On May 21, 2006, my father passed away at the very young age of 45. I struggled with his loss a great deal in the beginning. I didn’t want to be part of “the club.” Like George, and many others, I didn’t know how to exist in a world where my dad didn’t.
I went through the typical stages of grief, but I really got stuck in the anger stage. One of my closest girlfriends sat me down one day and told me I needed to go to therapy to work through my anger issues. I still give her credit this day for having the balls to say that to me. Your truest friends will always tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it.
So off to therapy I went. Unwillingly. With my walls up and completely convinced that whatever anyone had to say wouldn’t help. How could a stranger, someone who had no idea what I was going through and knew nothing about my father, possibly help me navigate through my grief?
It only took a few sessions before I started to open up and begin to really process my grief. At the advice of my therapist at the time, I went to group therapy as well. This wasn’t as helpful for me as everyone in this group was much older and had lost their spouse. I couldn’t relate to that. In fact, group only made me realize that my mom had it harder than the rest of us. The love of her life for 23 years and father of her children was gone.
13 years later, it is still true what people say: Time does make it easier to bear the loss. (By the way, that’s really not something anyone wants to hear within the first year following a loved one’s death.) I still go to therapy every 2 weeks because I care about my mental health as much as I do my physical health. One of the ways my therapist has been helping me navigate my grief is through EMDR therapy. This type of therapy has had a high success rate in helping victims of sexual assault, rape, and other forms of trauma-including grief. After a few sessions, you can successfully reprogram your brain to process painful memories and reprogram negative beliefs that have stemmed from the memories. Simply put, a painful memory is now just a memory. The emotional response, anxiety, and panic that associated this memory.
I started EMDR therapy to help me with some other issues and we both realized it would probably be very beneficial to explore this type of treatment to help me process my grief even more. I’ll be honest, it flat out sucks in the beginning. I didn’t realize how much I had blocked out in the days and weeks surrounding his death and when you’re forced to start talking about it so you can focus on a specific painful memory to try to reprogram, it is gut-wrenching. But I work with a certified professional and she knows exactly what to do at the end of each session to calm me down before I leave. I have made some really good progress in our sessions, but I still have a long way to go.
Several years ago I made a decision not to be a victim of my past and to live the best life I could-even if my dad wasn’t here to see it. EMDR therapy has changed my life. It’s helped me to let go of things that were at one time so very painful to me. Make no mistake, I still cry. I still miss him every day. But I can see a difference in how I react to things that would have been unbearable at times. I know he wouldn’t want me to be stuck in the past, and so, here I am, moving forward.