By Lara Foster
Four Eleven never escapes me.
When we planned to go to Hawaii in April (Strawberry Mango Lemonade is a recap) I didn’t even realize we’d be on the island for 4/11.
Weeks later, looking at the dates on the calendar, the numbers struck out 4-1-1…
Exhaling slowly with acknowledgment the truth settled in, I know this day. I know it well.
Sometimes, I pretend to not look at it. Yep, another Thursday! It’s gonna be a great day! As I try to sprinkle some Rainbow Unicorn Fairy Dust over the situation to ‘make it better’.
But my heart sinks, nope, it was not just another Thursday eight years ago.
It was a Sunday. It was THE DAY, the day, that had been ringing like panic in every call, text, or message that came up on my phone.
Is this it? Did I miss it? Did my Dad die? I’d think during every single moment for months until I opened a message and could let out a sigh of air… Phew. Not today…
The panic remained after 4/11/2010 FOR YEARS. It was hard to look at my phone even after he passed.
My body, nervous system and senses were still in suspense waiting for that call, or perhaps another one. Like a reminiscent shock wave through my body. The kind of PTSD that no one wants to talk about because it’s not from the big stuff like war, homelessness, poverty, abuse… (Not to take away from any of these things, only to shed light on grief and trauma as a whole).
But it’s still there. And I’m willing to talk about it now.
Grief works much like PTSD or any type of trauma filled situation. In technical terms they are triggers that flip our system into a sympathetic state, shortened breath, increased heartrate, fight or flight response.
Even trauma that may have occurred in our childhood’s can still spark triggers. Ever heard the people who had great childhood’s? They’ll admit there’s trauma there.
And, that’s ok.
Because it’s part of how we’re made. This mind. This heart. This body. And the convergence of operating it all…
In the 80’s when I was a kid, no one talked about how to operate, like how to drive this body, mind and Spirit that we’re in, that we’re a part of, that We Are.
How to use your mind. How to feel your feelings. How to register sensations. And how to get them to maybe work all together, intentionally, for a greater good.
We CAN do that right?
Now these days, meditation, yoga, breathing, exercising, optimizing, eating healthy, living sustainably, utilizing empathy, and holistic healing are all very huge conversation points in our society. Well, at least they are in the world I live in.
And I am SO GRATEFUL for it! I am so grateful for the tools that I have learned how to process and release grief. Because after experiencing the greatest tragedy of heartbreak on 4/11/2010 I was in deep deep grief and it changed everything about my life. But the truth about grief is that it is not necessarily just about death or dying.
Grief is really about loss.
Loss can happen for anyone in very small and minute ways. But it’s still loss. Loss can be categorized as a change or shift of the way one thought things were or are and so recalibrating into a New Normal/Life Now while also honoring the self (or a new layer of the self) is an adjustment period. It takes time. And it’s different for everyone.
When we take a moment to reflect, examine, or be introspective about our lives we’ll realize that loss can operate anywhere and everywhere.
Like, feeling that love from someone is conditional, like if you don’t do certain things in a certain way, they won’t love you. That’s an experience of loss, if you stay in the relationship without saying something. It’s also a loss of your self.
Like, watching friends change and grow in a way that you don’t want to or are not ready to, and so off they go, while you stay back and wait, because you can’t, you won’t, it’s not safe for you out there. That’s a loss of dear friendship.
Been there too.
Like trying to love someone, because loving is what we do, and not paying attention to any warning signs that this might not be a good situation for you and so losing a part of yourself again.
Like, feeling the energy disappear for a job and profession you once loved but can’t seem to find the motivation or inspiration to keep doing…
That’s a loss and a shift and a change…
The losses just kept on piling up and smacking me in the face until I finally turned to take a closer look at all of it after my Dad died on 411, “This is information for you to learn about yourself”, Life said.
I’ve learned that until one recognizes this space of loss and is able to feel, see, a reason or gratitude for it, we’ll live in a space of grief. But that also searching for a reason will not always bring about an understandable conclusion. Because maybe said conclusion hasn’t happened yet. The mind wants to understand things linearly, 1+1=2. But the heart and Spirit work multi-dimensionally beyond and throughout time and space creating a journey of love and growth.
So, grief. The kind we all don’t talk about. Not out loud anyway. The kind I really think and feel like we would highly benefit from talking about. The kind of moments that I still get lost in, locked in, and mysteriously swept into when Gretchen says, “Today’s the day…” referring to another anniversary of 4/11.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” is still what came out of my mouth as tears streamed down my cheeks even though I know better and want to do better.
It’s been eight years. Eight years. Eight.
And we’re not supposed to celebrate death days right? We’re not supposed to talk about them out loud right? Think about the good stuff! The positive stuff! That’s what you’ll attract!
But, I can’t Not Say Anything anymore. That’s why I keep writing. Because writing helps all the little losses and all the big griefs move and churn out of me.
He was such a rock. Strong. Steady. Clear. Capable. Honest.
And, his eyes sparkled with a zest for life.
Those eyes. That smile. That laugh! Jeeeeeezus Christ!
If you knew my Dad these descriptions are just a small fraction of essence he exemplified.
He taught me how to stand up and be myself. No. Matter. What.
No matter if he didn’t understand who I was, or why I might be the way I am.
Regardless, there was always honor for the existence of being inside.
“You’ll figure it out,” he’d always say.
Which I did not figure it out, for a very long time. And I even got angry at him for not telling me HOW to figure it out. I even blamed him for everything that was wrong with me.
But he stood there, and he listened… like only a father does.
And then when the time came for me to mirror such listening, I only felt Love and Gratitude for who he had become. For the ways he was able to shine a light on the best parts of himself and let those spaces grow and be seen. For the way he lived his life.
Now, that’s not to say my Dad’s life was perfect. It wasn’t. The man broke my heart, and my hopes, and my dreams from a very young age because, “He couldn’t do it”… be a husband, a father, a nine to fiver, F-o-r-e-v-e-r…
And he knew it.
Divorce came and split us up. And so my mom, dad, and I all built our own stories of resilience separate from each other. But even though we were separated we all still lived intertwined.
And that’s what I respect and remember and honor the most about him. It’s the Truth.
As much as that Truth shattered in my very own life and my very own heart it is this same Truth that I appreciate so greatly now. My childhood was broken because of this truth.
So do I blame it? I have…
Do I deflect it onto others? Done that too… (Sorry peeps)
Or, do I share my voice honestly about the way it feels even if I might feel a little shame for still feeling the grief eight years later because “If you’re still in grief, you don’t have enough faith, and you’re doing it wrong,” says the crowd who are mysteriously out there pointing their fingers at me in my mind so I’ll stay quiet.
And quiet is what I stay for a while, but then I realize I’m not growing anymore, things are getting stagnant, and perhaps I’ve lost myself for a brief moment again.
So I choose once again to open and I share the truth.
Grief is tough. It can suck you back into its claws of bearing without even knowing what hit you. Any un-churned moments of grief in my life come alive again as I revisit through feeling and sensations of the memory or moment in time. Through the blink of an eye I can be three again, or seven, or fourteen, or twenty two, or twenty nine.
I’ve learned through the grief storms, that until I allow myself to fully feel and honor the grief, who I was and what I dreamed of or hoped for at those times, it will still live lurking in the shadows somewhere and I’ll jump like a cat anytime a light gets shined on it.
This is the feeling, sensationally, of what the central nervous system does on the inside. It is essentially like a reaction that’s been triggered. So PTSD is a continual flaring of said reaction within the system.
This flaring can lead to inflammation, adrenal burnout, or chronic fatigue.
Feeling all the grief feels… And, I’m here to tell you, It’s ok. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to get rid of it or move quickly through it.
Just honor the grief and the grief in turn will honor you.
This is the turning point when you find it, or when it comes to you. Because through these years and the stack of stuff I’ve had to sort through literally and figuratively I’ve found that grief is really just one of Life’s BEST clearing tools.
Grief will clear the unimportant things out of your daily life in a flash. When death comes knocking on the door for you, or a friend, a loved one or family member. All there is to do is show up, listen, love and be grateful you’re together.
Grief helps you realize who you really are and what you really want.
Grief will encourage you to become more of yourself than you’ve ever been.
And for that, for this, I am grateful.
Dad’s death day 4/11/2010 is my Life day. Continuing to come alive in my very own life. Committing to being the truest version of who I am now and whatever comes my way.
“Love and appreciation are identical vibrations. Appreciation is the vibration of alignment with who-you-are. Appreciation is the absence of everything that feels bad and the presence of everything that feels good. When you focus upon what you want – when you tell the story of how you want your life to be – you will come closer and closer to the vicinity of appreciation, and when you reach it, it will pull you toward all things that you consider to be good in a very powerful way.”
-Excerpted from Money and the Law of Attraction on 8/31/08 by Abraham Hicks
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”