On March 1, 2014, I received a phone call which would change my life forever. My brother uttered three words which told me I would never hear or speak to my father again –
“Dad is dead”
Although this year marked the fourth anniversary of his passing, I still remember that call like it was yesterday.
To this day it is still extremely difficult to fathom never being able to hear my dad’s voice again. To understand that he won’t be able to walk me down the aisle at my upcoming wedding or meet any of the children I hope to have one day. It’s still hard to understand why my dad was taken away.
When dealing with the death of your parent, there is no instruction manual. By writing this article, I’d like to share what I have learned over the last four years in hopes that it will provide some guidance for the parts no one tells you about.
It doesn’t hit you all at once
The first couple of days were a blur. Between making the arrangements, clearing out my dad’s house (my mom and him have been divorced since I was 5), and responding to the numerous texts, calls, and emails; I was numb.
I took a week off of work to be able to get everything done and organized but when that week was over I hadn’t actually taken the time to reflect on what had happened. So I went back to work and just tried to keep myself busy.
What nobody tells you, is that it’s not the big moments where it will hit you. It’s the little moments, like hearing their favourite song on the radio or having something really awesome happen to you and wanting to call them to tell them about it (and realizing you can’t).
It’s on these days where you will feel like you will never be okay. I am here to tell you that everyday gets a little less painful.
Everyone grieves differently
At the same time, you really do not know how your parent’s death will affect you until it happens. Over the last four years, I have visited every stage of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, however my grieving wasn’t linear and it definitely isn’t “done”.
Rather than crying at my dad’s funeral, I put on a very brave face. Being the eldest, I needed to show up for my brother and to make sure he knew that I would be there to handle anything that needed to be done.
What nobody tells you is that some people don’t cry when they experience the loss of a loved one, while some people are inconsolable. What I’d like you to know is that there is no “right way” to grieve, so, don’t let your emotions make you feel self-conscious. Focus less on how you react and more on getting to a better place emotionally.
Strive to move forward, instead of moving on
When it happens, everyone reaches out to give you their condolences. People care until your parent has been buried and then their lives carry on – meanwhile you’re left wondering how yours can.
The best advice I can give is to find a balance between remembering them and moving forward from your loss. You cannot let their death stop you from living your own life to the fullest. There is nothing that would make them more proud than to see you living your best life, even if they aren’t able to physically be with you.
Who you surround yourself with will make all the difference
I think the biggest lesson I have learned is that your friends and family will make all the difference in your grieving process. As hard as it has been to lose my dad, I don’t think I could have kept it all together without the love and support of my people.
Whether it was lending an ear to listen to me talk about my dad, taking me out to get my mind off of it or even just sitting in silence with me and watching TV, these simple acts made all the difference.
For me, the worst part of losing my dad was that our relationship was strained and difficult. I always figured that we had all the time in the world to work on it and that he would always be there. I even naively believed that if he were to pass, that it wouldn’t affect me as much, due to this rocky relationship. Was I ever wrong. Nothing prepares you for the emotions you feel when you lose a parent, no matter how estranged you are.
If you can take away anything from this post, let it be this: Don’t take your parents for granted and try to rebuild those troubled relationships now – you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
I love you, Dad.