Igniting Connection in Loss: Becoming My Father's Daughter Again


My father died of lung cancer when I was 9 years old. It was a very confusing and difficult time for my family and me. For years, I lived in a story in which I had no memory of my dad, which ultimately supported me in creating a story that I had no connection to him or his spirit. I didn’t identify with him, nor did I really want to. I didn’t care to know or hear about him. I was 9 and he was dead. That was my story. That story stayed with me for most of my life. Yet the inner 9-year-old remained desperate for answers, and I numbed her out.

Over the last eight years, I have done a lot of inner growth work, and through that process, have mused about how, as humans, we create our own separateness through our personal narratives, judgments and self-imposed limitations, especially in times of great tragedy and loss.

What I have come to learn from my own experience and through witnessing my clients’ growth is that while these narratives and stories often serve us for a short period of time, they eventually run their courses, and we outgrow them. Remaining in a habitual, invisible storyline can create much more harm than facing the truth.

As a young girl, I created the “I do not remember my dad” story for protection. It helped me avoid having to mourn his loss or process my hurt. I didn’t have to be center of attention, be any different from my friends, and truly face what was going on. My self-preservation armor didn’t really work when, just a few years later, my mother died.

I continued to empower what I now call “going numb.” I didn’t ask for answers. I sat in a story that didn’t exist. I continued to be numb around their deaths for decades, which, in hindsight, I confused as strength.

Working with several amazing and gifted coaches over the years, I have done a lot of personal work around my own self-imposed separateness from others, my intuitive voice, and the spirit of my family. For a long time, this bypassing of loss provided relief from a playground of pain. It worked… well, until it didn’t.

You see, exploring the layers of my deeper self gave me the courage to explore the 9-year-old’s questions about her father. I now find great comfort in enjoying my father’s memory and hearing stories of him. It has allowed me to better understand myself and where I come from. He had a massive presence with a strong heart that was giving and inviting.

The author sitting with her father

He worked as contract negotiator for the Paperworkers in Union Square in New York City. I remember for the 14 years I lived in New York as an adult, I would walk by his office regularly and think about marching in Labor Day parades with him or sitting on his shoulders at Giants games. I was scared to share the few memories I had with anyone, for fear my imagination had made them up.

I’ve recently began to remember his creative fire. He was a beautiful photographer who had a sharp style and an eclectic taste in music. He didn’t do anything half-assed — everything was done full-blown and done well. He built a small darkroom in our home and would spend hours perfecting his craft not only by taking pictures but developing them. He had an immense drive about him: if you weren’t on the train with him, you better get out of the way — something I now know I get from him, as I am the same way. Lately, I have found great comfort and inspiration from this discovery.

I am my father’s daughter and always have been.

Choosing to do the work around how self-imposed separateness was restricting my life, connections, and abilities has been a tough and liberating experience. I no longer minimize how I choose to respond to life no matter what happens.

“I’m not doing this to myself anymore” has served as a powerful, firm-stop mantra on self-sabotage in my thoughts, words and actions.

I share this with you to invite you to look at ways in which you could be creating more connection in your life, and the ways you may be keeping yourself from connection, not just with others, but with yourself and your environment.

Connection must be created through initiation, openness, and receiving.

For example:

When you first start dating someone, getting to know them deeply requires immense vulnerability.

When you first begin to explore and heal old wounds, guess what is needed again?

Vulnerability.

When you are learning to live from your deeper self and allowing your false sense of self take a back seat, guess who is in the driver’s seat most of the time?

Vulnerability.

Are you sensing a theme here?

Doing the work around my parent’s passing required me to live repeatedly in a brief but uncomfortable state of vulnerability. I chose to get comfortable living uncomfortably — briefly — so I could live fuller, longer.

Vulnerability is power.

It can create a passageway out of a potentially invisible story into an authentic one.

Through this work, I now remember and feel connected to the little girl who used to sit outside my father’s darkroom in anticipation to see what he created. I recently began to explore photography as hobby of my own to understand something even further that lit him up from the inside out.

What a blessing.

I now miss and cherish my father rather than feel a void.

It’s bittersweet, and I allow it.

Vulnerability + awareness + action (even subtle) = connection to what is.

You know, the word “hate” used to be in my vocabulary when I spoke of parents and childhood. Now, through my own healing, I understand their stories even more clearly, and they are my heroes. I am an expression of their love and for that I am grateful. I embody the best of both of them mixed together.

What another great blessing.

My darling, while self-reflection, acceptance and honoring is not easy…

You don’t have to continue to live stories that hold you back from living in love.

You don’t have to own the narratives of others and what they believe you should or should not be.

I say, begin by lovingly challenging the parts of you that want to keep you separate from the parts of you that embody your brilliance and gifts.

Clear out any muck that does not allow you to radiate the aliveness your desires create within and then inspire out.

The goal of this hard work is not another credential or a dollar sign. It is inner freedom.

Inner freedom is sparked by choice and backed up by vulnerability, support and action.

I hope you choose to allow your deeper self to ignite in loving action. You are too important not to — and this world needs you.

Dedicated and in honor of my very brave father. May your spirit continue to travel with me in this life and the next, and may I always make you proud.

Follow this journey on Ignite With Melissa.

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