound daggy, but I’ll think of anything I can at the moment to make sure I still feel him “living on” somehow…

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