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Floating Through Grief

Last week, my mother called me to tell me something about my father. She is his caregiver because he has Alzheimer’s. She called to tell me how she found him on the floor at 2 am, and how hard it was to get him up. He was really “out of it.” He was calling for the priest to come to the house because he thought he was dying. My mother and my brother thought he was, too. It turns out he was okay but it still scared us.

When I got off the phone, I was upset. “My dad is dying,” I thought. I knew he was getting worse, and the day of his passing was getting closer (maybe a few months or years). In many ways, we are all dying a bit every day. We never know how many days we have. But for my dad it is more obvious. His mind is failing. His body is failing. He is getting closer and closer.

I sometimes do not allow myself to experience the fullness of my emotions. I sometimes push things to the side. “I can handle it,” I tell myself.

The next day I floated. At one point, I just “dropped out” the way someone does when we almost sink into nothingness – no thought, no awareness. It is the kind of brain state in which one is not aware how slow they are until they come out of it. I generally enjoy being in such a slow meditative state. However, this day was different. When I realized how slow I was, I was nervous. I gripped on to the bar on the side of the room. There was no reason to grip, but I was afraid. Later, I looked at the experience more closely. What was I afraid of? Well, I was afraid of my dad dying. I was afraid of the emotions I was experiencing about his sickness, and about his impending death. I was afraid to lose control and just allow myself to grieve the passing of someone I love so much.

The float was a bit disturbing but it was also very healing. It revealed the conflict going on within myself.  It showed me I was upset, and that it was okay to experience those emotions. They are there whether I want them or not. I was reminded to experience them and just be with them. The message was this: “The grief will pass but it will not pass easily if you keep pushing them away.”

I ended up floating the next day and it was very different. I had faced my emotions. I was no longer afraid of them. Do you know what happened? The float was easy. I was peaceful. The conflict was resolved.

The following week I went to visit my father in the Boston area and I was peaceful. I was able to be available to my family instead of being reactive or in denial about what was going on. I was able to enjoy the company of my father. He was smiling a lot. I did not know how much longer he would be smiling, but I enjoyed his smile. I was right there with him. No past. No future. Just right there.

There is no point in running from grief. It is a doorway. If we walk through it slowly, we are bound to learn many things about ourselves. Most importantly, we will learn that we have people in our lives that we love dearly and we can use that foundation to deepen our relationships with the other people in our lives.

Life is not easy. It has its ups and downs. But slowing down through floating can make it easier… or at least more fulfilling, which I think is an amazing gift.

Original author: David Conneely
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Floating Dreams

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