The Princess Is In Another Castle.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

So many wonderful and terrible days have changed me, and so many future wonderful and terrible days will too.

This is about the Super Mario game, full of levels and castles. Until the end castle, every smaller castle will have a bad guy to defeat. It gets harder, but each time it says, “THANK YOU, MARIO!! BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!!!”

I started writing this over five years ago, and I’ve changed it seven times. It’s been several different drafts in my dashboard – and I’ve added to it, subtracted from it, multiplied it, and probably divided it too. When Finish the Sentence Friday asked me to write about a day that changed me, I could write about a number of wonderful and terrible days, but I start with this.

Don’t worry – I certainly won’t end with it.

Layers. That’s how deep loss has been described to me. Layers upon layers that you peel off – only to reveal newer, deeper layers. Some are bitter. Some are sweet. And some are easy to peel off and discard. Others get stuck or torn – too early.

Too late.

Suddenly, I had a lightbulb. “Video games!” I thought. “Deep loss is like a video game in which you get to the end of the level, only to unlock new levels, and fight newer, harder, deeper battles!” And my companion/mentor/teacher of loss said:


This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

If you haven’t heard it a 100 times, I’ll tell it 100 times more. Only weeks before my 4th birthday, I sat down to an early summer dinner with my mom and sister while my father napped in the bedroom. Suddenly with a loud thud and the furniture shaking, he collapsed on the floor on his way to the bathroom. He was taken away in an ambulance, and he never came back. Massive heart attack. And so began my life, before I had the capacity to hold onto memories sweeter than that.

And many memories were and are.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

I think about this lately, more so as the kids grow. I watch the way they love and respect Cassidy, and I watch the way they do the same with me. I’ll see them get anxious after he’s been gone merely 24 hours on a business trip and not far way. Or just late home from work. Not a lifetime, and not a world or dimension or vast divide away. Then he walks in the door and their fears subside and they’re folded into his arms so perfectly and I release a breath I didn’t even know I was holding.

And I think that happens a lot. And I think it will happen a lot.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

When I was four and newly lost, which is a nice word to describe what you are after a loss, I saw a therapist. His name was Stuart. I believe he helped me unlock some layers of my heart and some levels in the game of life. In video game speak, we can call it World One: Early Childhood. The levels were those moments and days – first birthday without my father. First Christmas, first Valentine’s Day, first day of school, moving to a new house, new dad, new step-siblings who became real-siblings, pets and friends and neighbors to come and go. Acceptance. I was fixed up, nearly good as new, or so I thought.

Graduated therapy and sent on my way. To grow up and see the world as a girl who had lost her father.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

Then there were new enemies and obstacles and demons to defeat. Middle childhood. Adolescence. Changes. New worlds unlocked. New levels to explore. I saw a new therapist again when I was 10. We used Play-Doh faces to discover why I was so afraid of movie theaters and earthquakes. “It’s the loud noises,” my hot pink Play-Doh face said. “It’s the way the seats and floor shake when the movie is in high action.” Even I could see why such things would scare me, after what I had witnessed.

Again, I graduated therapy and my mom was told I didn’t need to come back. At least not then. New stability followed.

It lasted about as long as it ever did, until change. Going to college was hard and I adjusted. Graduating college and my parents selling our childhood house was REALLY hard, but I adjusted. The loss of my deceased father’s parents was REALLY hard, and I adjusted, almost. We find joy and laughter after every catastrophe because we’re meant to. These were my little shake-ups. My little earthquakes. They shook me apart and I had to learn to stitch the pieces back together.

And then I moved to San Francisco. I got married soon after that and had a baby. Then another. If I sound like I’m telling this story in fast forward motion, that’s because that’s how it felt. And that’s how I coped. So for the sake of my marriage and my kids and my personal well-being, I decided to learn and explore how a loss so early in childhood that you can barely even tell the impact it has until much later, can set the stage for lifelong pain. If that sounds chronic, that’s because it is.

The distance between grief and acceptance isn’t one fluid motion. The hope, though. It shines forever.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is: The day that changed me was. Come link up!

You crawl in and out of holes throughout life, and take baby steps too. You always reach higher ground after the deepest falls. Our mental health requires maintenance and tune-ups more than our homes and our cars. As I watch my kids grow, and am hit again and again by the loss of my father, I nearly have to separate myself into two people – three-year-old Tammy. And adult Tamara. As I see how my kids love and cling and absorb home and family life, I realize the unthinkable world for them is a world without one or both of their parents. No words, no breaths, no gasps, can cushion and explain that fall.

I have to tell myself, “That happened to YOU! Something terrible happened to you. Think on it. Work on it.”

There are no shortcuts or warp zones. You’ll have to fight your enemies and jump over your divides. You’ll sink in the ocean and have to learn to swim. You’ll have to find wings (or feathers) and learn to fly. If you don’t learn all of these things, you won’t move forward. You will be stuck – below or clinging above. And you won’t get your gold stars and gold coins.

You will not rescue the princess (yourself) in another castle. Will I ever rescue my ever-out-of-reach princess in her ever-out-of-reach castle? Probably not in some ways and probably so in others. Probably I have in some ways. Many ways.

And I probably haven’t in others, but that’s ok too. Not fully moving on, but fully moving forward.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “The day that changed me was..” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

Posted in grief, hope, loss permalink

About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer, a mama of two, a Lifestyle Blogger/Social Media Influencer/Brand Ambassador, and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns, the Stigma Fighters Anthology (volume 1), and The HerStories Project: So Glad They Told Me. She is also a proud Community Lead and a regular contributor to the SoFab Food blog, and the Target Made Me Do It blog. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter, son, dog, cat, and 11 chickens in glorious western Massachusetts.


The Princess Is In Another Castle. — 39 Comments

  1. They say that the greatest pain causes the greatest art. Your blog speaks this. They say the universe gives us the life we need with all circumstances meant to drive us to our highest good. Well, that is one philosophy. I look at your pain, and mine, and for years I have blamed myself for somehow choosing this life, for causing your pain. But, I have learned to give up the guilt and accept our parts in this drama. What I know is that I have always wanted to erase your pain. But you, my brave daughter, are a warrior, peeling away the layers of pain and finding what is inside, the beautiful soul of a beautiful woman. The deepest level is peace.

  2. I think as we grow older, we process the things that happened to us as kids differently, in a new way, with a different perspective. We probably never stop unveiling all the layers. So yes, we don't totally move on but we do push forward. That's all we can do.

    • Yes! It's so interesting. A never-ending process. And that's only funny because I used to think it would have a definitive end. Like..stop! "You're healed!" How little I knew then, and probably how little I know now!

  3. So moving, Tamara. I have been working on some of these layers or levels, too. The 10th anniversary of my father's death is coming up in a few weeks, and I am trying to process all that has happened in these past ten years. Like you described, it feels like this decade filled with the biggest life changes has been in fast forward. Thanks as always for your wonderful words.

  4. I walk a similar path as you… fatherless at a young age. This blog speaks to the loss, the lost child/childhood and the vulnerable, strong and resilient adult. I never knew anyone growing up who had lost a parent at an early age and it's so comforting to read someone else's experience that mirrors mine. Thank you. Alison

    • Thank you. I didn't know many as well growing up. Maybe I was one of two or so. It's strange. I always felt a bit like a freak and I often wrote about it in my school writings. I think that's part of what shaped me to be a writer. And knowing my mom, she still has all of those old essays and stories. I'll have to read them again someday.

  5. this is so beautiful! thank you for sharing. every new experience or new stage in life gives you a new opportunity to reflect on past experiences. it's exciting, interesting, and scary to see what we learn and how we reframe past memories!

  6. You've captured in words how grief works, and it's so hard to figure out! My dad lost his father when he was three, and I have seen him grieve for his dad in different ways throughout the years. His grief is not fresh, of course, but it's still there.

    • Thanks for writing, Ginny Marie! And it's interesting to hear the perspective of someone older than me still dealing with grief after all this time. As I know I always will.

  7. Wonderfully said. "They" say the first year after a loss is hard because you go through the first holidays without someone, the first birthdays without them, etc. But there are many more firsts that don't happen that first year. Life transitions will always make you miss someone you've lost.

  8. {Melinda} I am so sorry about the loss of your father. I can't even imagine the void that left in your childhood. I've experienced some painful things and you are right, you can't ever fully move on, but we can keep moving forward, one small, scary step at a time — knowing that we will have setbacks, but that God is with us throughout the journey.

  9. This is so beautiful. It is true of loss, and also of healing from childhood trauma. When I look at my daughter the age she is now, and remember my life at that same age, it floors me…and it heals me in ways, to see her living in light and innocence. I'm so sorry for your loss. You are giving yourself and your family a precious gift by continuing to pursue healing and moving forward.

  10. You already know that for me it was the loss of my grandfather not my dad when I was a bit older. But still the grieving process was definitely real and so tangible. It will be 20 years this Valentine’s Day and sometimes it still feels like yesterday and then others still a lifetime. That said while I have grown up so much since then, it still lives on with me, as well. Hugs my friend and just couldn’t agree more with you beautiful sentiments and words here <3

  11. I’m not much of a video game player, but this analogy really resonates with me. You think you are on the right path, and you have made progress and overcome hurdles and struggles and found tools and helpers, but then you still aren’t to the final destination. All of that wrestling and forging forth is worthwhile… it teaches us lessons and equips us for the next pathway… but when the end doesn’t appear, it can feel very deflating. Every day someone is going through his or her worst day. Sharing our stories is one way we can help each other. I am thankful for God’s constant presence and encouragement when I feel like I’m walking through mud.

  12. This is so beautiful Tamara. You are so gifted with your words. Yes, so many layers to this wonderful thing called life and I am so sorry you had to experience such pain at such a young age.I am certain your father is looking over all of you with love and is with you, always.

  13. That is a devastating loss for a child, Tamara. It’s important to continue talking about it and working on it in your way. I like your analogy here, to a video game and the levels. How true! Grief is a bunch of layers and life is a bunch of levels. We make it so far and then we have a set back. The important thing is getting back up. You’ve done that in spades. Great finish the sentence today. LOVED it. the photos are perfect, too. Are those castles in Disneyworld? I’m so excited to go. I’ll be looking for the princess in the window. 🙂

  14. Tamara by sharing these words and feelings from deep within your caring and loving heart you have touched our hearts. The day that changed me hasn’t happened yet, and maybe never will. That’s okay. From childhood to adulthood we learn so many valuable lessons in so many ways especially from the most painful tragedies and life’s various hard knocks. I’ve learned from you tonight Tamara by reading your blog over and over again.

  15. Ah my friend, you do such a great job at the memories of today combatting and healing the memories of yesteryears. I love that you share so much, and these lessons are priceless, as are your photos, always. xoxo

  16. You could tell and re-tell this story with your beautiful words and we would read and re-read it over and over again. Your healing heart is reflected through it all and in it, people will see pieces and parts of their own ‘video game’, Tamara.

    I’m so glad you do what you do because I know it not only helps you heal and move forward, I believe it helps so many others too.

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