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…
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”.
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