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Loss of Dad and Sister - feeling helpless


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In July of 2019 my Dad passed away on hospice after years of enduring chronic pain. Then my Sister passed away after a grueling battle was rare liver disease shortly after being approved for a liver donation. Only my Mom and Brother remain on my side of the family, they both live in a different state and I can't see them due to COVID precautions. The isolation, sadness and feelings of loss are constant and I feel helpless. The holidays, which coincided with the anniversary of my sister's death, we're bittersweet and difficult to get through. While I know that my Dad and Sister would want us to be happy and remember all the fun family times we shared, I can't help but miss the days gone by and wish we could be together as a family. Life feels lonely without them even though I have a wonderful husband and his family, three great dogs, and my Mom and Brother, who I'll hopefully see in 2021. Do you all have as my tips for getting through and allowing happiness to return? 

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Hello Devo,

I'm sorry for your losses :(  I'm glad you made your way here.  There are a lot of stories that may resonate with you and give you some ideas of things to try when you are wanting to shift the sadness for a while.

For myself, I also lost my sister and father.  My sister was sudden and shocking and we didn't know why for six months.  My father was a very quick illness.  Also, my father died on Christmas day.

Although it has been over 10 years, I still have difficulties.  I saw a counsellor this year because I experienced a bit of a breakdown due to the global pandemic.  What came up at these sessions, again, is the death of my sister.  It was such a great and terrible loss for me that I doubt its affects will ever leave my life.

So far, this may sound dire and not helpful but I am trying to paint a picture that will hopefully end somewhere positive.

Although it took me quite a while to recover from my initial despair, life has found a way to still have that loss and yet integrate happiness, accomplishment and positive change into my life.  I think the key for me is that someone who had lost their brother, on the day of my sister's funeral, told me nothing was going to be the same again.  I felt that to be true and during my initial grief, I also experienced the grief of the loss of my whole world.  And while I was moving through the world, I was paying attention to how it was now, a completely different world that I had to get used to.

I didn't like this new world, to be sure, but not getting used to it wasn't an option because, like you, I know they just want me to be ok.  And that is my promise to them that I will do what I have to when necessary to make sure that I am ok.

But it doesn't mean I'm not affected, and it doesn't mean I'm not sad, even years later.  What it means is that I have found a way to accept my sadness at the same time that I can accept peace, or happiness or joy even.  A counsellor in the early days told me that what happens is you learn to integrate the loss, and this is the best way I can explain it.  That I have learned to accept more than just one state of emotion.

We are, and always will be, a myriad of emotions.  Sometimes one or two of them are stronger than the others but you can feel the rest underneath sometimes.  I have found that the best way to recover from a moment of strong emotion is to accept it.  Being soft and gentle with yourself, recognizing that everything you're feeling is valid, even if what you're feeling is hopelessness.  Accepting all your strong emotions, I have found, is the way to sanity, for me.  

Because it's extremely hard to accept, understand and eventually love yourself through the fact that nothing will be the same again.  And because of that, you should give yourself all the hugs and soft words and gentle loving that you can manage.

And eventually, you will find hope, you will experience happiness, you will have successes and you will be able to experience the essence of your lost love ones at gatherings or conversations or moments alone.  

This doesn't help your loneliness now, I realize, but maybe you can take these words and tuck them into your pocket and pull them out now and again to help you recognize that what you're feeling is natural and you deserve all the care and compassion you can give yourself while you find your way in this new world.





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Dear Heartlight, 

Thank you for your thoughtful reply and insightful comments. I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your sister and father, my sincere condolences go out to you. I do think that your lost loved ones would be so proud of you for working through your own pain while reaching out to others, like me, with words of support. You are so strong! 

I appreciate you sharing the lessons learned through the grief and from your counselor. Especially acceptance and integrating our loved ones memories into our lives while allowing positive emotions to return. This morning I am trying to focus on gratitude for the time I had with my dad and sister and showing appreciation for the loved ones that remain. Practicing gratitude and positivity seems to be the only way through the grief, because the negative emotions of sadness seem to be a black hole.  

Even knowing that acceptance is the only way forward, I can't help but wish we could waive a wand to bring them back or travel back in time to be with each other again. Consciously, I know that type of magical thinking is not reality. But acceptance is a hard pill to swallow. How did you come to accept the loss of your dad and sister? 

I will try to practice being gentle with myself, I'm afraid that I'm often my worst critic. Thank you for your kindness, the world needs more people like you. 

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I am glad that some of my words help, or will help, when you have the moment to move away from sadness.  It has taken a long time for me and it wasn't always easy.  I am happy that I had a process that I was working but that didn't help the over a year of despair or the panic attacks.  It's not much more than a process, it can't bring them home :(

But I wanted to share one more thing with you, since you brought up magical thinking.

At about a year and 4 months, I heard someone, a spiritual channel if you're into that sort of thing (and I was desperate, at the time), say, "There is no death.  Your loved ones continue, but they are existing in pure positive energy.  To be able to access them, you need to be in bliss."

I didn't necessarily believe it, but I had been on my knees for so long and I was desperate for my sister.  So I made a decision that if there was even a less then 1% chance that this was true, that I would be able to communicate with my sister again, I was going to find my bliss.

So I did.  I made a determined and dedicated effort to be in bliss.  It took 2 months of being 100% conscious and changing my thoughts, allow my feelings but with loving, being ok and looking forward, and, most most importantly, reminding myself that I love myself 3 or 4 times a day while looking in the mirror.

One day, 2 months in, I was experiencing pure bliss.  I was listening to ABBA and not thinking anything, not having any conscious thought about anything let alone my sister, just dancing like a fool in complete bliss around my living room.  Suddenly, I felt my sister dancing with me.  It was so real that I could feel where she was in relation to me, and I was in absolute shock that I even opened my eyes expecting to see her.  Of course, she wasn't there but the feeling didn't diminish.

I still don't know the nature of reality and I still experience deep sadness for both of them, but I can't ever forget the reality of that day.

Here's a specific suggestion, if you are having a hard time being gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with someone else, then when you've warmed up your gentle motor, turn the gentleness on you.  Or just pretend you're someone you are being gentle to :)

It's not easy, we all know that here.  But you will find your way, in your time.  Grief is relentless that way.

Thank you, as well, for your kind words.


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