Updated: Jun 12, 2019
When someone leaves it is always tough to let go.
If sad or bad things happen in your life, letting go is the task that needs to be completed. It’s the only possibility that will allow you to go on with your own life in a vivid and faithful way.
My dad passed away a few days ago.
Dealing with death is something that slows you down – whatever situation you are in, whatever job you have, it forces you to slow down, take your time to realize, to grieve, to say good bye – and eventually, to cope.
Because there is no way back and no short cut – it just depends on how fast or slow you go through . . . and you have to go through, that is the only choice – otherwise it will catch you again.
Rest in peace, Paps! He was 96 years old, and he had a good life. I loved and adored him! (I still do!)
But the final curtain fell and he passed away some days ago. For me, it feels like it was his last flight. He was a pilot, a flight instructor, and a war aviator. In fact, he was one of the last living pilots of the war. I remember a lot from our time together as father and daughter, but most of my memories involve planes: seeing him in a plane or flying with him.
Gliders or small aeroplanes – ME109 – Fokker Wulf – Cessna - glider for records – gold Diamant - aerobatic flying – the ME262, the first jetliner - this is what his life was about.
Our longest flight was to Africa. - He – actually we - transferred a plane, a Cessna, to Africa. I sat on a bench. The trip took us a week and it was a big adventure. We nearly crashed because navigation was impossible due to iced instruments (over the Alps- where else?)
But we survived!
My dad lived multiple lives and he always talked about guardian angels who are out there (and if not hide in a cloud!) That was his advice.
I believed it - I still do! 😇 I know I have guardian angels. After my father passed away, there was a flight show nearby with all these old planes flying over my head - it felt like they all said a kind goodbye.
My father’s whole life was a big adventure. Even though there were good days and bad days, he truly lived his life to the fullest. He still enjoyed life in old age! Having something really good to eat, a glass of wine, and maybe a brandy after were pleasures he looked forward to.
When he had to live in a retirement home, he never complained - even when he was dependent on the help of others for basic needs. I would like to say thank you to all those people who did a great job and tried to make his old days as comfortable as possible. 🙏
He passed away in his sleep in peace. Hopefully he was having a wonderful dream.
Now, there is plenty of time to remember, because there will be no new stories in his book– death is finality.
Sometimes, this is what makes you realize that there are no more hellos, no time to hug, to kiss, to talk - to do all the things we do in life. Death may cause us to regret the times when we didn’t do it, but this is life. We can always set priorities and make decisions day by day. We decide for something, which often means we also are deciding against something else.
You can never do and live it all!
So, once in a while ask yourself: Is this what I want?
Check in with yourself and honestly answer questions such as:
Do you want to make this choice or that choice?
Do you treat people and living souls right?
Are you there for your beloved ones?
Do you set time according to your priorities and does it include them?
Tell people you love them, as often as you can. There will come a day when you can’t.
Whenever I visited my dad, I told him that I loved him and he smiled.
A Way Through Difficult Life Transitions
And now, this is the moment to realize what is real, and to cope.
Do you know the book from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying? It is one of the most important psychological studies from the late twentieth century. She developed a model to explain the 5 stages of the grieving process experienced by terminally ill patients after being diagnosed.
They were: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The process might not be exactly the same for everyone, and there has been more science about it, but it is still a good analysis of what is going on.
Truthfully, the process is not linear. It is a curve. All the existing “change curves” that describe the process of change and how to deal with change mostly rely and relate to Kübler-Ross’s model.
The change curve can even apply to smaller types of change, such as in an organizational environment.
I personally taught the change curve frequently in business settings. When my first husband died in 1992, I adapted the process to include 7 phases based on my own personal experience, plus my work coaching people who were coping with change and severe situations in life.
There is a big difference between change due to death and change due to life situations like divorce, breaking up, losing your job, etc. It is about finality – with death you realize there is no more physical interaction (at least in this world. Maybe we meet in another sphere). This is a nice thought because it is still something to hope for or relate to. Maybe it’s been traditionally handed down through religion or ancient stories, or you just believe it.
But in this world we do not meet again in the same physical form or shape. We do not have the chance to start from scratch or just go on – we can only let go.
Letting Go Is a Process – Your Process
In some cases, a divorce or other severe problem can even take longer to deal with than death! Why is this? Because still having hope makes it hard to let go.
No matter what is happening in your life, dealing with it is a very personal thing. How much time it takes for you to be “back” depends on you. But it might be helpful to know about the phases you need to go through, because there is no way back and no short cut - it just depends on how fast or slow you go through.
Sometimes, you might have thoughts like I will never find another partner, job, etc. Know these thoughts are only in your head. Even so, this can really block you from moving on. You have to make the decision to go on, and it is not often an easy or quick decision.
Dealing with death also means that you will be grieving at different times, because memories bring the person back to you. You will miss someone because you are doing an activity without them, or you will laugh because you remember something funny the person did or said. You may even feel angry or hurt if your relationship was filled with bad moments.
But grieving through the memories is normal and will eventually bring you to the knowledge that it truly is over now – the last chapter is written. You can add whatever you like to their book, and then close it gently and be thankful for the time you had and for the learnings and experiences you made together.
The Best Advice: Do What Feels Right For You
If you regret not having enough time, understand that there is never enough time, there is never the “right moment.” Take one moment at a time and know regrets are pain from your heart. Learn from those regrets. The next time you are in a similar situation, you have the chance to decide and do different. Even though regret is painful, it teaches us beautiful things.
Don’t fall prey to your thoughts and beliefs in your head. Don’t try to fix yourself in isolation! Take time for yourself and ask for some help. There are people around you who support you because we all know and can imagine what it is like to cope with a difficult situation. We are all human beings and we all have a heart.
The biggest advice I can give is to do whatever feels right for you. Because whatever feels right for you IS right for you! If you want to dance, or sing, or cry, or shout, or whatever – know this is just a phase in your life, and this is the way you cope. Just please make sure you do not hurt someone or yourself.
Also, know there are professionals out there with a heart. Who learned how to help and support people and who experienced the same kind of things you do. They are there for you!
Finally, R.I.P. Dad. I will keep you in my heart. Tomorrow, I will start doing my job again. I will live and enjoy life moment by moment, minute by minute - because it is precious.
Take care – and embrace life.