Ten years ago, my father died. I was 17 years old, a month away from graduating high school, and my world turned upside down. A few weeks after my dad’s death, I was at a social function and I saw an acquaintance who looked devastated. When I approached her to ask what was wrong, she was angry and upset about a bad grade she got on an exam.
An adult supervisor overhead her telling me this, and scolded the girl for saying that to me. In her opinion, the girl didn’t have a right to be upset about a bad grade when my father had just died. I remember immediately feeling uncomfortable with that situation.
It didn’t bother me that she was venting about a circumstance so vastly different from mine. I was in a position where I didn’t know how to get through each day. I told someone in the days following my father’s death that I didn’t know how to live without him. They simply replied, “You will wake up each morning. You will go about your day, go to bed at night, and do it again the next day and the next day.” It worked. Each day, week, month, and year that went by, I learned how to live without him.
I began college just a few months later, as a fragile girl entering a world where I didn’t know anyone. Over the years, I’ve met countless people who have said, “I can’t imagine losing a parent.” You’re right, you can’t. They’ve said “I don’t know how I’d ever survive that loss.” The fact is that we don’t have a choice. We have to survive. We have to wake up, go about our day, go to bed, and do it the next day and the next day.
The most common response I’ve had when those close to me learn about my loss is when they apologize for venting or complaining about something that to them, seems “lesser than” the loss of a parent at a young age. This has included anything from a traffic ticket, to a rough day at work, to a bad blind date. I never compared their difficulties to mine. For someone having a tough time, their focus is that trauma in that moment.
It has never bothered me when others discuss their troubles, aside from the fact that I don’t want anyone to hurt, in any way. When my nephew was an infant, I remember sitting in his room, rocking him while he slept in my arms, and thinking, “I never want him to feel pain. This perfect little baby is so innocent, and I don’t want him to have to deal with the pains in life.”
I recently came home from work one day, must have closed my front door too hard, and a frame fell off the wall. I had about 45 seconds of anger, and then started laughing. There was a time when a frame falling off a wall would have been the least significant thing in the world to me, but in that moment, I was annoyed it happened.
It was then that I realized the progress over the last decade without my father, my hero. Whether sad about a death or a picture falling off the wall, both mean that I’m feeling. Both mean that I’m alive. That in itself is a blessing, today and every day.