I have been thinking over the last few days what it means to go "home". I came back to Pittsburgh, where I grew up, for a few days. I haven't lived here for more than a few months since I was 18; yet I still call Pittsburgh "home". But the idea of home has changed over the last few years. When I would come home during and post college it was full of excitement and warm memories. Now coming back to Pittsburgh while still holds excitement for different events and holidays it also has a cloud of grief over it.
Coming back 'home' now means facing new realities and old memories. I remember shortly after my dad died I would have to muster up all of my energy to get myself back to Pittsburgh, it was so painful, so full of memories of my dad and so many reminders that he was now gone. As time has passed it doesn't take as much energy to come back, but the idea of what home is has changed.
We like to think of home as a place full of warmth and freshly baked cookies, full of love and hope. When you lose a parent the reality of what it feels like to be home changes. It can be full of love and hope but it is also full of grief and sadness. It took me a long time to want to come back to Pittsburgh, but I have found ways to make it more enjoyable. I give myself at least 1 thing to look forward to every trip. It could be dinner with friends, going to a store found only in Pittsburgh, or just sitting on the couch having a movie marathon. I pack some of my favorite clothes or things that will bring me comfort and make me feel good. I up the self care, lots of water and rest, along with baths and face masks; anything that helps me to feel like I am taking extra care of myself. These don't take away the reality that my dad is gone, but taking better care of myself allows me to deal with all of the emotions in a better way.
I now see coming back to Pittsburgh as an opportunity to remember my dad, instead of mourn his permanent absence. My dad will forever be present in Pittsburgh, and that makes me want to come back more often. Coming back to Pittsburgh also let's me see how far I have come since he died, and let's me be truly proud of who I have become.
So if you are heading back to where you grew up or a place that reminds you of your parent, know that this feeling of wanting to avoid it will not last forever. Remember give yourself at least one thing to look forward to that trip. Take care of yourself while you are there, and bring things that give you extra comfort.