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  • Writer's pictureNina Castle

We Must Feel to Heal: Remembering Dad

Today, 1/14/2022, is the 11-year anniversary of my dad’s unexpected passing. It also happened on a Friday back in 2011. I was in line to board a plane from the Bay Area to SoCal for a conference when I received a text that my dad was not doing well. My sisters and I were told to rush out to Delaware as he might not make it. What to do? I was literally minutes from walking onto a plane.

Two years prior, we received the same message, rushed out to visit our dad in Delaware, and THANK GOD, he was able to get off the ventilator and quickly recovered by the time my sisters and I had arrived. That ended up being a pleasant and memorable trip. I was so sad as we said our good-byes and if I had listened instead of pushing the thought away, my intuition was trying to tell me it would be our last visit with him. I refused to believe that since there were so many more visits to be had and memories to be made.

I didn’t dare consider that my dad would die this time, but inwardly worried about the possibility. That same day in the middle of the conference in a very large conference hall, I received a text that my dad had passed away. The conference continued as if nothing monumental had just happened. Wow. Just wow. No way. It was unbelievable and I did not know how to respond. I did not know how to feel since I was already numb from protecting myself about the possibility of him passing. Ouch… I could feel a bit of the pain but my wall to feel the pain was so layered, protecting my heart, plus I was in disbelief. I was on the opposite side of the continent from Delaware, and I was away from home and my family. It was as if I were in a foreign place. All alone. I proceeded to get through the rest of the conference, going through the motions, before I could get back home. My dad had died…

I am in a continual process of learning to feel, to heal. Throughout my life, especially during my first 20 years, I had learned to build a wall of protection around my heart in order to avoid anger and sadness—any negative emotion—and above all, to avoid the pain that these negative emotions cause. It was safe to not feel. So like an onion, or like Shrek, we all have these layers. It takes time to remove the layers, but oh how freeing it is to have the layers removed! There was a time that the wall, or these layers, were needed to protect us, but that time is no more! We can thank our subconscious mind for helping to protect us when we needed it, and we can move on from this: one layer at a time…

So, in peeling some layers, for the whole world to see—or whoever happens to read this...

Dear Dad.

I loved being your Princess. I loved when you tickled me and made me laugh. I loved when we went out to the pier to catch fish and crab. I loved going on bike rides and car rides with you. I love how you GOT people. I REALLY miss the years when we were a family of 5. I wish that would have worked out… I know I was hurt when you left when I was 10, but I’m unable to truly feel that hurt today. I know it is locked inside of me because when I watched the live musical, Dear Evan Hansen, during the “truck song” (So Big / So Small), I was amazed at how my body responded. The feelings from a U-haul truck taking Evan’s dad away, and possibly taking his mom away….that unleashed all of the suppressed feelings of pain from your two divorces from each other, from SO MANY years prior. I was literally trembling as I sobbed and sobbed. I could not contain the trembling or the tears. I tried to quiet the sounds and sobs that wanted to escape my mouth. My body has never EVER done that before. I had no control over my body. I usually try to compose myself in public in general, but that was an impossible feat in this case! How many years of hurt had been pent up from my pain of my family being torn apart? My life was torn apart then. How much I had buried as a young child. I missed my dad. I loved you, Dad. But you and mom could not work things out. Selfishness and pride got in the way, as did Grandma’s controlling nature. I feel like you ran from your pain as well; you couldn’t face it. You couldn’t face us, a reminder of your pain… I didn’t know you during my teen years. I had blocked so much of you from my memory so that I wouldn’t feel the pain and that drove me further away from you. I’m sorry for that. I’m the type of person who likes to be pursued, and you did not pursue me. You did not pursue your daughters… I am very hurt from this past, but I do forgive you. We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. We all try to make what we think is the best decision at the time, and only time will tell if it is a good decision. You did what you had to do. I understand that. I was hoping we’d have more time to get to know each other better in our adulthood, for you to spend more time with your daughters and grandchildren. We had some good times together, but I wish we would have been able to have some deep conversations. I didn’t know what it was like to grow up with a dad; my sisters knew even less. I am really sad that you left us so young, when we were only 2, 3, and 10; I am really sad that you left us so young, when you were only age 63. There is a hole in my heart, a piece missing, and I call it “Dad”.

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I woke up the other morning with these words going through my head. I had been in even more conversation with God this week, and am always so thankful for the connection and for what He is telling me!


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