I can’t even begin to tell you all how long I struggled with whether or not to share this post, especially considering I had the hardest time even being able to talk through this experience with some of my closest family and friends. I now know that those hesitations — they all stemmed from a place of fear.
Fear that someone’s perception of my experience would take the reality of it away from me.
Fear that I would be judged.
Fear that it would devalue what had happened.
But then, while I was meditating, (I’ve been trying to practice every day since I’ve never been very good at it), I got this intense pull to let go of the story and put it out into the Universe. It came to me out of no where, and in my mind I saw it published, both here on the blog and over on the Podcast. I knew my intuition was telling me that I needed to get this out into the open to not only heal myself, but at the possibility of healing someone else through the practice that I went through. I needed no other reason than that.
Before I share my story, I want to give just a brief recap on my journey with loss and grief for any of you who may be new to the blog. If you are new (Hi! So happy you’re here), this post and this post is a great place to start before reading on. My dad passed away in 2013 somewhat suddenly after a 3.5 year battle with a rare cancer that affected his sinus cavity, brain stem, and eventually would spread into his spinal fluid. We always knew that this cancer wasn’t curable, but were told throughout the duration of his rollercoaster battle, that he would live to see old age.
I was extremely close with my dad. He was my mentor, the most amazing partner to my mother, the sweetest father that a girl could ask for — incredibly sensitive and intuitive with me, my sisters and my mom, and a huge sense of comfort and security to me throughout my entire life. We had a lot of plans together — we had in depth talks all the time about my wedding day, my future kids, where we would travel, my business(es)… So when he died unexpectedly just before Christmas, I was shattered, to say the very least.
The truth is, the grieving process has been a grueling one for me. It’s truly why this blog was created, because I needed an outlet of sorts to speak my truth, to hear from others who were going through the same thing, to channel my suffering into a greater purpose, and to put my healing out front and center to keep it alive and constant. I feared for a long while there that if I stopped, I might drown. This blog and this platform has saved my life in more ways I can count.
I started my healing process with a grief counselor. To be honest I hadn’t really thought of this approach until two months later, when I was photographing my first wedding after my dad had passed. It was a tough one, but the magical part? It was a for a couple where the bride had lost her dad, too. The connection that day was unreal. I was able to be there for her on such an intense level, and she for me. I in no way think that was an accident, that the scheduling lined up that way — as the support we both needed (and received) was effortless and overflowing. Because I was in that situation and it was known by the families, her mom came up to me during the reception and said that there was a therapist that had helped her daughter, the bride, make amazing strides with her loss. So she gave me her contact information, and essentially was fully responsible for my reunion with my dad.
The first couple appointments with Kirsten, my counselor at the time, were so incredibly hard. For the most part, I was sobbing and just working on catching my breath. I don’t think it was until the 3rd appointment that Kirsten actually got the full story of what had happened. Talking about it was insanely painful, and it felt like I was just taking a knife to my own chest with each word I spoke aloud. I remember being at a point where I was literally screaming “I need my dad. I need my dad. I need my dad”. I had this huge anxiety built up in my nervous system about the reality that he would never be Earth-side again. I’d never be able to hug him, smell him, hear him laugh in the flesh, or be on the receiving end of one of this (infamous) tight hugs.
That’s when she suggested that we try something called Guided Meditation.
I was desperate. Truly. I mean it in the very sense of the word — I would try anything if it meant that I wouldn’t feel like I was suffocating from the pain that was happening on my insides. She warned me first that it could be very intense, but I should also be careful with setting high expectations, because it’s not always what we assume it to be. I was dedicated and committed to focusing all of my energy on this meditation practice, and without hesitation, started doing as I was told.
I laid down on her couch, and in total silence, she started speaking at a steady, soothing pace. While I don’t remember the words verbatim, I do remember my instructions within the meditation. I was to bring myself to a calming place. It could be anywhere, as long as it brought peace to my insides and relaxed my mind. Within seconds, I was brought to a secluded beach where when I looked at the sand and out to the water and the sky, everything was in sepia tone. Tans, browns, taupes. When I turned around, I saw an enormously tall rock covering the entire landscape of the beach that was slate gray, but in the middle was a crack. It was a perfect separation.. like someone had taken a knife and cut it in half, and then had the ability to push them apart from one another — just enough to be able to walk through. It was pitch black.
The meditation continued, and I stood patiently. I don’t remember feeling much of anything other than a swirl of butterflies in my stomach. After some time passed (I have no idea how much time exactly), I started to make something out. It was moving, coming towards me, and it was a silhouette. All black. But the energy — I could feel the energy full force. It was insanely comforting and familiar, and it was all consuming. As the “energy” or the silhouette got closer, I knew with every fiber of my being, it was my dad.
He walked up to me, and while my vision didn’t give him a face or anything recognizable, I remember the exact moment that I realized I could smell him. This was all the validation that I needed to know that what was happening to me was real.
My dad had a cologne that he would wear when I was younger that I loved. I associated this with him for the entirety of his life, and I knew it was his way of validating that we were together in that moment. (I have the bottle of cologne he had in his bathroom when he died). It was like this rush of energy running through my entire body, filling up my throat and making me feel like I could finally understand that although he had left Earth-side, he was still here. I just had to look inward to get to him.
I saw, and stood with my dad that day — months after he died.
And it was in that moment that I could feel myself starting to heal, piece by piece.
** If you’re interested in guided meditation or grief counseling, I can’t recommend Kirsten Belzner enough. She’s located in the Chicago area. If you would like her information (or would like to talk about this post in depth or have your own story to share), please don’t hesitate to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would absolutely love to hear from you. x4