Death might seem like an inappropriate subject to bring up on Father’s Day, but I’m going to talk about it, because it feels timely and important. Since it is a sensitive topic, I’m giving you a heads up.
If your dad has already passed away, chances are you weren’t ready for it. You didn’t know how to prepare or perhaps it was sudden. Hopefully, since then, you’ve healed or the pain has subsided. But for many of us, there is still an ache from unresolved wounds. Much of what I’m going to talk about below can be adjusted even if your father is no longer living. Healing is always possible.
If your dad is still alive, I am almost positive you aren’t prepared for his death. Who ever wants to think their daddy is going to die? You might think there’s no way to broach the subject with him – that he won’t want to talk about it, or it won’t go well. Trust me, your dad knows he is going to die someday better than you do. And he might, just might, still want a chance to speak and hear a few things from you.
A few years ago, I witnessed my dear friend Hildie, one of our senior coaches, sit by her father’s side through the process of his dying. She happens to be a strong, wise and loving person with a strong, wise and loving dad. Yet everyone has things they need to say to their dad that have been unsaid. Lucky for Hildie, she had a methodology to follow and a community to guide and support her through this heart-wrenching transition. Also lucky for her, she knew her father was dying and had a chance to do the last bit of work she needed to do with him.
Even with death looming, it wasn’t easy for her to SAY EVERYTHING and be fully present. As it turns out, those scary moments of truth telling were the ones of deep connection and intimacy that she now holds the most dear after his passing.
She is very glad she did the work to say everything. He was, too. He died in peace. And she lives to this day with the peace of knowing she connected in a deeply meaningful way with her father in his final months.
I interviewed Hildie shortly after her dad’s death, and I’d like to share this interview again now. It is Hildie’s and my greatest wish that her story will shed light on this intimate process and inspire strength and courage in anyone who is struggling with this transition.
Interview from May 2013:
Laurie: Hildie, how did you start having a real relationship with your dad?
Hildie: It was long before he got sick, when I was just beginning my HG work. Part of it was to start telling him the truth about my past and some choices I had made that I was scared he’d judge me about. I spent a lot of my life being the daughter I thought he wanted me to be and not being myself. It was stifling my growth as a woman. So one day I sat down and asked if he wanted to know the real me. He said yes, so I started telling him.
Laurie: Did you expect your dad to want to have a real relationship with you?
Hildie: I was afraid to tell my father things. Even at age 52, I was still hiding things and voting on what he could handle and acting like a little girl. After the most embarrassing things, he told me he loved me more. He asked me why I thought he wouldn’t love me for all that I was, not just parts. I had no good answer.
Laurie: What was it like after you started being real with your dad, equal to equal?
Hildie: Laurie, it was the wildest thing. It was like he had been waiting for me to start talking. He was waiting for me to be ready. He sat me down and started telling me everything about his life, including his darkest secrets. It was so totally intimate I could barely stand it.
Laurie: So you had the foundation for telling the truth until the very end. What was that like?
Hildie: Still scary. Through everything I always felt the pull to pretend. At the very end, I didn’t want to tell him that I was scared of his death and scared that he was scared. And he didn’t want to tell me that he was scared. But we did tell each other the truth and it left us feeling very connected to each other, soul to soul. In light of the truth, I felt unconditional love and that was very comforting.
Laurie: What do people need to understand about this process?
Hildie: People need to know that although it’s scary to say goodbye to someone you love, avoiding it doesn’t stop the fear or the sadness. Only going through it makes it feel better. You will want to pretend death is not happening, but resist that and say everything there is to say now.
Laurie: What do you want to tell people whose parents aren’t dying?
Hildie: Take your parents off the pedestal (or out of the ditch). You are two equal souls, not one above the other. Start telling everything, being the adult you want to be rather than the child you think they want.
Laurie: Specifically, what did you tell your dad that made such a difference in your relationship?
Hildie: My assignment was to write a letter covering everything in my whole life I ever hid from him – all my regrets, hurts, resentments, how I could forgive him, what I was grateful for, and what I could promise him about my future. I could barely get through reading it to him, but it was one of the most important days of my life. I hope everyone gets to write and read a letter like that to their parents, even if it’s at their gravesite. Things just have to get said.
Laurie: It sounds like that process was even more for you than it was for him. How did he take it?
Hildie: It was more for me. It was part of growing up for me. I think I made him really proud. He also became comfortable telling me the truth about everything, and we became extremely close in a way we never had been before. I feel so grateful I got to feel my dad’s unconditional love, and he mine, before he died.
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I hope you are as inspired as I was by Hildie and her dad’s honesty and courage.
It is a tremendously powerful experience to be that vulnerable and intimate – not just with a parent, but in any meaningful relationship in your life. If this sounds like something you could never do, you’re not alone. None of us HG coaches thought we could do it either. But we did, and now we can help you do it too.
If you’re a graduate of our flagship Design Your Life Weekend or have been in private coaching for one year or more, I’d like to personally invite you to join me and other experienced Handel practitioners in my home, for an Advanced Design Your Life Weekend. Come take the next step of personal evolution with us! It’s never too late to heal and engage in relationships that are truly authentic, massively impactful and thoroughly life-enhancing for everyone involved.