As I sit here trying to think of what to say, a million thoughts are running through my head. At the top of the list are these two.
1. I really don’t feel qualified to write this article.
2. I wish I wasn’t qualified to write this article.
I lost my dad, my hero, and the first man I ever loved on November 30, 2014 to congestive heart failure. I was 22 years old and not ready to continue growing up without my dad. I don’t know if you can ever be ready for growing up without a parent, but if you can be, I sure wasn’t.
Buddha said it best when he said, “The trouble is we think we still have time.” That was me. I thought I had time left with my dad. He was invincible, as all great parents are, and he could deal with anything that ever came his way, just like all great parents can. My dad was the best of the best in my eyes. He was funny, he had the biggest heart, and he had an iron will (that I am proud to say I have as well) that rivaled anyone on earth. My dad was the best man I knew, and I didn’t think I could survive one minute without his love, words of wisdom, or his sense of direction being just a phone call away.
But here I am. Not only did I survive a minute, I survived a whole year. Did I have times I wanted to give up? More than I care to admit. Were there times I had to run out of a room to keep myself from crying harder? You better believe it. There were days that I didn’t even get out of bed. But, as I sit here now one year later and look back at the past year, I have realize a few things, and I feel compelled to share them.
1. It’s okay to cry.
Cry for as long as you need and as often as you need. I read a quote that said, “Salt water is the cure for anything – sweat, tears and the sea.”
You will cry more tears after losing a parent than you have ever cried in your entire life. And that is okay. Grief is a process that everyone works through differently, and it’s okay if one minute you are happy, and the next you see something that reminds you of your parent and you burst into tears. It’s going to happen more often than you are prepared for, so just be ready.
2. Have a good group of friends around you that will encourage you to grieve, but not let it take over your life.
There are going to be days when you want nothing more than to curl up into bed, turn off your phone, and sob for hours on end. And as I said earlier, that is okay. But, you need to have a group of friends in your life that when you need to come out of that hole, those friends will be there with you to pull you back up on your feet and walk beside you toward the days ahead.
I have amazing friends that have done that for me, and they have saved my life more times than I can count. Find those friends and hang on to them. Be ready to reach out to them whenever the need arises.
3. The words “I’m sorry” become numb to you.
Once you tell people the story of how you lost your parent, their default phrase is, “I am so sorry.” Once you have heard it 50,000 times, you will put on a fake smile, nod, and say it’s ok. Losing a parent turns you into the actor/actress you never knew you were.
4. It’s okay to be mad.
There are still days when I think about all of the things my dad is going to miss, and it makes me so angry that he is gone. He won’t get to see me graduate from college, he won’t get to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, and he didn’t see my senior season of collegiate softball.
You are going to be so mad some days that you can’t even see straight. And that’s okay. Death is something humans cannot fully understand, and being mad when it effects our lives is normal. I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly okay to be mad. You will get over being mad and remember all of the good times you had with your parent. It will take a while, but it will happen.
5. Don’t let someone who has never experienced the loss of a parent tell you when you should stop grieving.
Grieving is a major part of healing, and healing takes different amounts of times for everyone. Take as long (or as short) as you need. There is no time limit on the grieving process.
6. You are going to get jealous of people who have both parents.
It’s going to hurt, and yes, there are going to be times when you see people out with both of their parents. During the times you see those people with both parents, you are going to have a longing in your heart that wishes that was you.
Take this opportunity to be thankful for the parent you have left. They are hurting just like you, and they are trying to get through the day-to-day process as best as they can. Give them credit, and give them grace. You will need those things, too, when times get rough.
7. You will survive.
This is the tip that has taken me a year to realize. When you lose a parent, you will be left with a hole in your heart, a void that no one can ever fill, and you wouldn’t want them to. You will have days that you want to quit and just go hide under the covers. But you will survive.
There will be days that you doubt this. Sometimes, you might have 12 of those days in a row, but you will get up, you will be able to put one foot in front of the other, and you will be able to not only survive, but thrive. Yes, your heart will hurt all the time when you think of your parent, but know that if your parent was anything like mine, they were proud of you. You have a legacy to carry on, so get to it.
Losing a parent is the hardest thing you will have to deal with in your life. And it sucks, but as a good friend of mine once said, “The sun goes on rising and setting, and God remains faithful and true. “This statement has gotten me through more days than I can count, and I know my dad is proud of the person he taught me to be.
Keep hanging on, it will be worth it one day.