The things I’ve learned through loss and reinvention Part 2
The things I’ve learned through loss and reinvention Part 2

Before I get back to my story I wanted to share a bit about why I felt it was important to open up and write. A few people contacted me after I released my first blog and shared their support and curiosity. I am truly appreciative of the heartfelt notes and connection. Mostly people were wondering why I chose to write about my experiences now. Here’s a few reasons that may satisfy the curiosity…

  1. Stories connect us. I love connecting with people.
  2. We learn through storytelling. I love education and teaching.
  3. Storytelling and writing are emotionally healing. I needed some emotional healing right now; The timing made sense to share.

And now back to my story….

I agree, I ended the last story somewhat abruptly. There is a reason why, my story is complicated and emotional. There are a lot of layers and it’s not so easy to share. The next part of it just gets really weird and surreal. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I could share the next part but it needs to be said. I need to get it out there to process it and find closure. The struggle I’ve been forced to deal with on a personal level with my father has been difficult and I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to situations like this.

I want to start by saying that everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace. It’s okay. In fact, there are really no rules. When someone you love passes away and leaves you, it’s very difficult to communicate how it feels and what will happen to you. Some of us find solace in trying to be “normal”; We think it’s easier for the rest of our family and friends if they don’t see us crumble. We perceive grief like an enemy, an evil entity coming to tear us apart. A common response is take those emotions you’re feeling and push them down into a dark place, far away, and just forget about it and pretend nothing has happened (by the way, this is me). I think it’s the easiest way to deal with it, but some say it is the most harmful mentally. Some of us allow grief to become us, consume us, deteriorate us. We disengage from reality and disconnect with the people in our lives. We don’t even realize it’s happening because in some cases it happens over a long period of time. The changes are slow and steady with deep rooted grief… We can morph into a whole new person that is hard to recognize. We can no longer manage the life we had before so we become someone new and out of character. For others, grief consumes them for a period of time, then it’s expelled, and they find the strength to go on. No two ways are the same. This is merely a couple of examples of many…

My father was deteriorating into his grief. None of us really saw the depth of it. Perhaps we didn’t want to believe it was possible. We knew him to be so strong; So maybe we just never thought it would tear him apart the way it has. My mom passed away in June 2019. By July he had sought a therapist, much to our surprise, and he was actively pursuing a path forward. He seemed to be on a good trajectory. He had some concerning signs but nothing we didn’t think was manageable. As a family, we were very connected and spending a lot of time together; More than we had before. As we moved into the Fall and my father began prepping for his annual winter trip to Florida, he seemed more confident than ever. I was happy for him; we all were. I knew that the trip down south was going to be challenging, but we were all planning to go down south to spend time with him throughout the winter season. He wouldn’t be totally alone at any given point of his trip. My brother’s family, Courtney and I, would fill this void without smothering him. All was good and the entire family felt great about the Florida visit master plan.


All of a sudden things shifted. November 1-November 312019, his last month in Toronto, my dad was suddenly unavailable and he was behaving weirdly. When I use the word weird and my father in the same sentence, it feels very foreign to me. My dad was straight laced, respectful, and honest. Now all of sudden he was behaving differently. I attributed it to his grief, we all did. Along with the behaviour change, he was becoming distant. In fact, suddenly, he was unavailable for our weekly dinners and walking the dog. My father loved coming over and hanging out with our dog, DJ. He did it 3 times a week for 3 months before all this… It was an abrupt change of heart which seemed weird but I took it with a grain of salt. As the month continued, when I called, he would now not return my messages for a few days. He was seemingly distracted, doing other things, and a bit more forgetful than he had been through July and August. In the summer his memory had been worrisome; To the point that I had called his GP. He was noticeably different, forgetting the little things and some of the bigger things too. The doc just said he was dealing with trauma and forgetfulness because of the grief. His advice was to just keep an eye on it and it should eventually improve; Only it didn’t.

Back to November… Jeff, my brother, and I began to notice more alarming moments of forgetfulness. And then there was the outbursts of rage. Rage? My father was as calm as they come. I had such vivid memories of my childhood when he got angry because it only happened a few times. Anger and rage were not part of my parent’s roster of used emotions. November brought about a new side of my dad to the surface. Anger and frustration were happening more then ever… We actually had a verbal fight and he hung up on me several times when I questioned anything. This was not the person I knew. The change was drastic and he would be nasty at times. Phone call after phone call, we got through it, made up, but I will never forget the way it made me feel. I was concerned, nervous, unsure, and most of all worried. When he left for Florida December 1st 2019, everything seemed to be getting back to “normal”, or so we thought. I will never forget the next sequence of events for the rest of my life. The shock of it is permanently etched in my mind and it haunts me from time to time. It was the morning of December 27th 2019. I was on my way to work. I was riding the streetcar and I thought I would check in on my dad and see how Florida was treating him. I called and he picked up almost immediately. He sounded so happy and he immediately took over the conversation which was nice to hear. My father had news he wanted to share with me and it sounded exciting. I listened to what he had to say and it felt like time just stopped. I couldn’t believe it…

“Jen, I’m so excited! I got married. It was before I left for Florida on November 29th. Whoo hoo! I got married and she’s here with me now in Florida! She just got here last night… I’m so in LOVE”

I don’t remember exactly what I said in response. I know I was in shock…

It felt like my father rambled for almost 30 minutes. I remember snippets of the conversation like, how excited I should be for him… How similar my marriage to Courtney was because of how quick it was. He went onto tell me I should understand his situation because of this fact alone. My father went on to say how happy he is now, how lonely he was, and I don’t care what you think. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any crazier, other than not knowing who this woman he married was, he tells us 5 days before visiting him in Florida that Courtney and I had to cancel our trips so he could spend it with his new bride. I was confused. I was angry. I wasn’t sure what I was? I face timed my husband and all he could do was watch me as the blood drained from my face and he tried to figure out what was wrong with me…

All I could think was OMG, he’s been lying to me forever a month. WTF? He’s never lied to me before; Who is this stranger? What is this woman’s intentions? How does a person I’ve loved and respected flip on mes o abruptly and not want me at his wedding? The way he treated me in the moment was a shock and truly heartbreaking… How could my life change so quickly with one call?

My father had connected with his new wife around October 31 2019. She literally showed up on his doorstep and returned some golf clubs she borrowed 5 years ago. The two had met one another through a mutual friend, she joined their golfing group to make the group a foursome one day five years ago. She hadn’t made the best impression at the time amongst everyone so the group didn’t last very long, just a few games over the course of a summer. Who would have thought it would have mattered five years ago, but guess what, they were married one month after reconnecting in a civil ceremony at city hall without telling us; his children. We also found out she hadn’t seen my father in 5 years and only showed up on his doorstep because the same mutual friend had told her my mother died. It felt very calculated. The story only got more difficult as we found out that her daughter was their witness. Ugh, so difficult to hear and even more challenging to process. The story only gets more complicated. Without going into too much emotional detail, the relationship between my father and I went quickly from connected to strained. His new wife is steering the ship and she has no intention of including us. From January to today it’s been surreal and confusing. With a pandemic as icing on the cake… 2020 has been challenging.

At this point of the story (June 2020), to fast forward, they changed the locks on the family home, our family home in Florida is officially up for sale, the Toronto home is next in line, and my conversations with my father are limited to private conversations on the down low, sometimes from his bathroom. Everything is cloaked in lies and it has become hard to navigate through the truth and the fiction in the conversations. We found out that during the winter months she was listening in on all of our calls. To this day the phone calls have still remained very surface and short. The distance he’s created from the rest of the family, his friends, grandkids, Courtney and Jen (my sister- in- law) is difficult to comprehend. This seems to be okay with my dad. I am not entirely sure where the journey with us is heading…

What I do know for sure is how I feel and something feels off. I feel sad and disconnected from the father I once knew. As father’s day approaches, a day I shared with him and have not missed spending with him for 43 years, I wonder what it will come to mean. I miss our phone calls… I miss his dry sense of humour and smile. It’s been a tough year.

I also know that all of this has brought Courtney and I closer to my brother and his family. It started when my mom declined over a year ago and it has just continued to build and grow. I feel especially concerned for my nephews. They have been so close to my father, their grandfather, and now the relationship has shifted so much. When my dad broke the news back in December, Jeff was away on a family trip in Washington, DC. I can’t begin to imagine how he and my sister-in-law are navigating this with the boys. My brother has been a pillar of support through all of this. He is truly standing tall and walking the balance beam trying to be the positive light in the dark clouds and for that I am grateful.

I have also been so fortunate that my parents close friends have circled in. Many of them have reached out, ones that were very close to my mother, and who are also trying to better understand and support my father in his new future. The conversations let me connect to something familiar and talk through to see if we could make any sense of this. For now everyone seems to be in as much shock as we are with the situation but perhaps time will tell.

It felt so bizarre when everything unfolded at the end of 2019. Everything felt out of focus… Looking at 2020 and the chaos that we live in right now, it’s a fascinating time for me and Courtney to reflect and restart our lives in the new normal. I feel I’m not alone in the chaos…

Where do I go from here?

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