I’m writing this blog as Part II to a previously posted blog, Clearly Grieving, in which I reflected on how doing my own emotional work prepared me for losing my father. I’m a therapist in Washington, DC and nearby Bethesda, MD who believes in the impact of psychotherapy. I see it in my work, and I’ve experienced it my own life.
Just two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my father. It was sad, yet lovely. He struggled with a form of Alzheimers, and died peacefully one Friday afternoon. I had the chance to experience last moments with him surrounded by loving family. I also experienced how my own counseling helped me to be more present with my feelings.
When I was younger, I’d often approach going to therapy like it was my job. I would have the fleeting thoughts—If I did good work, then perhaps I wouldn’t have to feel bad or sad. As I approached the prospect of recommitting to a partner after prior heartbreak, I hoped not to feel scared. As I prepared for motherhood, I wished for only bliss, not pain or fear. Yet, those unconscious longings didn’t materialize. Of course, I felt scared when I opened my heart again. Clearly, all of my feelings were amplified–sad, mad, happy, scared–when I moved into and through motherhood.
But here’s the thing that I realized this time around. I GET to feel and live all of these experiences fully, in part because I’ve opened myself up to unprocessed feelings from the past. They say that most feelings will process and pass within 90 seconds. Yet, if those feelings become “hooked” on something else–an unresolved problem, a troubled experience, a complicated feeling–then those feelings linger until they are processed.
When my father passed from this life to beyond, I watched him slow his breathing and I felt everything–I felt sadness, I felt peace, I felt relief, and I felt joy. AND, as each new day approaches, I awake to new feelings about the loss of my father. I feel the sad permanence of his death. And, I feel the comfort from those around me. I feel new opportunities ahead of me as a mentor, a mother, a leader, a future grandmother, etc. I also feel the process of moving through my love and grief for him–and for that, I am grateful.