Last year, on October 1st, 2013, at 4:22 am I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and left this world. This post might be pretty emotional so I advise you to think twice about reading it… but appreciate you taking the time to hear my story.
When someone dies, the world becomes all about you… to you. Not to anyone else, just to you. The world immediately becomes all about you and you wonder why it didn’t stop turning and why everyone else is still going on even though you’ve suffered this huge loss. I know this is true, because I felt it. Why were people still buying gas and going to work and making dinner and scheduling long term plans. Didn’t they know my dad was dead?
But then I quickly realized that even though my world had stopped, the world that everyone else lived in continued to go on. It still turned. The sun still rose and set. The bills still came, and the world never stopped, not really anyway. I still had a job to go to. I still had a marriage license to sign. I still had a wedding to finish planning. I still had a family to care for. And inside of me, everything came to a halt. I didn’t want to work, or cook, or plan, or care for my family, but I did it anyway.
I could choose to shut everything out and make my pain the most important thing, but then I looked around and realized I needed to get over myself. I was not the only person in my world, and it turned just the same, sun rose, sun set, bills came, job called, life moved on. It was the exact same place it had been yesterday, just now without my dad.
I could sit here and argue that my pain is the worst pain because I lost my father when I was 32, my pain is more than anyone else’s pain because he won’t get to see his granddaughters grow up. My pain is better than your pain because I lost my father 12 days before my wedding and I didn’t get to have him walk me down the aisle, or dance with me during the Father-Daughter dance, or shake my husbands hand. But my pain isn’t greater than yours or better than yours. The only thing my pain is, is different than yours. My pain hurts the same as your pain. My loss is the same as your loss. Maybe he was my father, but he was also your brother, or friend. It’s unfair for me to say that because I knew him differently, that my pain is better, or more severe, or allows me any sort of “pass” to act a certain way.
Often times we act out in our anger and grief in ways that maybe we would have never been before. Our actions are amplified, extended, greater, erratic, or different. I know that dealing with my father’s illness and ultimate passing strained my relationship with my then fiance, my friends, my family and my work life. I shut everyone and everything out. It was just too much to deal with. I knew that I would eventually come back, I just needed a bit of time.
And that’s the thing right? Time. For some it takes hours, days, weeks… for some it takes a lifetime. I chose to NOT be a victim. I chose to NOT be trapped in my emotional prison anymore. I grieved in my own way, and continue to do so, but I knew if I kept myself trapped, I would lose everything, and I wasn’t prepared to let that happen.
Over time, it got easier. I learned to navigate a world that my father wasn’t living in anymore, but he definitely was clearly a part of. I saw my father’s influence everywhere. I had memories, and lessons and advice to look back on. I knew that he would never want me to dwell on him and the past, and I took that to mean that I needed to get over myself and move on with life. I needed to be the parent he was to me. I needed to be the wife my husband deserved.
You can choose to live in the dark, but it’s a very lonely place, and eventually people will get sick of your attitude and sorrow, your victimizing blame and sadness, and they will move on too. That’s probably the most important thing that death taught me, moving on, letting go, and growing as a result of tragedy. Life means too much to me to live in the darkness of death and sorrow. Pain is not fun, hurting is not something I enjoy. Please do not pity me because I lost a father. Please do not let your heart break for my loss. It’s been a year, I have moved on from that pain. I choose to remember my father in happiness and love. I choose to laugh and smile with fond memories when I see something that reminds me of him.
Do I still hurt? Of course! How do you ever get over a significant loss completely? But do I let it consume me? Not even close. I am OK with my grief. I have learned that living is more important. I see my father in reruns of TV shows, and I hear him in songs on the radio. I save my tears and sadness for my private time when it’s just us, him and me. Where I can talk to him, and tell him I miss him, and I need him, and tell him that I hope I still make him proud. I know he would never want a life for me that is trapped in darkness. I choose the light. I wake up everyday and I decide how my life will be. I make that decision based on what he taught me, what he would want for me in his absence. And I think I am still making him proud.
I love you daddy.