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||||||||||||||||| DR MARY HELEN HENSLEY BLOG


4) A Lesson in Grieving

On the 1st of February, I gave myself the task of starting a project that I have wanted to do for quite some time. My father was such an inspiration character; a man of faith, discipline and he never minced words. He was an outstanding orator, and he spoke with a voice that rolled like thunder with a hint of Rhett Butler, giving away his southern heritage.
When I was 14, Dad gifted me with a prayer book written in 1949, formatted in such a way that there was a devotional for the morning and evening and a blank page with each, for personal reflection. Dad had filled in those pages, 62 quotes for the 31 mornings and evenings of the month. His words are powerful, and now that he is gone, they are priceless. I decided that I would share these words because of the impact that they have had on me for the last 30 years. I loved the idea of a compact, pocket-sized book that could be stuck in the back pocket or in a pocket-book/handbag for daily use, thus, “The Pocket Coach.”
After researching all of the quotes to be sure of their authenticity (Dad was also a great collector of the quotes of those who moved him) “The Pocket Coach” is in its editing stage and nearly ready for print. I’m launching the book in my hometown of Martinsville, Virginia and it just happens to be a few days before my Mom’s birthday. It will be her first in 61 years without Dad. I thought this would be a great way to create an atmosphere which felt as if Dad was taking part in the celebration of her 84th year on the planet. Launch day proceeds will be dedicated to her birthday spent at the Edgar Cayce facility in Virginia Beach. It’s a bucket list location for us both, and a gift from Dad from beyond the veil.
I noticed something interesting over the last two weeks while compiling this book. While I am well aware that we all grieve in our own ways, I never realised how cathartic writing is in my personal grieving process. Not just my father’s passing, but in every traumatic event that I have experienced. Slowing time down, while thoughtfully applying words to a page gives one the opportunity, rewrite the past; not as it actually occurred, but in the timely integration of the emotional impact of past events.
As I studied the same passages that I have been looking at daily for three decades, the words suddenly took on an entirely different meaning as I began to uncover the internal struggles of a man whose soul desire was for his children to be better

than he was. His promptings to soar, to turn our backs on the system, to become rugged individualists, to stand tall and avoid toxic environments were all issues that now I can see he wrestled with and attempted to overcome within the confines of the religious and social dogmas that he had chosen to adhere to throughout his lifetime. In recognising his struggles and his desire for my complete and utter self-reliance, I find myself grieving the loss of a man I’m not even sure I really knew. His wishes, his fears, his determination to not see me succumb to ‘the man’, these are the musings of a real man, a fellow human being, a seeker of truth. Somewhere along the way, I forgot that the guy that I called Daddy was also a soul incarnate trying to figure it all out, just like me. In my grief of this realisation, I have found myself standing before my own children on several occasions this week, eyes full of tears, asking them to remember that inside, I’m just a little girl in a grown-up body trying to do my very best to assist them in making their experiences worthwhile.
I miss the physical presence of my Dad, the sound of his voice, even the stern lectures about propriety and the like. I miss the familiarity of it all. But most of all, I miss the fleeting moments when all pretence of authority gave way to the child-like wonder that can be a true gift in Alzheimer’s. I miss the Dad that expressed no fear or concern over my personal failures and lovingly dubbed them as ‘necessary’ for my growth.
In formatting Dad’s words, I am passing on the very best of him. The real him that shone through; the tenacious bulldog that ‘felt the fear and did it anyway.’ I am ever so grateful to have had Coach as a father, but I think I am grieving the man that I wish I had known or at least understood a little bit better; the vulnerable, soul searcher who questioned everything, constantly seeking ways to improve his own experiences. Right now I am that girl, and as I sit here missing him more than I thought I could ever miss another, I wish I had seen more of the guy that wasn’t my father, but the boy, turned man, turned elderly in pursuit of his own personal truth. I spent so many years trying to defy him that I denied myself the opportunity to really see him. But isn’t that the parent-child archetype in a nutshell? I’ve read his words for all of these years and somehow, I never heard the voice of the fellow traveller, not just the father, until now.
I look forward to sharing the Coach with you. He continues to change my life through the sheer determination and passion of his essence. Grief is a funny thing. Who knew there was so much more to it than sadness??


Mary Helen is available for individual sessions:
DUBLIN: Contact Mairead at 087 7468583
BELFAST: Contact Mairead at 087 7468583
ATHLONE: Contact Maureen at 090 6476277



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