I woke up this morning with Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide playing in my head. I have always loved this song but haven’t heard it for a long time, years, maybe. I used to listen to Fleetwood Mac a lot with my dad, and went to see them live with him when I was studying at university. That is one of my happiest memories, being with the best man in the world listening to some of the best music in the world.
It feels like it was another lifetime, now. It breaks my heart knowing he isn’t here. The pain is still immense even 9 years down the line. I’m not sure that the pain of an unexpected loss ever really repairs, I think you just find ways of ‘sort of’ coping and learning to live with it.
Since he died I haven’t really been able to listen to anything I associate with him, or rather us and our relationship, because I just find it too painful. Music keys into a part of me that I struggle to reach at other times, the bits I have had to shut down for self-preservation, and the opening few seconds of a song can take me to a place of raw emotion that I simply can’t contain.
I really struggle with the long summer therapy break for lots of reasons. It plays straight into the childhood attachment trauma stuff (oh, but of course!). It activates all kinds of fears about being physically emotionally left and abandoned as a child by my mother; but it also taps into a whole load of unresolved grief surrounding my father’s death.
My dad was on a month long scuba diving holiday in Thailand in the summer of 2008. He regularly travelled out there to teach diving. I knew the island intimately having travelled there twice to dive myself in the previous couple of years. When he was on these trips I would get almost daily calls telling me how great it all was. We were very close and talked on the phone all the time.
So when three days into his holiday I got a missed call at work on my phone from his mobile I didn’t think anything of it. I knew he’d call back later telling me that he’d finally arrived and was safe, like usual. When I got home from work and the phone rang again, I picked up expecting to have an update about the visibility, fish, weather, food etc – exactly what I needed after a day of teaching! Instead it was the voice of my dad’s best friend who was also a diving instructor on the island. I didn’t think anything of it until the words started coming out of his mouth, ‘errr, I don’t know how to tell you this…. But….your dad has died’.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember the sudden wave of grief, the instant uncontrollable tears and screaming. I felt like I had been attacked. The pain was unbelievable. I handed the phone over to my partner and just fell apart, it was this event that triggered my breakdown. I have never known emotion like it. Even sitting here now typing this I can feel my body starting to shake.
So it’s little wonder that I don’t cope with the summer therapy break very well. There is a part of me that lives in fear when there is nearly a month’s break from my therapist. I have to trust that the person I now trust with my most fragile and broken parts is coming back. But it’s hard when experience suggests that this may not be the case. What happens if she doesn’t come back? I just wouldn’t cope. I can’t lose another person that I love.
I spend the whole break on edge, holding back the fear and anxiety because I know (kind of) it’s very unlikely that she’ll die on holiday… but then never in a million years did I expect for my fit and healthy, 47 year old, father to die in his sleep abroad, and have to face all that that entails at just 25 years old.
It’s interesting that today of all days, then, as I return to therapy that Landslide, a song that I so deeply associate with my dad, is my internal soundtrack. The song really resonates with me. There is something about the lyrics and the way Stevie Nicks ploughs emotion into them that gets me every time:
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought it down
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too
I have been trying to make friends with my inner child/ren lately to stop ignoring them and their pain and to listen to them, and so the lyrics feel particularly apt as I return to therapy today to my therapist. I have really missed my therapist, but perhaps I just really really miss my daddy, and grieve for the mummy I wish I had had.