Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grief and the Undergrowth

I lost my father

I lost my father this summer.

Here he is.

His name was Leland Stauber. He was eighty-two years old.

This spring, after he was diagnosed with cancer, I made a blog for him and helped him to get his political/economic ideas out on the Internet.

He and I had sweet times together when he was in rehab and later in hospice. He let me feed him and lift him and wash his face. I told him that he walked the halls with me and changed my diaper when I was a baby, and now it was my turn. He smiled.

He was at peace with dying, and he navigated his last months with incredible courage, grace…and humor.

He said, “I’m not upset about passing on. I’m at a resting point in my writing. Hmm, I guess it will be a terminal one!”

He said, “I’m so exasperated by this! I’m ready to die, so why don’t I die?”

I’m so proud of him.

And I was able to say goodbye knowing for sure that he loves me and is proud of me.

And still

And still, I’m living now in a completely different place. The place of grief. Everything is different. They say that losing a parent is a life transition. Maybe that's why everything is different.

I keep having moments when I realize again that I’ll never see him again.

Daddy, my daughter's doing really well! Shock.

I can't wait to hear what he thinks about Occupy Wall Street. Shock.

Daddy would love this political science book I’m indexing! I have to call him and find out if he knows this author! Shock.

I’m publishing his last book for him. Which photo should I use on the back? Will he agree to the more informal smiling one? Shock.

Shock. Shock. Shock.

I’m sleeping a lot. I feel weak and sad. It’s hard to make plans or be hopeful. I don’t quite understand how this is related to losing my father, but I believe it is. They say that grief has many faces and lasts for a long time. This isn’t going to go away next week. I need to live with it.

So little by little, I’m trying to pay more aware attention to my inner self.

The rabbit

So I asked myself what animal I feel like. I feel like a rabbit, frozen in the undergrowth. Even as I smile, work, organize, sing, part of me underneath is that rabbit.

Photo by Jerry Kirkhart. Flickr: jkirkhart35

At first this image feels very weak. I must be afraid. I imagine myself shivering.

Then I thought, “At least I have the undergrowth.”

What is the undergrowth?

It’s my blankets. It’s my warm house. It’s my safety. I’m in it. It’s a resource.

The rabbit is smart

Then I realized that a rabbit in the undergrowth isn’t necessarily paralyzed with fear.

Going into the undergrowth is a strategy. The rabbit goes there for self-protection. It goes there for healing. It knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s in the right place.

I’m in the right place.

And at any moment I might be ready to leap out and DASH somewhere. My dash will also be a strategy. It will be exactly where I want to go.

And my daddy will be cheering me on.