Q: My father passed on recently. I was with him at the time. Last night, a week later I dreamed I saw him lost in an airport. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he was waiting for me. We talked a little and I asked him if he was sure he had made the right decision about discontinuing his life-support and he said yes. It has left me feeling sad all day. Can you tell me what this means?
A: I only think it means that you are in the sad stage of grief, and although this can be very painful for you it is natural and healthy.
Grief is one of the most predictable of all the emotions. Basically it works like this:
1) At the precise moment you admit to yourself that the other person is gone you feel a lot of sadness.
2) From then on, usually for weeks or a couple months, you will keep feeling sad in “waves”…. If you allow yourself to feel the sadness thoroughly each time, each wave will be less strong than the last one, and the amount of time between the waves of sadness will also keep increasing.
3) After the waves of sadness, there will be similar waves of anger, in the same general pattern. (The anger may be at the bad things about the person you lost, it may be at the illness, it may be at other aspects of he loss.) Just like with the sadness, if you allow yourself to feel in thoroughly the waves will get weaker over time.
4) When it seems that you are completely done (but there are really some tiny waves left that you aren’t noticing), you will suddenly feel really big relief. At this point you will be settled about the loss.
5) After #4 you will notice that you begin to replace some of the functions that person served in your life when they were alive.
Two things to be cautious about:
A) Our culture is “anger phobic”… In #3 above you need to be sure you don’t pretend that you are not angry when you really are. If you tell yourself you aren’t angry you may get depressed instead.
B) #5 is good for you when you start to replace the GOOD functions that person served in your life. But there can also be a tenancy to start to replace the BAD functions that person served too, and you’ll want to stop this as soon as you notice it. (For example, if your father shamed you a lot, you might start shaming yourself internally… or you might kind of “hook” other people into shaming you in some way….)
I’m sorry you have to go through this grief.
Depending on how good the person was for you when they were alive, it can be one of the strongest natural feelings you will have.
Give yourself plenty of time to face how you feel so you can get to your relief as soon as passable, OK..?