Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Forget the past. Embrace the future.

We've been living in quite the bubble for the past week. It's almost unfathomable to me that at the very moment I write this, we mark exactly one week since my father died. As unreal as the whole thing still seems, I suppose there will be many such milestones ahead of us, where we simply stop and think it's been X days, weeks, months, years since it happened.

And as my incapable brain has absorbed countless words of comfort from countless friends and family members, the one that continues to resonate in my mind revolves around the past and the future. A dear friend of our family since long before I can remember pulled me aside in shul (synagogue) tonight and said the last thing I want to do is dwell on the past. Nothing I can do will ever change it, and focusing on it will only bring me pain. The future's the thing. And we must do everything in our power to build a strong one, no matter what may have happened to us up until now.

Of course, I'm not explaining it right. I can't formulate words all that well right about now, and I'm praying my writer's voice returns, in force, later this week when I return home to a growing pile of deadlined work. Somehow, I know it'll get done. And I'll reach into a reserve I hardly knew I had before last week to find new ways of being there for my mom and reaching out to my sister and my brother. I'll also need to be an even better husband and dad as I figure out how to help my wife and kids adapt to this new, sadly changed reality.

How this will all happen, I have no idea. But it'll happen somehow. It has to. I told my wife earlier tonight that I feel broken. Although I have no prior experience, I suppose every loss like this leaves us all changed in some way. I know none of us will be the same, but I still find myself looking for the good, and knowing that he'd want us all to figure out a path that takes the lessons he taught us and helps us build a more vibrant future.

As I figure out the how, I'll do my best to share it here. I hope you'll do the same, because I can use all the advice I can get.


Rinkly Rimes said...

I've just returned from the funeral of a good friend and I saw how completely overcome with grief were her family members. I think you just have to cry it all out and then take one step at a time in recovery. Think how happy your father would have been to know how much you care.

Tabor said...

I think the bubble analogy is right on. When I lost my younger sister, everyday I was going through daily motions as if waiting for the thought about her death to hit me again...which it did without fail. But the hits do get easier over time.

Mojo said...

Advice? Nah, Carmi I can't think of anyone who needs advice less. But if I were going to offer an observation I might point out that you're putting an awful lot of pressure on yourself with ideas like you'll "have to be better at [fill in the blank]" because "[fill in the blank]" needs me to be. Sure, your family needs you to be strong. But in caring for their grief, don't forget to care for your own.

Oops. That last line sounded a lot like advice didn't it?

daisy said...

I've had a lot of loss in my life beginning at a very young age with my father. My mom has always had the "solider on" philosophy and that's what I've always adopted since then. For me, realizing I can't change anything and that my loved ones would want me to continue on with life and be happy, has helped a lot. I also take comfort in believing in gaurdian angels and that in other tough times I have all those I've lost looking out for me and helping me during those times.

It just takes time as everyone has to deal with things at their own pace.

Anonymous said...

Carmi, I don't think your writer's voice has left you, although you certainly have had more important things on your mind and heart. Just continue to be you as your journey through this difficult, rocky valley.
It is true, one cannot live in the past, but I would submit that forgetting the past is only a worthwhile venture if you are forgetting the pain and things that drag you down. The stories of the past are what we share with our children to connect them to their heritage. (But I don't think you mean to forget such things.)

Gallow said...

If we forget the past, we forget the good times as well as the tough times. For me the past many times brings a smile to my face, and a laughter to my heart. I like to remember the good things.

When I die, I hope people can laugh, and remember the good times that we shared together. Maybe this helps me to make good times now while I can.

At the same time I don't think you can short circuit the grieving process. It must be an important part of the process. I'm not sure why.

Hang in there.

My prayers continue to be with you, your children, your wife, and all of your family.

kenju said...

Carmi, I have no doubt that you will figure it out; take one step at a time. A parent's death does change us (how could it not). Your father would want you to step up and take the reins of the family (along with your siblings) and help your mother into her future, her new reality.

Thumper said...

There's no solid advice anyone can give you to get through this; you'll feel what you feel when you feel it, whether it's paralyzing sorrow or unexpected laughter and joy at odd memories that bubble up--sometimes within the same ten minute time span.

The only real thing to cling to--even though it doesn't really help--is knowing that the physical pain of losing him will ease up over time. My father in law, my Superman, has been gone for 3 years now; the crushing pain of losing him had started to fade after a few weeks, but even today I sometimes think of him and the missing him is so strong I have to stop and suck in a few deep breaths. And that's ok...mostly I feel so freaking lucky and blessed that he was in my life and he loved me like I was his own.

It's hard and you'll miss him forever...but it will get easier.

gautami tripathy said...

Carmi, I wrote something last Saturday about my dad and me.

You come and read that whenever you feel comfortable. I think it might help you.

dad, will you walk one more time with me?

Anonymous said...

Carmi I think the past is very important to us all. But it is just that, the past. Thank goodness we have memories, photo's videos, to relive those glorious and not so glorious moments. But the future my friend. That's what you have to look forward to. Not only for yourself, but for your wife, kids, family and friends. I believe you just have to take it one step at a time, rely on each other, think positive, and move on. It doesn't have to be all in one giant step, but baby steps. It does get better and the hurt and pain do lessen, though never go away. 19 years ago I lost the love of my life. To this day, I never forget him or never a day goes by I don't think about the short time we did have together. But I survived and you will as well. It seems impossible that it will happen and you will have good days and bad days. But remember your family and friends and yourself. All of them are reason to look to the future. They are your hope, your genius, your love. :)

Unknown said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I know there are no words for comfort, but you and your family are in my thoughts.

mama bear said...

I just stumbled across your blog...and your post really touched me. I lost my father a month ago and lost my mother 3 years ago. At 33, I am now an adult orphan.
Not to discount what that person told you but I can't imaging going through this journey of grief and loss without reflecting on the past...what I have learned from my parents, the times we shared together...it is something I need to do in order to move forward.
Grief is such a personal process, but I have found that I need to be gentle with myself and allow it to come as it may...there are some days that I feel ok and I try not to feel guilty in that, and other days that I can only take it a minute at a time...
So, from one grieving stranger to another...peace be with you.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” — Kahlil Gibran

Jeremiah Andrews said...

How will you begin again, with a change in dynamic? Start with one day and work it from there. Everybody will find their way, one way or another. Everybody will grieve and begin to reset their lives in this new order.

I lost my grandparents (very close) when I was in my teens and it wrecked my life for a long time. How will we be better men? by being better to ourselves, and then to others. If we take care of ourselves, we then can take care of others.

I know on Thursday when I sat in the chapel and saw all those people, I thought, your dad was one well loved man by many. That's what we do, we stand together, we pray together, we live together.

It will take some time, but you will heal and the pain will lessen over time. Just don't rush the process. Be there for your children and your wife and especially your mom.

You will find your way. I promise. I imagine that your dad looked down on you from afar on the high holy day and smiled upon you and the family. Now he can be a better angel a guide and guardian in a place where there is no more pain or suffering.

My cosmology is a bit wider these days. And I imagine that blessings and signs will come to you when you most need them.

It was a privilege to honor your dad with you, your friends and family. You still owe me a cup of tea...

Be well my friend. You are in my prayers.


Wendy said...

You lost your writer's voice? Could have fooled me.

torontopearl said...

Carmi, writing is a balm. You have continued -- and will continue --to write, and whether or not you share your innermost feelings about your father's death and his absence in your life with your blog readers is your choice. From experience, I know that writing about such a personal loss is painful; each time I reread my words, it's a sharp reminder of exactly what I've lost. I've held back from saying many things about my loss and the feelings entwined with them -- at least for the past 6+ months. Perhaps in time they'll come out. In your case, the pen or keyboard letters might serve as tears, and the story will unfold...
I'm sending you a virtual hug from Toronto, Carmi. May your father's neshama have an aliya, and may he look out for you and your family.

lissa said...

Mojo - while you're right - in many matters of life, Carmi needs no advice, his is the advice I would (and do) seek - this is a matter of life with which he is just beginning to interact: death. And one's first encounter with such a devastating loss can render the most eloquent to speechlessness.

Here are my thoughts, Carmi...from one who has been there. We lose grandparents, great-aunts and -uncles, and while those are difficult - AND devastating in many different ways - and we watch our parents go through that which we dread in some unknown future. When that unknown hits us, it's a sucker punch, no matter how expected (as in my mom's case) or how suddenly (as in your experience). It's something no one can speak of with authority until one has the experience.

You're a fledgling in this life matter - thank G-d. You have enjoyed two parents for a long time, your kids have not only memories, but clear and detailed vividness when it comes to their grandparents, and your dad's presence in their life is embedded indelibly. But now comes the work, the time of feeling lost in the face of loss.

There is, frankly, no advice to offer. Everyone deals with it differently. Your family friend is right, you cannot change it - but focusing on it is inevitable. I don't think you're dwelling, but I do know you would be entirely expected to do so. We who do not obsess, as a rule, become obsessive about dates and days and times and events. The "firsts" are the hardest. I know your dad's birthday is coming up and that will bring back the initial pain like the day you got that call, last week. It is inevitable, and my dear friend, I wish I could cushion you from it with just these words. I can't - you and your family need to experience it. It is trial by fire and it is something we all go through. The holidays, birthdays (everyone's, from siblings to your kids'), places that you went with him (like your experience in shul over the holiday this past weekend), even songs.

Will it get easier? Yes - but it will never heal. It shouldn't. Healing from this loss denigrates its intensity. But you will be stronger than ever - and a stronger-than-ever Carmi is strength that is enviable.

What I can tell you is that watching your family this weekend was inspirational. You are one, a unit that knitted together in grief and you will all support one another. You'll find when one is in need, the others will rally around him/her. It's beautiful and it's rare and it's a gift your father continues to give (and get).

And - my new mantra when talking to you - you are not alone.

Love and Light.

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

not there to actually walk with you
he was the one who taught you to walk
he taught you well