Image credit: J A N U P R A S A D vía Unsplash.
Sometimes, to feel
is all that is needed.
© 2023 H. WEND, Dear Jo-Anne
Writing by H. WEND
Image credit: J A N U P R A S A D vía Unsplash.
Sometimes, to feel
is all that is needed.
© 2023 H. WEND, Dear Jo-Anne
Image Credit: Wade Lambert via Unsplash.
Written by H. WEND, May 31st, 2023.
One year ago, today, I received a phone call that my father had been struggling with COVID-19 and was likely at the end of his life. The news was completely unexpected. My heart sank, my stomach fell heavy, and the air around me grew thick, and my body— my entire being— felt as though I had been dropped into a deafening, swirling abyss.
I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye; he passed away just hours after I learned of his condition.
The grief that ensued was quite different to the grief I was already experiencing around my mother’s death. My relationship with my mother was stable and loving. I also had the opportunity to care for her in her final weeks and help honour her wish to pass away at home, surrounded by family. I know in my heart, my mother found the peace she needed before she departed, even though it was incredibly difficult to come to. I know the terms of which she left and I was able to tell her many times how much she meant to me. The grief I experience around my mother’s death is hardly about things left unresolved or unsaid, it’s the pain of a future without her, and that we cannot walk through life side by side. This grief is about the future.
When it comes to my father, it’s different. My relationship with him was always difficult. I spent a lot of time being angry and hurt even though I also longed to gain his approval and build a close and loving relationship with him.
I hadn’t seen him since the month after my mother passed away, in 2019. Three years. I gave up and it is something I regret deeply and can’t make peace with just yet.
My father’s care was not in my hands, I don’t know the terms upon which he departed, and I didn’t get to express the things I’ve held in for so long. My grief around his death are the things left unresolved and unsaid. This grief is about the past. And, where there is a past, there are alternatives to the way things were. There’s regret. Something about regret can feel like a dagger to the gut— the ‘could haves’ and ‘should-haves’ feel so real.
Last week, I told my therapist that I didn’t believe I deserved to feel grief over my father even though it is very much there. Everything is magnified and I can’t help but think of the ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’.
There is pain in the fact that death closes the door, leaving you behind as the weight of impermanence crushes you.
You cannot reopen that door, you cannot go back in time and say all of the important things, you will not see that person’s face again— not tomorrow, or next week, or in x amount of years.
The door is closed.
My grief feels complex, my relationship with my father was strained and I had extraordinary expectations of myself to forge the ‘happy ending’ I always dreamed to have in my relationship with him.
I know it is apart of the grief and it’s just as important to hold space for these thoughts and feelings as it is to understand that I won’t be stuck in them forever.
Grief is really hard and uniquely so for each of us. I’m realising it is not some phase you go through after a death that will run its course, no; it is the initial phase and so much more. It is life after death, life with loss— it’s missing someone, holding unresolved feelings and unexpressed love, it is longing to see them at your door, it is the warmth of their smile, it is to hold and be held, it is their voice, their favourite shoes and the way they organise their things, it is missing them and trying to hold on but letting go long enough to grapple with respite and guilt. It’s being forever changed, it’s giving up and finding meaning but mostly— it’s whatever and however you experience it.
I think, my point is— this grief is different and I do not have enough of my grief unpacked to be able to write the things I wish I could write. My heart aches more than anything. But I also know that the reason I created my blog was to write about difficult things and the process of things that are messy and hard— because they are important and need space to be held. I’ve spent my life ignoring them, missing out on necessary healing and growth. I also know that grief can be a lonely road, and I believe that I don’t need mine to be worked out enough that it appeases or to be “perfectly packaged” in order to share it— not only would I be waiting a lifetime, but that is just what keeps us suffering alone in grief and many other things.
I would like to share the tribute (slightly adjusted) that I wrote just after my father passed away, last May.
We didn’t have the best or closest relationship. Just as many people remember Dad— he was a “hard” man, and no doubt he was hard on me with high expectations, but that’s not what’s sticking with me.
What’s staying with me is who Dad truly was—a trailblazer, a disciple, a skilled and hardworking man, a ruthless badass, and a man enriched with cultured values. He was a son, brother, husband, father, grandpa, uncle, friend, and more. He had many flaws and many admirable attributes.
My dad was a man who gave the shoes from his feet and the shirt off his back to help and build others up; he loved and served others in the way he imagined God to love them: in true humility and without any bounds, never holding any grudges.
For most of my life, my dad was big, scary, and often seemingly cold. But there were many things I took for granted, like the hugs he gave when I was in pain, the mornings I’d wake to the sound of his favourite music playing loudly through a speaker (I’m talking Donna Fargo, Robbie Williams, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra), a fishermen’s friend or a hot cup of milo for when we were sick, learning songs together on his guitar, and his “unique” jokes to make us laugh.
He was this untouchable Superman, but he really did have a big, soft heart. He showed me in his own way that he loved me.
My dad has a rich, colourful past, full of many things I’ll never know or understand. There were over forty years I wasn’t alive for and just twenty-eight years that I got to have him as a dad in this lifetime. For those, I’m grateful. I just wish I could thank him.
Until we meet again.”
I hope to write more about him one day and share his story too— the one I hold with him.
I know I will.
But today, I will spend it acknowledging and feeling what needs to be felt and honouring him— my dad.
Image Credit: Sasha Freemind via Unsplash.
Written by H. WEND, May 26th, 2023.
What I like about age is that, though it is just a number— a measurement of our physical existence— it is a marker for important events in the timeline of our lives, the number that organises our memories and moments — the precious, mundane, shattering, and more — into years of our lives. Age may mean nothing to you, and that is bliss in itself, but I’ve had a small fixation on age lately, and I’m working it out.
I am turning 30 in about six weeks and I’m doing some reflecting. The thing I’m realising is that my fixation isn’t really about age itself; it’s about my mother— that each year I become an older, slightly different version of myself, and she’s not here to witness it or be a part of my life. She will not know 30-year-old me or walk me through my thirties and the experiences I will have in those years, and that is something that knocks me off my feet.
If grief has taught me anything, it’s taught me that we aren’t promised anything—not tomorrow, not even my thirties. Each day that we get to experience this wonderful, brutal life, to write another story, and to be able to hold the ones we love close to us is a gift (and that doesn’t mean ‘make the most of it’ the way everyone annoyingly tells us to). These days, I am starting with appreciation— I am trying to live with gratitude rather than give up because of the pain of deep loss. I know my mother would be here if she had the choice. I know she would want me to wake up and use my agency to choose a life that is not without pain, but one that is whole— pain, joy, and all of the things— one that is mine.
So, I’ve been reflecting and taking inventory of my life thus far, and I’ve realised that my twenties have been kind of profound, mostly because, well, nothing changes your life like loss and grief. This past decade has changed my life in many ways, and there are things I will carry with me forever.
So, unsurprisingly, I thought I’d write about it— the most meaningful things I’ve learned in my twenties. I will share them over the next few weeks as the decade of my twenties comes to a close. They’re mostly for my own reference, so I can one day look back and see what was happening and what I was learning.
I recently created a collection to share my favourite quotes, and I posted a passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, which he delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. The passage is called ‘The Man in the Arena.’
As someone who has stood frozen in ‘the arena’ because of fear of failure and fear of judgement, this passage is an incredibly powerful reminder that my life is mine just as yours is yours. It is a reminder that the arena is personal— the arena we find ourselves in can appear as both big and small challenges, and everyday occurrences that put us at the forefront. It is a reminder that failure isn’t the worst thing that could happen— it’s kind of guaranteed and necessary. Life is messy and full of challenges, they are ours to own and overcome. The passage is a reminder to have the courage to wend and weave my own path, to own it, embrace vulnerability, and be seen as a whole— unapologetically and honestly so.
This is definitely a recent concept I am learning. It is in progress, no doubt. For me, it hasn’t been easy to find my own footing and to decide whose voice matters. I have held a core belief about myself since I was a little girl— that I am not enough and that my story doesn’t matter. It’s someone else’s voice telling me what and who I am— based on their expectations. I missed opportunities and let fear steal my joy. Whether I was eight-years-old and terrified to ask questions and make mistakes, nineteen-years-old and feeling shame because I struggled with depression, or grieving at twenty-five-years-old and telling myself that I wasn’t good enough of a daughter— the critics always won because I was always listening, as if my arena was theirs to dominate. It will likely take a lifetime to disarm and banish the core belief I’ve held for so long. I know the things associated with that belief are not true but I also know that the critics can take many forms and pretend to be harmless while infiltrating and distorting our minds. I know now that no one can write or tell our stories like we, ourselves, can.
That old core belief may still linger but it will no longer be disguised as my inner voice. No longer will I give importance to the judgement of those who are not invested in my story, specifically the loud and determined voices coming from the cheap seats.
I’m grateful that life is always offering growth if we are willing to be in the arena. I’m grateful to know that our stories can change and evolve in beautiful ways regardless of the critics who watch on.
It was through one of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, that I learned about the passage by Theodore Roosevelt. I also could not resonate more with a passage from her own work:
“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage. A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”Brené Brown
If I could sit down and tell my mother everything— share what I am learning— I’d start with this post here.
May we have the courage to enter the arena knowing what and who truly counts, be brave enough to wear our victories and defeats on our sleeves, and use vulnerability to grow and create beautiful things.
Image Credit: Kevin Laminto via Unsplash.
Written by H. WEND, May 14th, 2023.
Mother’s Day isn’t quite what it used to be. For as long as I can remember, I have always known that I had a very special mother, that apart from strange blips in my adolescence, I always believed I was incredibly lucky to have had her. She was my life’s greatest blessing.
When Mother’s Day would come around, it was not nearly enough to celebrate and thank her, but it would come anyway, and I’d give her chocolate, slippers, breakfast in bed, and a card in the morning before the family gathered for a meal and chocolate cake.
The first Mother’s Day that came without my mother felt hollow, somewhat meaningless, annoying even. It still feels like an event I’m no longer invited to— Kicked out and shut out forever.Continue reading “To My Favourite Mothers This Mother’s Day”
Image Credit: Ryan Moreno via Unsplash.
Written by H. WEND. May 6th, 2023.
What is something you would tell your younger self?
I’ve tried to answer it plenty of times before wondering what I would be trying to achieve if this scenario were real and possible. I’ve realised two things: first, that maybe nothing I could say would impact anything, and second, if anything were to be impacted, who is to say things would have gone a better way or the way I wanted?
I’ve been thinking a lot about recovery—the phase that follows disaster. We know we often cannot control the things we encounter and suffer from, but we tend to forget that some of the best things have come from struggle. If only we let ourselves recover. This is the part that is often skipped.
I’ve been thinking that what I’m learning now—in this part of my life—is something I would share with my younger self, who was about to experience a lot of hard things. I wouldn’t hope for a different outcome, but, at the very least, I’d be better prepared.
This important lesson I’m learning at almost 30 years old is about permission to recover.Continue reading “Float and Recover”
Image Source: Engin Akyurt via Unsplash.
Written by H. WEND. April 11th, 2023.
I’ve been distant. I am so used to abandoning my ship, I almost did it again. I create something really wonderful, something I want so badly but then after a while the waters within and around me grow violent. The doubt sets in, the fear of not being able to stay consistent hovers over me, and unworthiness unveils my truth. Get to safety, return to quiet, return to nothingness. My body knows the drill all too well and I drown in the torrent again. Then, when it’s safe, I emerge in rebirth and start again.
Nine weeks ago, my world imploded. Just like everything else, I figured I’d talk about it another time when I’ve found healing but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. I’m so tired of pushing things away to deal with later, only to spend years in its pain. Nine weeks ago, a long term relationship came to an end. It felt like an earthquake and though I am familiar with loss, I am no expert at coping with it.Continue reading “Sinking and Floating”
Image Credit: Vasilina Sirotina via Unsplash
Written by H. WEND. April 7th, 2023.
Five little ones sleeping peacefully- each of them positioned around their mother, close enough to reach out should a bad dream come their way. It was there, she prayed she would be able to hold them close for as long as time would allow.
When I was a little girl my siblings and I rarely slept in our bedrooms. Dad worked nights as a Taxi driver which meant the evenings were reserved for my mother and us kids. Evenings felt like another world, it was a hidden safe space.
Every night, after dinner and baths, my mother would slide our mattresses out of our bedrooms and lay them across the living room floor.
We would help by carrying out our blankets and pillows before finding a comfy place to snuggle in and watch TV shows before we went to sleep.
It was our cocoon.
Each of us fell asleep within an arms reach of each other, safe and sound.
The cocoon was warm, comforting and undetected by monsters and bad things.
There, in our cocoon, it seemed nothing could go wrong.
It was just a mother and her babies; my mother and us kids.
Image Credit: Vasilina Sirotina via Unsplash,
Written by H. WEND. January 27th, 2023.
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown is the podcast that drew me into the podcast world. In fact, it was this very episode that I listened to first which means this podcast is special!Continue reading ““David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning” | Unlocking Us with Brené Brown”