Broken Hearts

Last February, I unexpectedly lost my father. He went into the hospital on a Monday morning and died Wednesday afternoon. A year later, I’m still in shock and nowhere near done grieving this incredible loss. The pain is something I get through but I won’t get over. I’m not sure I want to entirely. Grief and healing are a balancing act. My dad represented everything good in this world. He valued family above all. He saved lives, loved his, and lived it to the fullest. He was smart, warm, kind, funny, curious, and musical. He went out of his way to make others feel comfortable. He taught me so much about life, love, and responsibility. My dad was a cardiologist. He took care of people’s hearts and will remain in mine always.

A few days ago, less than two weeks after the anniversary of my dad’s death, we said goodbye to our family dog. His name was Lev, the Hebrew word for heart. The heart connection between these two cherished and most beloved family members is not lost on me at all. Lev valiantly battled lymphoma for the last 2 ½ years, the first recurrence of which was diagnosed the day after my dad passed away. Lev was the heart and soul of our family for nearly 15 years. We never properly trained him and laughed about that until close to the end. He, on the other hand, trained us well and, boy, did we ever love him (he’d probably have traded any of us in for snacks but we know he loved us too). He brought out the best in each of us and he was the most comforting presence when we were at our worst. He will remain in my heart always. Here I am balancing grief and healing again. Or still?

The Healing Power of Connection

Loss sucks. I am not okay. I am sad beyond measure and feeling a little unmoored. So much of my identity is tied to my role in my family. Who am I if not my father’s daughter and Lev’s mother? I cherish those roles and don’t really know who I am if those pieces of me are gone. In a wise-minded moment, I know I am still and will forever be those things. That brings me great comfort. Death ends life but the connection continues and can serve as a source of wellbeing, happiness, light, and, ultimately, memories with the power to shape and sustain us. I’m hoping to have more of those wise-minded moments in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Grief is a gift that comes from connection. Deep and meaningful connections can give us the strength we need to keep moving forward, no matter what comes our way. They are the answer to balancing grief and healing. I grieve because I have been fortunate enough to love and feel loved and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Grief is such an individual process. There are no clear rules, no hard deadlines. I will be okay when I’m okay. And I will grieve at my own pace, in my own way. For me, that means taking long walks and crying my eyes out, looking at photos, talking about those who live now only in my heart and memories, therapy, and planning a few trips with friends so I have something to look forward to. In my search for balance, I found to be a great resource for coping with grief and loss.

The Story I’m Telling Myself

One of my daughters posted a beautiful tribute to Lev on her social media earlier this week. In her post she remembered the way Lev used to sing along when her sister played piano and she expressed her hope that he would find someone to accompany him on the piano now. Lev was a horrible singer yet the sound of his off-pitch vocals brought our family so much joy and was the crux of some of our fondest memories. Not surprisingly, my dad’s musicality, though very much on pitch, had the same effect. Despite having never had a lesson, he could sit down at a piano and play any song he heard. The story I’m telling myself is that Lev and my dad, the lev doctor, are connecting this week, creating music together, and putting on a show. This story makes my heart happy. Deep connection can lead to the most heartwarming storytelling.

Something to think about: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh

Something to try: Tomorrow is not promised. Reach out to someone you love today and let them know they matter to you.

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  1. Robin – this is so beautiful! Thinking of you and the family. Cherish every memory of your father and Lev!

    Karen (Custoreri)

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