Surviving Sudden Death: Healing regret, remorse and unforgivable choices when things end without warning.

Surviving Sudden Death: Healing regret, remorse and unforgivable choices when things end without warning.

Hey Dad,

I’ve heard people discuss how time is a manmade construct. That it’s not linear but more like a series of multiple realities running parallel alongside another. I mention this because with the first anniversary of your death coming tomorrow,  I’m been having my own torturous experience of this concept.

For the past two weeks especially, it’s felt as if I can ‘see’ me moving through life in the weeks leading up to the day you died – like I’m trapped on the other side of soundproof glass as a silent observer unable to warn my oblivious self as to what’s coming.

I’ve watched me and my family go camping with the boys over spring break, take uneventful trips to the park and even visit the ER with my youngest after he decided to swallow a steel bolt. Just the other day (a year ago) I joked on Facebook about the worst right of “passage” I never expected to move through with the weirdest ‘treasure hunt’ ahead of me… it was all so funny.

The present-day me presses her hands and forehead against the glass and begins to scrutinize every decision I made – or didn’t make… 

Why didn’t I go see you? I don’t understand… what were we doing that was so important to NOT go and see you?

It was a long weekend and only a short ferry ride. I was off with the kids for TWO WEEKS! And I never saw you?

The wave of regret that follows punches me square in the guts. Every breath in brings a frantic sense of angst, panic covered in remorse. It’s like the present-day me believes I can actually change the way things went down but at the same time tortured and aware that I can’t. I just get to watch… wishing and begging I’d make a different choice. If given the chance I’d exhaust myself trying to reach this oblivious self, if I knew it were possible.

Why didn’t I go see you?

I find it difficult to be in my own skin with this sentence looming over me so heavy it hurts.  There’s no ‘good enough’ answer. I just didn’t go. Regret and remorse are like poison and leave a thick layer of resentment to settle in that actually burns away in blame. Even though my logical brain tries to clean up the mess… but I didn’t know! How could I have known?

As much as I know I had no clue you were going to die, I can’t shake this tug-o-war experience I’m having. So I try to ask better questions – like why am I being shown these so clearly, feeling like I should have or could have? It’s all so pointless and painful as swirl  in a sea of  missed opportunities to see and feel you one last time.

Our Last Memory
We spoke and ‘saw’ each other for the last time – two days before you died. It was Easter Sunday.

The two things stand out most – first, that Mom held the camera on you as we Facetimed and I almost said something to her (as she deserved some screen time too) but left it alone; and second, I remember the full-bodied laugh you gave when Beau yelled into the camera at you “Happy Easter Santa!”

Why Santa? Because your thick head of white hair was a few inches longer than normal and the beard I NEVER saw growing up was coming through … in white/grey patches. It was awful. We heard you were growing it out but to see it was another thing entirely. Mom wanted to see what you’d look like, so you indulged her. This was how you entertained yourselves and it cracked you both up to shock people.

But Dad, you looked like a hobo. The happiest hobo, but a hobo none the less. You really would do anything for her, even if it made you look ridiculous.

This memory is good, short and sweet. I know each of us got to say that we loved you before we hung up. I know we felt complete.

A year ago today and the night you died, I came home to find my 6 year old son had left me a message in crystals and amber – that it’s all good. I like to think he was guided to help me hold all that was to come. 

We woke up that Tuesday to learn you unceremoniously left your physical reality (and ours) and everything fell apart with us immediately knowing things would never come back together in quite the same way ever again.

The Most Unconventional of Gifts 

The past year has been one of cataclysmic growth for me and all who knew you. That’s what death does. It creates an entirely new normal and in this sense I see it very much as a new beginning now, more than ever.

Your death took each person who loves you on a very unique journey that had us question who we are, what we care most about and who we were becoming; and wanted to become in the wake of your devastating departure. Some of us deepened our faith, connection to spirit and trusted in a bigger plan. Others were forced to see who we were without you. We questioned faith and wondered why you left us to walk and stand alone with only our self to rely on. It felt cruel without you as the buffer, gentle rock and reliable force to call upon for answers or just to feel your strong presence close by.

It was only obvious after you left how much we relied on you and somehow forgot we came here to explore our own unique paths – to have a chance to see what we are, in fact, made of. But it’s funny how well meaning love is. How entangled and dependant we can become on each other and that love sometimes creates relationships that don’t always serve our greater good. That in some ways your death was an incredible gift that gave some of us a new lease on life, giving us a radically different experience of … everything.

The unpredictable grip of grief however, and its unexpected arrival (at the most inconvenient of times) is unsettling to say the least and one I’m continuously letting go into.

I’ve witnessed moments of gut-wrenching grief and sorrow, as if the bottom dropped out of my life – with a desperation to hear your laugh and feel your arms around me so fierce it makes me want to unzip my skin to come and find you.

I’ve been beautifully dismantled and reconstructed by moments of raw vulnerability, the strength of an open heart, the rebirth in radical receiving and a faith in humanity to show up for one another in moments of shock and despair. I experienced you as a spirit delivering messages like ‘all is as it should be and so very, very well.

You helped reinforce how beautiful this human life and death is. And to pay attention to all of the glorious WTFs along the way. I feel blessed to hold this perspective and that I can offer my experience to others who are open to hearing it.

But how do we forgive ourselves along the way when we don’t see or know what we don’t see or know? When the grip is so tight and nothing works to loosen it?

Up until now, once I’ve gotten closer to, seen and understood what I did or didn’t know around a decision – forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption usually follow… but not this time.

Tune In, Speak Up and Receive The Gifts of Admission

Yesterday, I admitted this torturous cycle with a gifted coach – that no matter what I did the regret wouldn’t release me. That resentment was here now and all it wanted was one more chance to have with you. I felt like my forgiveness tools were useless.

And she gracefully offered me this….

“What if it was possible to give you that chance? Where she DOES go home to have that last visit?  

Hearing the words and allowing them in felt like a door flew open, bringing with it a blast of wind to blow the dust and darkness out of the suffocating corner I’d been living in the past week. It also confused me. So I knew something good was about to happen. We’d interrupted the cycle with those glorious words … what if.

What if I gave me a chance to rewrite our last memory – just to see what might happen? Daring to suck at regret. Hmmm.. it certainly couldn’t feel worse and already felt better just considering it. Hell, anything felt better than trapped. 

Part of me couldn’t wait  to get started as the possibility of it was such a relief. I felt a wave of warmth returning to my body. It was as if my imagination and creativity stepped forward eager and proud to assist ~ giddy with the message “Of course it’s possible!”

The Most Incredible Things Grow In Manure

I spent the good part of a day writing our ‘alternate ending’ and my creativity and imagination showed up in full force to make it as real as every other memory I’ve had with you. I watched the me (a year ago) travel home to spend Easter weekend with you, Mom and our family as we would have done in the past. Nothing over the top. The more typical it was the better and more detailed it got.

I’ll admit it felt a bit weird and maybe even a bit silly at first, but only because it was unfamiliar. And then the details began to show up. They were incredible – jokes, curious conversations and connections happening all over the place – it was captivating watching it unfold, like watching the BEST home video ever and being in it too. Some moments had me laughing one moment and the next disheveled on the floor with emotional and energetic information being delivered that humbled and brought plenty of goosebumps along with.

I was surprised at how easy it was to get into, how smoothly it flowed and how good it felt to create. You were so close as if you were guiding the conversation and interactions. The intuitive intelligence and guidance was palpable as I watched it soothe the exposed and raw layers I’d been clawing at in the days leading up this shift.

Our “last visit” ended with you taking us to the ferry as you normally would.  You hugged the boys, said your goodbye’s and hugged me in a way that explained and exchanged the meaning of our entire relationship from beginning to now – it was full of Love and went for as long as we needed it to.

I’ve never been more grateful for the gifts that writing bring that I was in this moment – to stretch out the time and hold it with such sacred purpose.

Right before I turn to leave, you gave me a gift.

Trust and Faith. 

Trust that you are always here and Faith that in Love we can see the beauty in everything. The joy and the pain. Each are gifts to our growth and connection to ourselves and one another. And that Love is the only way through.

In this ending, I get to leave you feeling connected and complete – and so do you. I realize now that this isn’t just a new memory – it’s a new understanding and agreement about how it is and can be moving forward. The door is always open (and always was). And now I know this. Another gift.

The regret dissolves. And I feel at peace on the eve of your death anniversary and so much more…

I’m proud of myself. 

For not staying stuck and for daring myself to continuously open up to what else these moments are asking us to do and be that’s new or different. It makes me a better person, mother, friend, coach, healer and daughter.

This shift doesn’t get rid of the loss or sadness (as I openly and unexpectedly bawled watching my best friend dance with her Dad this weekend at her wedding) but I’m no longer twisted up in the turmoil of seeing what I didn’t see a year ago.

Thank you Dad, for all you gave me in your life but most importantly what you’ve shown me in your death. Your gifts transcend death and continue to come. And I’m open to all the possibilities with a willing and open heart.

Love your proud daughter,

x Babe

Final Thoughts, Lessons and Wishes 

  • This may not sit well with you if you are in the midst of your own struggle. Your mind may want to question it or roll it’s eyes at how impossible this may seem or silly it may sound. I honour that this exploration is personal and not simple but it’s there as an option for you to consider and try on – what if? If you take away anything, my wish is that you look for places you can create something new for yourself – anything that brings movement as none deserves to be stuck in the cycle of suffering.
  • You’re being continuously dared to speak up and admit your experiences and struggles for the inspiration, help and the next stepping stone to appear in front of you. Will you dare to cross that threshold and see what’s there for you?
  • Looking for the gifts in everything doesn’t make you a flaky ‘positive’ thinker – it makes you a possible thinker. It opens you and your Life up to so much more that your mind would have you believe or take you.
  • You are walking around with weapons of mass transformation that inherently help, heal and expand you and anyone you share them with. But only IF you choose to give them a try. Damn you free will! They include your thoughtsideas, love, wisdom, acknowledgement, experience, creativity, resourcefulness, imagination and intuition.
  • Your mind, logic and intellect are brilliant tools but so fucking limited. They wanting proof, validation and everything to have the correct label. If I’d stayed in my mind I’d still be stuck, suffering and frankly withholding from myself and not even knowing it.
  • Your heart, spirit and body have the ability to break through every energetic limit and barrier with grace and beauty if you give them a chance. And yes, it’s messier, weird to explain and not as quick or efficient as the mind brags itself to be. But this ‘below the neck’ world speaks in colour, texture, movement, emotions, sensations, metaphors and music. The landscape is rich and provides ancient wisdom and insight if we slow down and sense into it’s language vs. trying to figure it out or force answers – it wants you to follow it without needing to knowing jack shit – in fact it’s better if you don’t know anything and just let it lead … and;
  • No matter what experience of loss, frustration, regret or pain you might feel stuck in, your heart wants you to know… You aren’t a problem to be figured out or fixed. You are art. To be experienced, explored with curiosity and a deep appreciation for your gifts just as you are. Period.

 

And finally… thank you for letting me share the last day of the biggest year of my life.

With deep gratitude and much love in daring (to live this life fully – even when things suck),

Keri-Anne

Keri-Anne Livingstone is a Certified Coach, Comedic Speaker and Creator of Daring to Suck, an 8-step guide to Bless the Mess and Trust the Process of Life, Death and all the WTF moments in between. She also hosts Empathetic Badasses in the most loving Facebook group in the world. 

With humour, love and a deep respect for the process of transformation, Keri-Anne teaches coaches, healers and helpers discover success their way by showing up as the fullest, truest expression of themselves; and to let go of the outcome in order to learn, experience and grow from everything their unique life has to offer.

Her Live Daringly Sessions is an intimate group that explores the possibilities of you, your life, relationships and work using the 8 steps of Daring to Suck. For more information and a chance to apply for her next group click here.

 

11 Comments

  1. Sending you so much love today and every day. I love that you were able to re-write history. It shows how much of himself that he has left with you. That you were able to write the script – including his parts – shows how well you knew him and it allows his voice to continue in your life. xoxo
    April

    Reply
    • Thank you April and he made it easy to do. I know today is hard for so many more who love him too so please give my love and hugs to you and your family. I know my Dad is watching over and loving us all xox

      Reply
    • I’d like that Patti Thank you

      Reply
  2. This piece of writing is perhaps one of the most profoundly beautiful creations I have ever had the gift of reading. We don’t know each other personally, Kerri-Ann, but I know of you and your beautiful family through your sister, Ali…….I met her when she was just 16 and the bravest of the brave. She still is. Thank you for this moment in time. With love for you all….

    Reply
    • Thank you Peggy and of course I remember you. I’m honoured my words had the impact they did. I honestly don’t think I wrote it alone Please feel free to share if you feel moved to ❤️ I’ll pass on your regards to my family xo Keri-Anne

      Reply
  3. This is soooo Beautiful. We don’t know each other, yet, but I am so moved by this piece and your story. It strums at a heartstring I have for my own dad, who lives in another province and whom I see once a year, if that. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey ❤

    Reply
    • Well we know each other now and I’m so glad Vanessa brought us together. Thank you for your loving and generous words and I’m touched my words had the impact they did and do. I also appreciate the acknowledgement that this process isn’t just for when people die – loss is loss and regret is regret no matter what it’s about. Much love to you and thank you for sharing your heart with me here. xo KA

      Reply
      • ❤ more tears!! Yes, thank you Vanessa (xoxo) for bringing us together. Wow, I honestly cannot shake the emotion that I feel around this. Amazing ❤

        Reply
        • That is the biggest compliment anyone can ever give me. I believe tears are something so sacred so thank you for this and keep the feelings moving. There’s gold underneath to discover xoxox

          Reply
          • Love to you ❤ xo

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