I've struggled with anxiety my entire life and up until last year was able to overcome it with self treatment and lots of prayer. After a big episode and an awful panic attack last year I was put on medication to help treat my day to day anxiety. It is the same medication my Dad was on, I'm tellin ya we were wired the same. :) Anyway, all of that to say its been very helpful until the past week or so. I've been having bouts of really terrible anxiety right before bed and whenever I'm in a large group of people. It's really frustrating. My heart will start to beat out of my chest, my breathing becomes strained - almost to the point of choking and my mind races like a freight train. The sad thing is most of the time there is no reason for it. Anyway... All of that to say, I've felt a little overwhelmed and high strung, not to mention exhausted from a lack of sleep. So I went into the session trying to leave all of that at the door.
Our activity for the night was an interesting one. It was called sand art. We were each given a large tray into which they poured some sand. We spread the sand out and drew a line down the center from top to bottom with our fingers. They then proceeded to pour out two large tubs of toys into the center of the room. I'm sitting here on the floor thinking, what in the world are we doing? How is this going to help with my grief? I didn't come here to make crafts and play with toys.
He instructed us to pick an object for each member of our family that described or resembled them before the death of our loved one. Including the loved one who has passed. After the left side was finished we were instructed to pick another object for each person to describe or resemble them after the death. There was quite a large group last night so you can imagine how long this process took. It's difficult to try and pick a toy or an object to describe someone. After everyone finished we went around the room showing each object and explaining who it was for and why. Then we went back around the circle and did the same for the after death objects.
It was really interesting to see the different objects used and the different placements of the objects on the sand. Some had up to 20 pieces on their tray, some had as little as 6. I will describe my tray... But for the sake of respecting my family members I will only describe the objects I used for myself and for my dad.
On the left side (before death) I found a blond polly pocket doll (probably a toy from McDonald's). When it was my turn to explain my object I said that before my dad died I was happy go lucky. I was everyone's friend and always looking to the bright side of things. Always the optimist never the pessimist. (Ok maybe never is not the right word, but most of the time :) ) I was high spirited, smiling, energetic and loved being with friends and family.
It was really difficult picking an object out for my dad. I saw a tree and a bike and thought yeah those were things he liked... but they didn't describe who he was. Then I saw these little feet. They looked like the glow in the dark stars you put on your ceiling, ya know the flat slightly green look? Anyway, I saw them and instantly thought of Dad. I told the group that I picked the feet because my dad was the person we all looked up to, the person we all strived to be more like. He was the leader of our family emotionally, financially and spiritually. I wanted to walk in his footsteps. We all did. They fit perfectly.
Then I had to describe the object I had picked for the right side of the tray for myself (after death). I saw this broken glass box with a handle on the top, it looked like at one point it was a little clear carrier for a my little pony or some sort of fast food restaurant toy. I put it together so that it didn't look broken. Then I described it... After my dads death I feel like a shell of who I was. I still feel strong, like the glass that makes up the walls of this box, but I also feel very fragile... and then broke the box down. I said that my faith has kept me strong, knowing that I have God to lean on and to give me comfort and strength but at the same time I am empty inside. My heart is shattered and I am clueless on how to pick up the pieces and put it back together. I know that the future is bright, and I do not want to let my dad's death define who I am. But right now, 11 weeks have passed and I am still this shell. I have a difficult time being myself in large groups, I find my anxiety levels spiked for no reason at all. I feel like there is definitely a drastic change in who I am as compared to who I was. It may only be evident to some, and that is okay... but those who know me- Really and truly know me - they can see a difference. I definitely feel a difference.
I don't necessarily try to put on a smile or fake being happy. There are times where I do feel it is necessary but for the most part I wear my emotions on my sleeve, my shirt, my pants, my shoes, my face.... Everywhere :). Looking back on last night I am trying to find meaning in the activity. Trying to find out the relevance to how it relates to my journey of healing and grieving. Right now I am still not quite sure. I realize that my entire family has changed. No one is the same as they were before we lost Daddy.
Being forced to talk about the "tough stuff" has its pros and cons. It has really helped to talk about it, get it off of my chest. But at the same time it forces you to go through the grieving process. So naturally there are a lot of rough moments throughout the week. I know it's a little backwards but I'll end this post with our group introduction from last night.
We were asked to say our name, who died, and then to choose a color that best describes our feelings about the death, about our grief. It was an odd question. How can I put my emotions into a color? Especially emotions so scattered. I ended up saying my color was a mixture of grey and red. Grey because things seem hazy, foggy... I feel a little lost and am finding it difficult to see through to the other side. Red was new for me last night. Actually it just started this week. Anger. Not anger towards my dad. I am not mad at him for what he did, I cannot judge him for his actions, it is not my place. I love him and want to pay him every respect that he so rightfully deserves. I am angry with the situation. I am very upset that we still do not have a lot of details about his death. Lockheed is a wonderful company and I would never slander their name. My dad worked for them for 25 years and I am very thankful for that. I am however really frustrated that we are not being updated on the process of what is happening to his boss. I am angry that there is no closure. I am angry that I feel like things are being hidden and kept secret from us. We are his family... The people who knew him best, we deserve to know every detail. Unfortunately, as a government run entity, Lockheed can only tell us so much. And this, this makes me angry. I am praying for this anger to fade. Trying to give it to God. His hands are infinitely large and can hold even the heaviest of emotions and tragedies. As a human though, I want to cling to these feelings and bask in my anger and sadness. Unfortunately, if I continue to do so I will never move past where I am right now. My dad would not have that. :)
So I continue down this road, whatever you want to call it, and pray that things continue to get better. I will never get my dad back. I have to stop wishing for it. Today I sit here at my desk feeling a little glimmer of hope. I know that its a long road but I am resting in the knowledge that I WILL get to see my daddy again someday. Most of the time that is not enough for me, I am selfish and I want him now... but the choice was not mine to make. So now I make the choice to live my life the best I can, follow the path that God has laid out for me and look forward to that day we meet again. It will be a beautiful, wonderful, glorious day.