On February 1st, 2016 I woke up to the worst news I would ever receive. I had missed calls from multiple family members and text from my mom saying to turn my phone off until she got to me. To this day I can tell you believe the feeling in your gut when in any situation because in this moment I was expecting the worst and that was exactly what I got.
Needless to say that afternoon the news was broken to me that I had lost my father. I was twenty years old and two weeks into my second semester of my junior year of college. I had transferred home to the University in my town, which I discovered to be the school of my dreams, I had found my home and countless amazing sisters within a sorority, and had just moved into my first big-girl apartment. I had every end of my life tying together, but on this day it all came crashing down around me.
Nothing in your life prepares you for this moment. I had plenty of friends who dealt with loss very close to them, but I had never really understood what they were going through like I thought I did. Within 24 hours my life had not only changed but did a 180. I sat paralyzed with fear how I would deal with this, get through it, and I guess one day get used to it.
Let me take you step my step how this went. For one, anyone who has lost a parent will tell you there is no getting used to it. I still open my eyes each morning, take a deep breath and have to face all over again each day I will have to survive today without one of the most important people in my life. This is a strange, strange thing that it takes the human mind a really long time to process. There were days in the beginning where something would happen and I would dial his number, or see his car in front of the house and think he was there. It didn’t happen over night but I got there. I began to focus on more positive memories than anything. I stopped regretting stupid fights, and times I chose hanging out with my friends over spending time with him. I began to laugh at our funny texts, and all the angry faces he commented on pictures of my boyfriend and I. I started a journal full of all the good memories I had, because when someone is gone, they start to leave you a lot easier than you would expect. I cried a lot. I let myself feel everything. I threw things when I was angry, I drove around when I couldn’t sit still, and I let it all out when I was alone.
I let people in. I let my friends take me for ice cream on a bad day, or went for a walk with my boyfriend on the days I woke up feeling a little off. I had wine nights with my mom and dinner with my grandmother. I was open with people, I told stories and randomly burst into laughter thinking about the things he would say. The people in your life are there to make it easier, they want to help you, they want you to grieve.
But of all the things I did that helped me, the most important thing was I lived. I went out with my friends, I didn’t shut out other family members. I went to class and my sorority mixers and I let life go on. When people go through loss they tend to get stuck. You don’t want to leave this person behind in the dust like they don’t matter. You think, “maybe if I stay right here in this spot, it’ll be like it never happened.” But we should know better than to think that works.
The worst thing you could do for the person you lost is to stop living your life, stop growing.
I’m not saying this is easy, I’m not saying there weren’t days where life was great and a week later I didn’t want to get out of bed. It’s a process, it’s heartbreaking, challenging and beautiful in its own way.
I learned more about myself in the last six months than any other adversity I’ve faced. There’s always a part of me missing, but I feel stronger too. I look at life as the fragile gift it is, I look at the people around me and value them and make every laugh and conversation like it’s the last. I’ve learned there’s no time to be negative, or to take all the precious blessings around you for granted.
My life is drastically different because I now live for two people. I have goals and dreams to accomplish, and things to experience for not just me but the angel I have above.
We’ve all wondered at one point or another what it would be like. To lose a parent at a young age, before it was their time. We’ve wondered how bad it hurts, and how the people that have gone through it have survived it. We all have the strength in us to overcome anything, we as humans were made that way.
And everything that has happened to you in your life has brought you to where you are right now wherever that may be. Never underestimate your own strength, and you will never face anything alone.