Activating the Bat-Signal for My Deceased Father

This Father’s Day is the 18th without my father on the physical plane.

After so many years without him physically but with an ever-present, still-growing spiritual practice and much gratitude, I’ve learned that we can simply ask our deceased beloved to show up, and they will. Most recently, I know my dad helped me fix my clothes dryer. He was a fix-it type–and still is, it seems. I spent a significant part of my childhood in the garage with my dad, handing him tools and keeping him company, whether he was building his ’35 Ford Coupe from the shell-in-primer state, changing his oil in his Ford station wagon, working solo or with his buddies on his latest race car that hadn’t been demolished at the Slinger speedway (Wisconsin favorite), or fixing his Yamaha motorcycle and later his Harley Davidson. I got up at sunrise to join him at many hot-rod car shows, and he quizzed and trained me about car parts at the swap meets. Three years ago, I wasn’t afraid to research YouTube, buy the necessary parts and replace my blower motor and resistor, so I could have working heat again in my Honda CR-V and save a couple hundred dollars. I am my father’s daughter.

The clothes dryer. In the same week a few weeks ago, my clothes dryer and five-year-old smart phone went kaput. For mechanical woes, I’ve learned to put a call out to my deceased father, just as you might pray to the appropriate saint or angel for a lost object, protection or house sale. I shine the Bat-Signal (RIP, Adam West) for my father when I need mechanical help or driving directions. I first had my human-experience panic: I was already in financial struggle, and now two not-so-cheap replacements were needed, in the same week. Then, I went into my famous research mode, checking “new” dryers but gravitating toward Craigslist. And asking Dad for help.

That’s when I called “Dan” about the dryer he posted on Craigslist. This man could barely hear me when I called, and I practiced patience as I repeated most of what I needed to say and ask. My gut said to trust him. He wasn’t hearing me that I just wanted to buy his dryer and that I’d need to arrange help; he insisted that he check my dryer first, completely confident he knew he could probably fix the 1970s dryer I had. So, we scheduled a time, and then I did the responsible thing of letting close friends know that I had a stranger coming to my home while I was alone; I texted his name and phone number and the time of his visit to said friends.

Dan exited his large, white truck, carefully lifting each foot, as his legs wobbled a bit, and he firmly planted one foot on the ground, as he advanced toward me. He’s in his 80s, since he later shared that he’d been in Colorado since the 1930s. I exhaled, now trusting that there was no stranger danger. I shook his hand, and he met my dog, and we all entered my home. After I let him assess the dryer, I asked if he needed water or anything else. He handed me a crazy-dust-and-lint-filled metal piece, and I understood I needed to vacuum said piece. No words were needed. After that task was complete, I returned and saw him struggling with thick, shaky fingers to undo a necessary screw in the dryer, and I asked if he needed some help. “I usually have an assistant,” he assured me, but we knew that’s why I was there and so willing. For the next 40 minutes, we were a seamless team, sweating in my small laundry room and exchanging only fix-it-related words. I wasn’t afraid to jump in and find myself covered in the dust–more vacuuming and helping where I could. It was in the first moment of his asking, “Hand me that socket driver,” that I knew exactly what he meant, and I was suddenly a young girl in my dad’s garage, handing my father tools he’d taught me to distinguish. I knew.

And when I noticed the dryer vent had come off the back of dryer and couldn’t quite reach it and grabbed a mop handle to hook and lift it within reach, Dan smiled at me and laughed and said, “Well, that’s a smart thing to do. [pause] Are you married?” No. “Well, how come no one has snatched up a beautiful, smart woman like you, yet?” And then he went on to say he’s been married 62 years to his “beautiful bride.” Our affection grew when I noticed the end of the rescued dryer vent end coming apart and announced, “Duct tape–right there, a few inches from your right hand in that basket on the shelf.”

An hour and only $60 later, my 1970s, still-awesome dryer was working again because Dan replaced the faulty thermal fuse. Like my father, I’m apt to try to fix something before tossing or replacing it; I couldn’t have found a more perfect form of help. I nearly cried with both the relief and the gift of this man. We hugged as he left, and he continued his careful, strategic gait with exaggerated knee lifts and foot placement, and only after I handed him a bag with blueberry scones I’d baked him that morning. Because somehow I knew.

© 2017 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.

Loss Can Feel Like This… But You Need to Be in This

Sudden loss can feel like this.

It’s like a car accident that includes a plunge into water: You’re driving along, maintaining and staying aware, and suddenly there’s the crash, the impact, and you’re free-falling off a bridge and find yourself thrown into the water below. At first, panic. Then, realization that you’re going to be here awhile.

And even though breath can sometimes be a struggle, you realize you can breathe.

Others may swim by, offer a life preserver, effort to pull you out… but you need to be in this. Feel it all. Know you won’t drown even if you feel you will—at first, every day. And even if you feel you’d like to drown and slip into the promised peace of letting go and surrendering.

But we can still surrender and LIVE. That’s one of the secrets. But we need to be okay with allowing the float, the awareness, and that hollow, odd sound and solitude we uniquely know when we are submerged under water.

Grief is like this.

© 2016 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved


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I lost my beloved dog Harley last month and have been in the thick of processing grief and integrating the hole and new routine that show up each day. Read my public tribute to my boy at this link here. I’ve had several significant losses in my life, which you can read more about here.

 

 

Grief Healing Resources: Please click here to see a started list of some of my favorite resources lately, as I grieve; I’ve started a list of books, on-line video and audio, and on-line articles. These resources have been game-changers for me.

Infinite Love and Gratitude for Our Pets

© 2015 Erika M. Schreck

© 2015 Erika M. Schreck

Harley and I “lost” a dear friend a couple of weeks ago–a friend of the furry, four-legged kind. Pepper, a sweet and spicy short-haired dachsund, was a little love. Okay, actually, he was a BIG love in a tiny body.

If you have pets, have had pets or hold others’ furry loves near and dear, I wish to share a couple of quick thoughts. First, my friend and client and trusted expert, Amy Miller, amazingly gifted and skilled animal communicator, just published her first book: Beyond Companionship: Connecting with Kindred Souls of Animal Companions. Learn more and order by clicking here. I also want to promote Amy’s lovely, unique, SPOT-ON Animal Communication cards–I’ve done readings with Harley and friends’ animals, and these cards’ accuracy is stunning. For example, as sweet-pea Pepper was getting more challenged, I pulled cards several times for him and kept getting the “Transitioning” card. Wow. Click here to learn more about and order these excellent cards.

Secondly, one idea and practice I want to encourage you to try and use often with pets still here on the planet and pets on the Other Side is a simple one. In addition to the love, care, kindness and exercise I hope all animals receive, I recommend saying to them, preferably with one hand in the sign-language formation of “I love you” pressed gently on their chest or somewhere else on the animal’s body (on a picture or on your own heart if your animal has died), “Infinite Love and Gratitude” repeated at least three times. Simple. Love-Filled. Necessary expression of love and sweetness.

These days, in addition to expressing “infinite love and gratitude” often to my lovey (dog) Harley, I tell him every day, given his heart condition and uncertain longevity, “Harley, I love you so much. And I am grateful you’re still here. I want you to stay as long as you can and want to stay.”

Let us love and respect all animals–and let our loving, kind example shine brightly to others.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved for photos and words.

The Dead Parent Club and Four Big Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years Since My Father Died

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My dad raced stock cars sometimes

I believe we join an interesting club when we lose a parent through death. Until you join this club, it’s a tough journey to understand–and no one else’s journey will be exactly like yours. Today is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 48 of a heart-attack… that’s an age that is eight years away for me and tough to imagine.

I’ve learned so many valuable things through my father’s passing and through several other losses, I keep returning to my experiences on this journey, what I usually share with people willing to discuss and listen, and what I’ve been finding important to my grief coaching clients. There are multiple learnings, but I continue returning to the following four.

1. Be at peace with where you’re at with your parents.

This is probably the biggest one. If your parents still on the planet, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? If they’re on the Other Side, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? I can’t tell you what this may look like exactly for you. And it may not even involve actually talking to or seeing them. But how can you choose peace?

For me, it took telling my dad that he was a “shitty father sometimes”–on the, unknown to me, last Father’s Day I would share with him. It might sound awful, but in the last several months we had together after that Father’s Day, not knowing those were our last, something shifted. We actually talked more, and I was invited over more. Throughout my childhood and teens, I wrote him letters and expressed in phone calls what I needed to. I definitely wasn’t perfect in all I did, but somehow I feel I had a larger feeling of “no regrets.” Sure, I still have regrets. Overall, I sincerely tried to do and say all I needed with him to feel at peace. And I know how much he loved and supported me—he was my biggest fan with my writing, my calligraphy pens, my drawing, my crafting, star-gazing, camping and appreciating Nature.

2. Talk about your burial and funeral wishes, as well as organ donation and end-of-life wishes (ex. Do-Not-Resuscitate order), with loved ones. And get it on official documentation. Now.

My father’s loss is so significant for me, not only because my father left the planet, but also because at age 24-turning-25, I was suddenly solely responsible for all of his effects. I quickly needed to plan a funeral, approve which body parts could be donated, drain my already-little savings to pay for the initial things, prepare and sell his condo, sell his Harley Davidson, sell his car, save his ponytail from his mother who wanted to cut it off for the wake and funeral viewing, refuse his former girlfriend wanting his prized and bad-ass Harley Davidson leather jacket, and so forth. And I was in grad school with three jobs.

He didn’t have a will, and I hadn’t talked with him about what kind of burial he wanted; dealing with probate was challenging. I found a card in his wallet for a lawyer after he died; when I called her and mentioned this card find, she responded, “Oh, yes, your father was going to contact me about doing a will.”

3. Remember that while people can relate and have great intentions,
no one else knows “exactly” what you’re going through.

One of the most comforting things anyone said to me came from the mouth of the funeral director. After several days of managing things, organizing and planning, I arrived at the funeral home for the evening “wake”—an opportunity to allow friends, family and coworkers to view the body in the casket and pay respects to the deceased and the family. My face and body were showing my fatigue, overwhelm and I-will-cry-any-moment-please-watch-what-you-say.

I was still unloading items from a heavy box I’d just carried into the funeral home. My uncle beckoned me with impatience, “Come on, Erika, you and your brother and sister need to view the body now, before everyone else arrives.” That’s what did it. I had held it together all week and supported everyone else. False start as I proceeded to follow said uncle and enter the room where my father lay, when tears arrived like a slap, and I turned to hide the fountain coming from my face. I took a moment. And a breath.

After seeing my dad in the casket, with his ponytail and his dark jeans and a nice shirt with a vest (I also fought for my-father-will-not-wear-a-suit-because-that’s-not-him), the funeral director pulled me aside. “Erika,” he started, now putting his hand on my shoulder, “a lot of people are going to say they know exactly what you’re going through. They have good intentions. But no one knows exactly what you’re going through. Remember that. Take care of yourself.” He was so right, and I’ve loved those words and have shared those words ever since.

Honor your journey with grief. Remember that grief is cumulative.

4. Our parents indeed live on, even in death.

Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife as I do, our parents live on in us, in memories that helped create and shape us. At times we may even mistake people walking by for our deceased loved one. Reminders—maybe you call them “signs”—show up, almost as if to say, “I’m here” or “You have my support,” from your deceased one.

And, like it or not, we have some of our parents’ traits and mannerisms. We know others who exhibit some of these elements, and we’re triggered in painful ways or joyful ones. Spirit is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, but whether it’s God, the Universe, Allah, Aai, Great Mystery or something else, there is something about the essence left by someone who dies. And I believe we can communicate with our deceased ones. And all of us can do so, if we wish, believe… and ask—and know our deceased may not always communicate in ways we expect. Just have the conversation, perhaps whether you believe or not. Why not? Some of my own experiences are noted in the related blog posts listed below.

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of relationship I’d have now with my dad, had he lived. But I do have a relationship with him in Spirit, and it’s powerful. He shows up all the time, and I hear a lot of things from him. Pretty darn amazing and beautiful. I love my dad very much, and I miss not being able to call him about car things and repairs. His death is one of my biggest wounds and one of my biggest opportunities. I attribute his death and my experience largely to why I moved to Colorado (nearly 13 years ago now) and why I am a certified grief coach.

One of the safest places I have ever known was my father’s chest; leaning on and falling asleep on his chest as a young girl, about ages one to three, and hearing his heartbeat comforted me unbelievably then and still resonates safety for me now.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.


Other Closely Related Blog Posts You May Enjoy,
written in earlier days by Erika M. Schreck

+ “Beautiful and Necessary Grief Healing: Death, Reinvention and Support”

+ “Live for No Regrets… with Loved Ones”

+ “If I Die Young”

+ “Father’s Day is What We Make It”

+ “Sensing Our Dearly Departed Loved Ones”

+ “My Take-Aways from the Movie Hereafter

+ “How Do You Commemorate Your Deceased Loved Ones?”
      one of my most popular posts of all time!

+ “Our Four-Legged Stars”

+ “Taking the ‘Me’ out of Mediumship”

+ “Scary for Some: Connecting to Our Deceased”

+ “Life is a Gift–Not a Given”

What’s Your Thing? You Know, That Thing That Brings You Back to YOU and Calm

Guthrie (corgi) and Harley (golden retriever)

Guthrie (corgi) and Harley (golden)

Most weeks on Sunday mornings, I’m off to an amazing spiritual, emotional and physical practice… yoga with most excellent teacher Jon Kolaska. And during the week, I’m on my yoga mat at home, surrounded by and loved on by the golden retriever and corgi in my home, who bask in the something that’s happening when I’m on Mat Time.

Next month is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s a big anniversary, and my body is already remembering in its own way. And it gets me thinking about my yoga practice because I started it shortly after my father passed. To stay sane. To feel—really feel—the ground I was standing on and supposedly supporting me. To stretch my body, so it could better bend and breathe and manage the overwhelming pressures of grad school, three jobs, a failing relationship and my father’s estate… then at 25 years old.

I will be forever grateful to the colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I was finishing my graduate degree and teaching college-level writing. This colleague, who one day asked me how I was doing and knowing the overwhelm I was feeling, gifted me a VHS tape with a collection of Rodney Yee yoga instruction segments and assured me that yoga would help me manage my stress and emotional strain. I gave it a try, not even having a yoga mat, yet, and used a bath towel. Years later I’d take my first yoga class, but I started with doing yoga regularly at home.

My home practice has always felt so accessible, so willing. I know I’ve had few weeks without it in these last 15 years because it’s one of my things. Yoga for me is a go-to grounding, calming, stabilizing, nurturing practice that increases mindfulness and flexibility that extend beyond my Mat Time. Yoga reminds me of who I am, how things really are, what I need to prioritize (that moment, for example), and the ever-necessary Quiet Self.

When I traveled to Europe in 2009—my first time out of the country!—I brought my travel yoga mat. I knew I needed to keep doing my thing. I also brought my journal and even yarn and crochet hooks, which are essentials for my other things.

What practices sustain you? What are your things, and how can you prioritize them, no matter where you go?

Life can get wild at times. I know most of you know what I mean. Our essential practices help us remember that we can not only survive (oh, I’m a master at Survival Mode!) but also thrive. Whether I have five minutes or a bit more than an hour to do yoga, write or crochet, I continue to realize that I need my things in my life.

And maybe we also try new things. In recent years, for example, I’ve also found that meditation is also one of my things.

What brings you comfort, joy, calm, peace, balance and connection to self, especially when you’ve gotten further away from yourself and what you need? What healthy practice has saved you? What feels like a healthy, comforting security blanket in your life? I hope you make time for your thing(s) today.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Resurfacing: Digging Out of the Dark Night

It’s been a particularly challenging year. Difficult news was revealed in all major areas of my life. My relationship. My dog. My finances. My work. My health. And we think there’s only so much that any of us can take. And in times like these, harsh words feel harsher, and struggles like car issues and other life things feel bigger. Being social has been less appealing; I’ve needed to cry and get into the deep, dark places that suddenly need my attention—or they will suffocate me.

I hadn’t had those thoughts since I was in fourth grade, when, feeling overwhelmed with sadness and despair with my broken family and abusive situations, I promised to hang myself with our dog’s choker chain. I hadn’t had those thoughts since fourth grade, when my sweet, young friend went to the school counselor and told her that I was talking about killing myself. My introduction to life-saving therapy. And writing to survive—writing and journaling have always been saving graces for me.

From Eckhart Tolle on “The Dark Night of the Soul”:
The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time.  Yes, I have also experienced it.  It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.  The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression.  Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything.  Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level.  The death of someone close to you could trigger it….  Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before.  Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.  So that results in a dark place.  But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness.  Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain.  Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind.  A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer.  It’s a kind of re-birth. 

~ Eckhart Tolle, Creating a New Earth Together
October 2011 Newsletter Content

It’s an interesting dance when one is having thoughts of leaving the planet, going from feeling such peace in pondering the release of it all, the knowing that things have got to be better just to end it. And complete terror with being frightened with realizing the desperation of feeling there’s only one way, in that moment at least, out of all the pain and suffering. And I understand it even better now, having supported and witnessed the deep depression of loved ones, especially heightened this past year. Last weekend, someone I knew a long time took her own life, as well.

There have been many other times in my life where I’ve witnessed and felt pained over what my loved ones were going through. My own father called me, drunk and depressed and saying the world would be better without him, on my 21st birthday. But this year I was reminded of the darkness because I’ve recently had waves of feeling swallowed by it myself. That deep, unlit place where some of us sometimes have gone, where we’ve entertained and imagined a pain-free state.

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© Erika M. Schreck

But that’s where we need to bring in the light. It’s where we start figuring out again how to take ourselves out of the darkness and how to turn on lights again.

What are your energy-shifters and -boosters?
Who and what in your life lift your energy?
Choose to be there.

That’s where the beacon of hope still needs to shine. We need to remember and recognize the reminders of our worth, sometimes but not always that come through other people—whom we know and even the passing strangers. We may need to remind ourselves. And the light gets a little brighter; gratitude feels a little greater.

We are reminded that even during these dark times, there’s always the light. Lights this time of year remind me of that. One of my favorite things to do is sit in the light, in the glow, of white Christmas lights I have up right now. I love that no matter what path of spirituality any of us is on, light is the common denominator. Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Advent, Winter Solstice.

Without the light, both in a physical way and spiritual and emotional sense, things remain dark. And it feels like there is absolutely no hope, no way to see and no possibility. I keep digging out of this hole I fell into—and I do admit that I fell into one. I keep hoping. And I keep trying to shine my light, like using a flashlight and wanting to find what we lost in the dark. I try to keep believing there’s got to be something better, a life of greater ease that I can create… that maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about finances, that maybe there is a place right here where I can be.

When I stay in the moment, that’s where the power is.
That’s where the hope is.

It’s when I dance in the past and dare to try to see a glimpse of the future that the hope starts dissipating. And I struggle to feel and to believe, and I find myself falling down and off path. When we stay on this path and believe. If we just put one foot in front of the other, that’s where we create, that’s where we stay steady, that where we’re reminded that without the light and without the hope, we definitely lose our footing. I’m learning there’s no shame in that. And….

I find, though, that we don’t lose our footing if we recognize the power of this moment.

Stay with it.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2014. All rights reserved.


Some Starter Resources

+ American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Home

+ National Alliance on Mental Illness
http://nami.org

+ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1 (800) 273-8255  24 hours, 7 days per week

+ National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

+ I recently watched an intriguing documentary: Running from Crazy
Mariel Hemingway’s documentary about the trend of suicide in her family.
Click here for the Facebook page for this film. Available on Netflix streaming.

Beautiful and Necessary Grief Healing: Death, Reinvention and Support

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Cindy Chadwick, Erika M. Schreck, Sue Frederick and Ann Worthington: Grief Healing Workshop, July 2014

Today I sat with another beautiful client during a grief intuitive coaching session. I recognized and remembered the ache and unstoppable tears as she told her story of loss. And I felt the honor and gratitude of being a witness and support for her. I know that most people are afraid to talk about death and may not know some of the amazing, effective ways to receive and provide healing, which are some of my main drives for offering grief intuitive coaching services.

This past July, I was in beautiful Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, at the Shambhala Mountain Center, assisting, supporting and participating in a grief healing workshop with well-known, amazing numerologist, coach, author, speaker and professional intuitive Sue Frederick. I heard stories of loss that even more so displayed strength and bravery. What a gift and honor to witness beautiful souls shine in such vulnerable, inspiring experiences! I listened, I held space, I coached, I offered reiki, and I showed up in service for a lovely group of 22 grieving participants for this beautiful and necessary process. WebSeal-Bridges-Schreck_June2013I am so grateful for my grief intuitive coach certification and grateful and inspired by Sue, who trained me. Sue Frederick’s book related to this work, Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side, is available on Amazon at this link here.

After experiencing many deaths of family members and friends at a young age, my father’s death when he was 48, and my grandfather’s passing and actual transition a couple of years ago, I know that each person has a unique journey with loss and grief.

Because my father’s funeral director wisely told me, I now tell others who just experienced the death of a loved one, “People are well intentioned and will tell you they know exactly what you’re going through–but they don’t.”

I honor the personalized journey of grief for each of us. And, especially as I’ve learned in my grief intuitive coach training and practice, I honor your journey–what you still have left to do this lifetime and why you’re still on the planet. Want to learn more about my grief intuitive coaching session or know someone who could benefit? Click here.

One of the largest gems I know to be true, based on my own experiences with losing loved ones and supporting so many others through their losses is the following: Death is all around us to remind us of our own mortality, remind us of priorities, and urge us to be truthful with ourselves about our lives.

Death reflection_28Apr2014_TurtleHealingEnergyFBPost

© Erika M. Schreck, 2014. All rights reserved.