Sometimes the most important messages in life come from the most unusual places. There I was, sat in a theatre in central London, about to enjoy my birthday surprise, and little did I know it would help me turn a corner with my grief.
I was watching The Lion King show, and had an epiphany. Yes folks, true story. To be fair it is a pretty epic tale. Def my fave Disney film by a mile.
You know when something is on your mind, but it doesn’t really register? I have come to realise that occasionally, you just need life to throw you a few hints in order for your thoughts to come to the surface.
Lately, I have been grieving for my dad. He passed away 11 years ago, and the pain isn’t any less intense when it comes, it just comes less often. A few recent events may be the cause of this. For example, my 30th birthday. I felt that familiar hole in my heart pressing against my chest. I never wanted to turn 30 without my dad, or 19, or 20, or 21.
But despite this pain, my grief seems to be evolving. It’s taking on a new shape. It’s as though before it was a cygnet, and now it’s becoming a beautiful swan spreading its wings. I think I have been learning how to turn some of that pain into gratitude and peace.
Every time I think of my dad instead of shutting the thought away because it’s hurtful, I embrace it and feel happy that he’s made his way into my thoughts. If he’s still in my thoughts then he’s still with me. Then I went and watched The Lion King and one scene in particular seemed to totally sum up my thoughts and current feelings about grief.
Before going to watch it the fact that Simba’s dad dies had slipped my mind. But I remembered as the show got going and almost shed a tear simply because I knew what was going to happen. You know the scene where Mufasa gives Simba a good talking to after he gets into trouble in the elephant graveyard? This is a lovely scene, with a wonderfully powerful song. Mufasa says to Simba…
Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you … And so will I.
I remember when my dad was in hospital and he asked me to bring him photos of my sister and I. I put them on the wall in his room and as he glanced at them I saw a tear in his eye. He said to me, ‘I’m so proud of you two, you are what I live for.’
It was almost like he knew he might not make it, and he was trying to tell me that if he didn’t, that his spirit would live on through us two. I didn’t know it at the time, because I 100% believed that he was going to get better, but looking back, now I understand.
So when I was sitting in the theatre in the dark amongst the crowds when the song ‘He lives in you’ was on, I let the words echo through my ears with a personal meaning.
Sometimes society encourages us to grieve in a certain way. To visit a physical grave, to be miserable on anniversaries, and to suffer far more than we need to. If you choose to grieve in your own way, you might find some comfort in your grief.
That’s what I’m beginning to find. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had such a positive influence on my life, and to have enough memories of my father to keep him forever in my thoughts. I’m not going to lie, I still feel like someone is squeezing my heart in their hand when I think of him, or when a memory catches me off guard. But now I take that tragic feeling, and I turn it into something beautiful.
The Lion King has taught me that grief doesn’t have to be physical. Your loved ones are always with you wherever you go. When you reach age milestones, when you get married, when you dream at night and when you experience tough times. They are there with you in spirit. They are an energy that surrounds you, in the blood that flows through your veins, and entwined in your thoughts.
It may be a song featured in a Disney cartoon, but inspiration can come from anywhere. It doesn’t matter what helps you to process and work through your grief. If you find something that resonates with you, grab it with both hands, and cherish it…