Transitions To Transformations Through Grief
December 15th, 2016
Looking back on 2016, this has definitely been a year of transitions, which have powerfully transformed my soul in many ways, although the most intense transition of my life has been with processing the grief for my father’s sudden death. December 4th marked the 14th anniversary of his death and also a milestone to my own transformation through grief. On this day in 2002, my father and another man had stopped to help a young woman, who was trapped, out of her wrecked, smoking vehicle and were suddenly sideswiped by an oncoming car. It is still very painful to think back to this moment, yet it is a reminder of the kind of man he was, always helping others, supporting, uplifting, and provoking laughter and fun. His actions and love set the standard of living and has been my guide for life. I love him so much.
Dancing his way into everyone’s hearts, his ability to deeply see, listen and accept in a charming and fun way made him the life of the party and deeply connected to the many that call him “friend.” He was my first spiritual teacher. Conscious of heart disease issues within his family genetics, he became obsessively healthy. This began his path into Transcendental Meditation and everything spiritual. As a family, he would have us do this stretching thing called “yoga” to a VHS video. I’ll never forget him in the basement wearing pink/grey spandex long underwear with a white t-shirt tucked in, mimicking the weird new age guy with two assistants that looked like jazzercise dancers. He brought spirituality into our lives with a lightness, but also a reverence that influenced me for the rest of my life.
Clearly, I never imagined a life without this man who was my rock. I had entered into the first stage of transitions which is “endings”, which is, also, the easiest phase to get stuck in due to avoidance of real grief. Grief demands that you surrender to the pain of loss, the longing for the person that left and the loneliness that arises from them being gone. It is also the phase where you let go of identity that you had associated yourself with. You enter a period of non-identity and have to come to terms with a new reality that you may not have wanted. That period is a fog. The funeral ended, but the grieving had barely begun. Unknowingly, I was embarking on a journey that has affected every relationship since, transforming me into the woman I am today. At the time, I was living in Aspen, CO, close to my older sister. She has always been a pillar of support and strength for me. That winter, my sister and I sadly hiked Aspen Mountain to spread his ashes at the top. It was extremely windy that day, so when we threw his ashes in the air, ironically they blew back at us, directly into our faces. We laughed so hard and were simultaneously stunned once we realized his ashes were in our mouths. I could hear him laughing!
Desperately seeking meaning in my life, I found the perfect solution; I fell in love instead of grieving. Why not? Love is so much better than grieving. Except, I don’t think I was ever really present for my partner for the six years we were together. Oh yes, and let’s not forget, I stayed extremely busy with great music, outdoor activities, and a very heavy social calendar. I was a master of distraction. I even used my meditation to just feel good not feel the pain that was lurking beneath the surface.
My father’s early spiritual influence had left me with a different perspective about his tragic death. I could find peace with his soul’s departure and the fact that his leaving had connected my sister, mom and me in a way that brought healing into our lives and relationships that once were masked by his presence. I thought this “peace” was how I was going to heal but there was always an underlying numbness. I got so used to it that I barely knew it was there after a few years.
Alas, I did not know how to process my feelings. What better way to find self-discovery than through a Master’s program in Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University. I fell apart in a raw and beautiful way. I learned how to feel without the suffering that comes from telling a story about the feeling. Crazy…but it works. I learned what it means to be truly vulnerable and let others see you. I used to never let anyone know I needed support. Now, I see it’s the greatest strength. We need each other, we need to know we are connected to the greater whole and not meant to cover up what is uncomfortable.
Since grad school, I have helped patients through their particular grieving process and worked with trauma and loss. My own loss brought the idea for the many workshops and retreats I have created and guided with the theme of “Transitions through Transformation.” I believe our negative or traumatic experiences can help transform our whole being and create a vibration that develops growth and a deeper connection with our soul’s purpose.
For years, I didn’t realize that the way I related to men was from a place of fear of abandonment. I would make it ok for them to go, practically pushing them out the door. The unconscious can be strong. I knew it was time to be completely free of the story of “being left” or abandoned by those I love most. This year on my father’s anniversary I let the rest of his ashes go at the Starhouse in Boulder, CO, a place that I hold special in my heart. This time I release them flowing in the direction of the wind. I’ve learned from the past and was ready to move forward. I almost held on to the story because I thought if I have the story of my pain then I’ll always have him. Well, that’s not true. I can only authentically connect to him and the divine from a place of infinite love and acceptance of myself. So, after all these years…I understand why I’m so passionate about my work with people through transition. I would have really loved it if I had had a roadmap to consciously grieve but I eventually figured it out.