intentional grieving…

survive

When I first heard the phrase “intentional grieving” I must admit I was a bit skeptical. I mean, my dad just died, why would I need to intentionally grieve him? And then…Life. My life hasn’t stopped. It hasn’t stood still and I’ve gotten busy…negligent in my reflection of this man, my father. Time slips away and the grief is pushed into the far recesses of my mind because the items at the forefront need attending to. Getting back to this place of contemplation and reflection is hard. I feel like I must mentally turn off my brain to all other pressing items trying to monopolize my thoughts and search for that area in my mind that is still raw and emotional….it takes time for my brain to relax and decompress, to let go of the everyday busy-ness and let the emotions and the vulnerability sink in again. And then it comes. The flood of grief and confusion and anger and more grief and I realize I waited too long to revisit it. It’s overwhelming again. I miss dad. Regardless of what he was to me, I still miss him.

My last post was pretty raw, I know….but it is me. It is my internal conflict. It is real. My hostility and contempt towards my father had faded and dulled over the years to an almost comfortable co-existence. We exchanged pleasantries, discussed the weather, sports and any other inane subject to avoid delving below the surface and confronting our dysfunction. For someone who seemingly had such a non-existent presence in my life, the void left is almost palpable sometimes. I am left to ponder why.

why?

Because it wasn’t always like this. My earliest memories of my father were of a man engaged and fully participating in life. I vividly recollect him walking home over the grassy knoll in front of our apartment building to greet us after his bus ride home from work. We always ran out to meet him and he would kneel down to catch us as we’d laugh and giggle with delight. He loved to play with us and many evenings were spent in epic tickle fights, playing games and devouring his fantastic popcorn-pot popcorn. He allotted time in his day for us and sought us out to check in. My favorite childhood memories with my dad involved him singling one of us out for a “sneak’. He would “sneak” into our room and as quietly as possible, gently rouse us at some god forsaken early hour, like 6:30 AM (soooo early for an 8 year old), to take the lucky recipient out for breakfast. No one else in the family would know about it (pretty sure my mom knew about it) and he would bring us anywhere we wanted to go. Just us. I don’t remember any earth shattering in depth dialogue, but I remember the “sneaks” and how special and loved I felt.

dad hugs

He eagerly shared his passions with us then. Anyone who knew my father knew the role sports played in his life.  He especially loved playing baseball with us and would regularly rally the neighborhood kids to the open field near our home for a rousing game before the sun surrendered to the night. I only recently learned that he was scouted by a professional baseball team in California when he was younger. My dad. Apparently, it was his dream to play pro baseball. He was really good! My dad. So many things I did not know about this man. So much he kept from us. After he died, our local paper published an article about him and how much he meant to our sports community. I have never been so proud and so sad. I didn’t know this man they wrote so eloquently about, fully engaged and participating in life…{cue light bulb}…Or did I? Perhaps this was just an older version of the man I use to know? I am beginning to reflect on him a little differently, through my adult eyes. He was a person. He wasn’t just my dad. As we grew older, we grew resentful of his passion for all things sports. It took him away from us. It was his escape. His way of disconnecting from our family…so I thought. Granted, I still believe his passions significantly and adversely affected our relationship with him, but I believe I am being fair in stating that none of his children were stellar athletes. We all tried in our respective chosen sport to make a go of it…and dad was there to champion and cheerlead, but they never panned out and were replaced by passions that were more suited to our personalities. Did that disappoint him? I wonder. I’m sure he would have loved for one of his children to follow in his footsteps and mirror his passion for the sports he loved so much. None of us did. Did he view that as rejection? That we were rejecting him? It is cause for pause…

As he became more immersed with sports, he received the accolades and the recognition he seemed to be longing for. He was validated. His life meant something. He was surrounded by people who shared his passion and accepted him enthusiastically. He was human. We gravitate to things and experiences that validate us. That bear witness to us as human beings. That state “Your life is important. Your life matters and I am a witness to that.”  In many ways I did not accept him. I did not validate him, and I too, was selfish. And I know how it feels to desperately yearn for acceptance and validation, and to have it withheld. It is a painful cruel reality that eats away at ones self-worth like festering gangrene, and is something I still struggle with. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As I grieve and mourn and reflect, it often comes full circle, and I am forced to confront the reality of my own short comings and faults. As hard as it is, I must acknowledge it. I must process it…and I must find my way to forgiveness.

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