– “Become aware that there are no accidents in our universe. Realize that everything that shows up in your life has something to teach you. Appreciate everyone and everything in your life.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Life was a serious rollercoaster between December 2009 and May 2010. My dad would be in and out of the hospital for almost three months following his December 22, 2009, car accident and subsequent physical and brain injuries. Every hospital stay, every surgery, every complication found him with a new and declining baseline of functioning. There were continued changes inherent in coping with and handling a new and different person. There were tidbits of things that told me a part of him was there and this gave me hope.
Responding to his requests for Icelandic shakes and explaining why he wasn’t getting England TV programming when he thought he was the king of England was quite an experience. I developed incredible patience and learned a lot about my dad’s brain as he tried putting the puzzle pieces together and make sense out of his physical environment. I vacillated between emotions of anger, sadness, and despair when I thought his death was imminent. When doctors gave me hospice information and a priest came to pray with us, we truly thought this was the end. Then, as quickly as he went downhill, he was able to breathe on his own and his organs responded accordingly. These emotions turned to hope and relief when his health would improve. My dad was a different person now. While I could grieve for the person he used to be, I was developing an appreciation and acceptance of who he became. This took time.
Seeing him as a completely different person was sad yet made me happy at the same time. Although his cognitive and physical functions continually declined during this time due to multiple surgeries and the healing process itself, he became calmer and sweeter. A feminine side, if you will, came out. It was easier for him to get in touch with his feelings and share them. He tried so hard to get in his head and stay there. However, his brain made it difficult to think. I truly enjoyed, we all did, the serenity, peace, and calm that seemed to envelop my dad. We liked this part of him!
It would be short-lived. He vacillated from being this sweet, calm man to being belligerent, angry, paranoid, and very, very confused. His neuropsychologist called this “confabulation.” Still unable to form new memories, what we told him was short-lived and he would ask and ask and ask the same thing over and over and over again. He would try to fit the pieces together by taking another time period in life and adding it to his memory bank. He truly believed this combined truth and reality. Still, through all of this, somehow, I felt patient and tolerant of my dad in this condition than I ever would have had one of my kids asked me the same question twenty times in a half hour period!
More days than not, I felt helpless, hopeless, and it was all I could do to get out of the hospital cot or my bed and put one foot in front of the other. I felt tired—no…exhausted. I felt so exhausted that every bone, muscle, and cell in my body felt the exhaustion from deep in my bones—bone tired. There were many days I didn’t want to get up. I would have given anything to be in a cocoon or my own little bubble and be allowed to rest and heal and breathe. I felt like every single thing was a chore and there were times it was extremely difficult to find joy in anything. I felt depressed. Sometimes, I felt like I just wanted all the pain and sadness to just go away but the only way to do that was if I died. I considered ending my life. That wasn’t an option! The one thing that prevented me from going over the edge and taking such drastic measures were Amanda, Sarah, and Steven. Right behind them was Felicity and my parents. Every time I thought things were too difficult, I thought about the immense pain and sadness they would feel about losing me.
I felt our family had gone through enough pain and drama and my children, my sister, my parents, and all who loved me would feel such an immense loss and losing me would put everyone over the edge. I thought about how I would feel if I lost a loved one prematurely. I thought about how we would have felt losing my dad in an instant. With everything we would go through and the sometimes hourly and daily frustrations that set in as a result of the effects of his brain trauma, I remained thankful that we had this time with him. I can’t imagine the years of counseling we would have needed had we lost him in an instant.
I wanted to feel selfish and just go away. The pain of losing a loved one is not something I chose to put my family through. No matter what I’ve been through in life, I’ve always felt, known, and believed that I would be okay. I felt my purpose in life was to lead, coach, heal, and teach, and I would be afforded opportunity to help thousands, perhaps millions of people someday. I was my children’s lifeline—their rock. I felt there was no other option than to stick this out and find ways to muddle through each day. At first, I took things hour by hour, as it was too overwhelming to think beyond that. Then, I gradually felt like I could handle the morning, afternoon, or evening…just not all at the same time.
I felt so lucky to be connected to my children the way we were (and still are). We have a very special relationship and while my relationship with each of my children is different, we all share a common bond of unconditional love and understanding of and for each other. I love my children with all my heart and soul and I am so grateful I had the presence of mind to think through this and not allow my immense personal pain to take over. After two bouts with cancer and an impending divorce from my second husband, I was at a point that I realized I needed help. Medication, combined with my values, beliefs, courage, strength, and love for my family kept me from breaking. I definitely needed more help than I realized I did at the time.
There were days I vacillated between wanting to change the situation so much and have him be ‘normal’ again to simply wanting him to die. If he died, he wouldn’t be in pain anymore, we wouldn’t be on this rollercoaster, we wouldn’t have to ‘deal’ with all the things we had to deal with. I found myself angry with myself and felt so guilty for thinking and feeling this way. I felt angry with my dad, at times, for feeling like things would be so much easier if he would have died. Then, I felt immense sadness for feeling this way and feeling grief, as if I already lost him. Every time I touched him or hugged him, I felt like Daddy’s little girl. I felt all the vulnerable, dependent, safe feelings being in his arms. I didn’t want that to end. Through all the ups and downs, I learned that I couldn’t control everything. What?! Tandy can’t control the outcome here?
I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t be separate from it. I couldn’t be at one with it—nor did I want to be at one with the situation! When doctors talk hospice, when the hospital minister comes and prays with and for you, when his organs are shutting down, it seems there is no other outcome other than the death of the physical body. Doctors tried to save him, tried to get his organs functioning again, and the nature of his injuries made the outcome so unpredictable. I hated that and wanted to scream. I wanted an almost certain probable outcome! I was a planner after all. It took months and months of wavering between emotions of helplessness, anger, despair, hopelessness, sadness, and all these feelings again and again before I finally surrendered. I realized I could not change the outcome. I had no say in the matter. Since I was immensely impacted by the situation, I can’t tell you how challenging it was for me to accept that I couldn’t affect the outcome.
One afternoon while my dad was in neurological ICU when I knew nobody else would be visiting him, I left work and decided today was the day! There is no time like the present. I won’t get this day back again. I went into his room and sat next to him and sighed. Keeping in mind my dad had been unconscious for a week at this point, without opening his eyes, he reached over and grabbed my hand, held on and didn’t let go. I started crying and crying. I told him how much I loved him and how much we all loved him. I told him all the ways he was a terrific father for us. I told him that growing up, I may not have thought my childhood was great but looking back, I thanked him for providing everything he did for us and, as a mother myself now, I realize we don’t go into parenthood wanting to make mistakes that would negatively impact our kids. I don’t know one person who has a child saying, “I’m going to do everything I can to screw up this child!”
Suddenly, the anger and sadness of some childhood events just washed away. They washed right through me and I released any negative feelings. I got to a place where there was only love…love and light. I gave him all the reasons why he should live. I gave him all the reasons it was okay to die. I wanted him to know that it was okay either way. He could stay or go. I felt a thousand times better after this and I felt we connected on a level we never had before, even though the only thing he was able to do was hold my hand. That was enough. I left his hospital room that day released from the bondage of wanting to control the situation. I learned to appreciate the ebb and flow of life and felt that whatever happened, I would be protected and guided to do the right thing.
Acceptance—it’s a beautiful thing really. When I reached the point of acceptance, I accepted he was a different person from he was just months prior. I accepted that he would likely never be the same again. I accepted that it was in God’s hands. I just let go…. It was such a freeing feeling—let me tell you.
Accepting a new baseline means being okay with capabilities and limitations. Accepting a new baseline means letting go of the past and staying present to what is. It allowed me to enjoy our time together. Through this process, I learned ways to just be and be with him—the way he needed us to be there.
Here is some food for thought:
The brain is a complex organ. Doctors can’t fully explain it’s ability and why some people heal and others don’t. Never underestimate this powerful organ! This, combined with determination, goes a long way towards healing.
The power of our minds transcends human understanding. Our physical bodies are absolutely amazing. Sometimes, without warning or explanation, our bodies defy modern medicine or logic and recover in amazing ways. Don’t count people out until the heart permanently stops and they are officially declared dead. Even then…wait a few minutes!
Let go of wanting to control, change, or be separate from the situation. Here’s an exercise I used to help me let go:
a. Thinking about the situation, ask yourself to welcome your feelings. Welcome the situation. Welcome the pain, sadness, anger, hopelessness…whatever comes up, just welcome it. Give it a hug.
b. Once you feel you’ve welcomed it and all resistance is gone (or as good as it’s going to get right now), ask yourself to let go of wanting to change, control, be at one with or separate from the situation. Just in this moment, as best you can, let go. If you feel yourself saying, “NO, I can’t welcome this,” go back to step one until your feelings dissipate more and come back to this step.
c. In this moment, as best you can, could you let go of this? Would you? When?
Notice how you feel. You should feel lighter, softer, and have more space for what you want in your life and energy field. This exercise is one of many I learned while completing The Sedona Method Retreat and subsequent coaching level one certification using the Sedona Method with Hale Dwoskin, president of the Sedona Method (www.sedonamethod.com).
Remember that there is always a way through a situation! Regardless of the situation, if you feel in such a way that you just can’t go on, you find yourself thinking that you simply can’t bear it, that nothing will help and you would rather die, please, please, please seek medical attention immediately. There is no contest for sucking it up.
Think positive thoughts. Miracles happen—they did with us over and over and over again. Accepting situations affecting us that are out of our control can prove challenging- even for the strongest of people. Just believe that everything will work out as intended. It always does whether we like it or not.
When you find yourself feeling resistance about any situation, I encourage you to take a few moments and just sit with it. Gradually welcoming your resistance and getting to a place of letting go is freeing… Remember, what we resist persists.
“There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from”. ~ Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
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