On November 14, 2018, my father, Joseph Sarge, passed away. During the last 6 years of his life, my dad suffered through strokes, comas, was taken on and off ventilators, and when he was not staying at his nursing home, he was in the hospital. While he had some stable, uninterrupted moments, I can’t imagine how draining and taxing these years were on my dad.
When my father passed away, I felt completely numb. When my dad would get sick or go through a serious health scare, he always came out of it. I grew accustomed to this routine. I would tell myself, “He’ll be fine and come out of this one.” I knew that one day he would not come out on top, but I was never prepared for that day to come. I don’t think you are ever fully ready for a death when it happens.
What is Lacking Becomes our Highest Value
In shock, I distracted myself from the reality of my father’s passing with personal training (work), constantly surrounding myself with friends and family, and eating… a lot of eating; especially eating out with my friends and family. I can admit now that I used food in this moment to comfort myself and numb myself from all of the emotions swirling inside me. Food can be used as medicine to heal the body and illness, but it can also be used as a coping drug. Used to distract yourself from your emotions and stress, only causing more problems. The interesting part to me and why I did not want to come to terms with my dangerous eating habits, was the fact that my father’s health played a huge role in igniting my passion for training, nutrition, and overall health and wellness. I did not want to admit that in this period of time, I was undoing my hard work and dedication which helped me drop from 300lbs down to 228lbs. The work I put in also allowed me to purge myself of all prescription medications.
Loss and Despair
As time continued to roll on, the visits with my father disappeared altogether. His absence started to settle in. No longer was I able to be physically in his presence. No longer was I able to see him smile when I entered the room. No longer was I able to hold his hand, say, “I love you,” and hear him say it back. No longer was I able to listen to him talk about coming home and fixing different things or working on his cars (my dad loved to tinker and fix anything he could get his hands on). I randomly found myself crying… out of nowhere. I would never know when I would start crying. I would just have this feeling of despair and loss settle in like a rain cloud forming over me. My energy and mood would change and the tears would just fall from my eyes. Even though I may not have been thinking about my dad in these moments, my body was, and there is no fighting against that.
Making the Change
In not facing the reality of my dad’s death, here I was uncontrollably eating and gaining weight once again. I felt like a hypocrite as I continued educating others on health and wellness. I knew I would be doing my father and everyone else going through what my father went through a disservice if I gave up now. I had to decide once again, NO MORE. I decided once again to incorporate healthy choices and changes, but with a newly learned perspective. The lesson learned is that it is OKAY to go through emotional roller coasters and periods of eating like this. It is OKAY to indulge once in a while. It’s all OKAY; however, being aware of myself, my emotions, and my actions, makes all the difference. The difference is to ask, “Why am I behaving this way and how do I begin to heal?”
As I sit here and write more and more of this blog, I realize that I never really gave myself time to process my dad’s passing. I realize I’m still a little numb to his passing. When I reflect on this feeling and the lack of processing, I wonder, “Why?” Why did I feel like I needed to just accept my father’s death and move on? Why did I try to act like it didn’t happen? Most importantly, why did I not feel that I could ask for help? If you are going through a loss of any kind and self-medicating with food, alcohol, or other substances, I implore you to find someone you can confide in to help support you. To support and walk with you during the uncomfortable and scary journey that is self-awareness, self-love, and healing.
After my father passed, I felt lost and I felt that I had to just “handle this on my own.” I didn’t want to burden anyone else. I didn’t think this at the time, but reality was/is I have many people in my life that are more than willing to support me. An important life lesson I learned in this moment is that we are stronger together. When I do open up and share my thoughts and feelings about my father’s death, it is difficult for me, but with each conversation, I feel freer, gain more closure, and learn something new about my father and myself. Although I still don’t think I’ve fully processed his passing or know if I ever will, I’m learning something new every day. With each new day, I have the opportunity to remember all of the good times with my father, cherish the time we were able to spend with each other, and reflect on the lessons he taught me and is still teaching me every day.
Finding Inner Peace When Dealing with Loss
Death and loss can be interpreted in many different ways and your interpretation of them can change over time. At first, when my father passed, I felt deeply saddened, alone, and confused. As more time passes and with each anniversary of his death, I still feel the sadness I felt that day, but now I am able to remember all the joyful moments with my father. I reflect on our relationship. I cherish the support of friends and family I have around me. It may sound silly, but once a year my fiancé and I have a celebratory cheesesteak, in my dad’s honor (my father LOVED cheesesteaks).
I want to thank you and I want you to know that I appreciate you for sharing your time with me. Loss of any kind is never a pleasurable or delightful event. With that being said, I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that there is a lesson to be taken away with each life experience. The restoration of loss begins with these lessons and the appreciation of what that person has taught and is still teaching you.
Working on Restoration of Loss Can Look Like:
- Writing down your experience, thoughts, and feelings towards your loss, just like I did when putting this blog together.
- Meditating and taking the time needed to sit with your thoughts and emotions revolving around your loss.
- Speaking with a loved one or friend about your loss.
- Joining a grief support group or working with a professional/therapist.
Please know that you have family and/or friends that are there for you. If you do not feel that this is true, know that I am here for you. Know that there are people out there willing to support you. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you would like to share your story of loss and how you’ve worked through it or if you are still working through it via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you feel that you would benefit from working with a professional, we offer one-on-one and group grief support in house at Ampersand Integrative Wellness. For more information, reach out via email to our Grief Recovery Specialist, Lori Kuhn at email@example.com.