Moving On After A Father Passes: The Grieving Process

Moving On After A Father Passes: The Grieving ProcessIt’s hard to start moving on after a father passes – you need to grieve and go through a healing grieving process.  Here’s my story of healing my heart after my father (Rubin Salmansohn) died… and some unusual, beautiful synchronicities. 

When I was thirteen, I returned home one night from a record hop to discover there had been a power failure throughout our neighborhood.

My whole house was pitch black…except for my dad’s study, where he normally loved to sit and chart the ups and downs of our world’s commodities – slowly by hand – into a large chart book.

This was in the 1970’s – a time long before computers, when financial advisors were called “stock brokers,” and they tracked their trades with handwritten charts.

I was curious about how and why this one room in our house was illuminated. I stood on my tippy toes and peered into the window of my dad’s office.

There my dad sat, his commodities chart book sprawled open on his desk- and dozens of lit Hanukah candles were lined up in a circle around his work, his body poised in hypnotic  concentration.

The scene looked at first like a spiritual ritual.

It was as if my father were praying to the gods of porkbellies, lumber and corn.

I chuckled – but I was not surprised to see my dad had figured out a candle-lit way to stay hard at work, even in the midst of a neighborhood power failure. My dad often labored into the lateness of night.

It made sense to me that even in the middle of a power outage, my father’s unremitting passion for his work could not be dimmed an iota.

I confess I inherited my dad’s passion for work. Although I chose a very different career for myself. Nowadays, I often set my alarm to go off at 5am so I can sit in the silence of our home and work on a new book or new online webinar.

My career path has been zig zagging one. I began my career in advertising – winning a CLIO my first 6 months in the business – then rising up to Senior VP in my late twenties.

quote old as she was she still missed her daddy sometimesBut I wasn’t happy with my job.

I didn’t want to write ads which inspired people to buy a new, improved toothpaste.

Instead I wanted to write books which inspired people to think and act in new, improved ways.

And so in my late twenties I quit advertising to be an author.

I thank my dad for teaching me to prioritize the size of my career passions over the size of my career paycheck.

Thanks to my dad I grew up believing that you need to love what you do for a living – and now I’m sharing this core belief with my son Ari.

I wish I could introduce my son to my father – but my father’s been gone for a long time now. He passed away at 77 – when I was in my forties.

Although my dad was actually gone, before my dad was gone.

My father sadly (make that tragically) endured a devastating memory problem for over a decade.

It was noticed slowly – in stages.

My dad forgot…

  • where he put the car keys.
  • and where he parked the car.
  • which car he presently owned.
  • how to get where he was going while driving the car.

And then my dad’s driver’s license was taken away.

The doctor explained why: Alzheimers.

Soon after there was a secondary diagnosis: Leukemia.

At first all this was very hard to believe. But then my father began losing inordinate amounts of weight. It seemed that my dad had lost his appetite along with his memory.

When I was a child, my father used to resemble Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront.

my father looked like marlon brandon

Now my dad was starting to look more and more like Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond.

my father looked like henry ford

My dad was brought to Lenox Hill Hospital for a round of tests.

He was told he needed to stay… for a while.

Before my father passed away, I was not a mom yet.

I did have a boyfriend at the time, who my father smiled at a lot. But I was never sure if my dad remembered who my boyfriend was.

I remember one time in particular that my boyfriend and I visited my dad in the hospital.

My dad sat up in bed, seemingly alert, but looking strangely tiny.

Each time I’d visit my dad he looked smaller and smaller.

The incredibly shrinking father.

My dad was never much of a talker. But in the last six months before the end of his life, he’d become practically mute. And whenever he did talk, his voice was a soft, raspy whisper.

“Hi dad,” I greeted him one day at the hospital – trying to sound cheery. “I’m back – visiting you with Greg again.” I motioned to my boyfriend – hoping to prompt my dad’s memory.

“Where am I?” my dad whispered, looking around the hospital room. “Which hotel?”

“You’re in the hospital,” I corrected him.

moving on after a father passes, the grieving process“When can I go home to Hilgrove Lane?“ he asked.

This was the address of our childhood home.

“Dad, you and mom moved out of that house a few years ago,” I corrected him.

“I loved that home,” my dad said. “It has so many happy memories – of when you were a kid.”

He smiled at me – then looked at my boyfriend.

“Karen was such a sweet, good little girl,” my dad told him.

I smiled. I loved that although my father had been stripped of his memory, he had not been stripped of his essence.

My father was the epitome of kindness. Always.

Throughout my childhood, my father rarely lost his temper.

He was always patient and empathic and generous of heart.

Do Loved Ones Send Signs When They Pass? Unusual Stories...The nurses at the hospital – who only knew my father in this diluted form –  each shared with me – consistently – about what a kind man my father was.

And he was.

This also became the repeated refrain at my dad’s eulogy – everybody telling me how kind my dad was.

After my dad passed away, my mom gave me one of my father’s books called, “The Magic of Believing” – and told me it was one of his favorites.

This book was written in 1948 – and was a version of “The Secret” – but ahead of its time.

The back cover of the “The Magic of Believing” explained how it was all about the importance of being a positive thinker – and putting out positive energy into the world.

I chuckled to myself, for two reasons.

  • Firstly, this book’s description explained a little bit about some of the influences behind my father’s notoriously kind nature.
  • Secondly, when I left advertising, I went on to become a bestselling author of books like How To Be Happy Dammit and Think Happy . Each were all about putting out positive energy into the world – just like my dad’s favorite book preached.

When I cracked open the “The Magic of Believing,” I saw there were many underlinings and notes my dad had made.

The underlinings and notes made me cry.

I realized this was a way my dad could continue to communicate to me after his death.

It was my dad’s way of saying, “Look at this paragraph, Karen – oh and – here’s a sentence I want you to keep in mind.”

Later, I thought to myself how beautiful it will be to give this book (with its talkative underlinings) to my son Ari – when he’s old enough to read and understand it.

This book will be a way for my dad to communicate to my son. And my son to get to know his grand pop.

But I am jumping around in the timeline of this story. When my mom gave me this book, my son was not even yet born.

In fact, my son’s exact arrival date wound up becoming a rather significant event.

my son was born on the same day as my departed loved one My son was born on the same day that my dad passed away – August 27 – just a few years later.

This date synchronicity has always felt spiritually special to me.

Plus ever since my son’s birth, this date of August 27th now marks both the day of my dad’s passing – and the day of my son’s arrival.

I sometimes wonder: Was my son’s August 27th arrival a loving “wink” from my dad?

Please know: I’m not very “woo woo” about things like spirits visiting us.

Instead I’m more of a single woo.

  • open to believing that this is possible
  • still not fully convinced

But then I recently received a second “wink” – seemingly from my dad.

I was walking down the street with my son (who’s now 7), and I saw an older man. He was in his seventies –  and he looked exactly like my dad when he was in his seventies.

My heart stopped for a moment – because the similarities between this stranger on the street and my father were so strong.

The older gentleman then made direct eye contact with me. He then looked at my son – and smiled.

“What a sweet and handsome son you have,” this older gentleman said.

rubin salmansohn karen salmansohn father daughter“Um, thanks,” I said – happy for the opportunity to stare at this man further.

It was uncanny the resemblance he shared with my dad.

As mentioned, I’m not “woo woo” about things like spirits visiting us. I’m more of a single woo.

But I gotta say, I felt strangely moved by this brief encounter.

It truly felt like it was a “wink” from my dad.

And so I decided to write this essay today – as a tribute to my dad.

I wanted to “wink” right back at my dad – via this essay.

Often I think about how much my son would have loved his grandfather – if he had met him.

And I know you all would have loved him too.

This essay is my way of moving on – a little bit more –  from my father’s passing – and introducing my dad to all of you who are here on my site today.

And so, as I draw the curtains on this mosaic of memories, I extend a thought to you, the reader.

In these these tender recollections of a father loved and lost, lies a universal truth.

We move on by keeping alive the stories of those who have left us.

So, as you read my words, think of your own stories of your father, the ones that make you smile, the ones that stir your heart.

And I encourage you to carry them forward.

It’s in the telling and retelling, in the laughing and the crying, that we honor their presence, etching their essence into the fabric of our being.

This act of remembering, of sharing, is more than a tribute. It’s a way to keep their spirit alive, a way to continue their journey alongside ours.

My father lives on in the candle-lit study of my memories, in the underlined passages of his favorite book, in the echo of his values in my work, and in the heart of my son, who bears his legacy unknowingly.

Think happier. Think calmer.

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