Grieving is something I've never actually thought about before my dad died. But then again, why would I? I heard of people dying. Even some kind of close to me. But I couldn't imagine the real feeling of losing one of the people you loved most. I could not have imagined it to hurt so bad. Not like this.
My experience with grief started the minute I read the message that my dad has cancer. That word takes every ounce of energy away from you. My legs quite literally collapsed and the crying began. I remembered having to be driven to the hospital where my dad was (because I couldn't see through my tears) with nothing but prayers in my head. My only thought was that he's going to die from this. And well, he did.
Sitting next to my dad's hospice bed as our family started to say our final goodbyes was like out of a nightmare. The words being spoken: Dad, it's okay, we'll be fine, you can go. While I was screaming "DON'T GO! DON'T LEAVE ME" in my head. And then my dad taking his last and final breath on this Earth. It was horrific. The gut wrenching sobs that followed that last breath will forever be something etched into my brain. They're the kind of sobs that at some points become silent because they take you're breath away only to be followed with the loud wave of wailing and pleading. This memory is one that I took a long time to uncover and start to recover from. As I write this, I have tears running down my face. Tears of sadness, tears of heartbreak and tears from a feeling you only get when your dad goes home to heaven. I am shattered.
They say there's five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but I think they forgot a few. A stage or result of death that I went through that no one talks about is the fear of everyone dying. I recently had a good friend reach out to me and ask me if it's normal to have these irrational fears that someone else is going to die. Well, if I had them too, it's not not normal, right? When I moved to North Dakota the summer after my dad died, my friends and I were playing a game where we went around the circle and said what our biggest fear was. Luckily I have my journal to reflect upon my thoughts during this time in my grieving process. I wrote the following: I said something along the lines about how I was scared myself or someone in my family would give up their faith, which is one of my fears but my actual biggest fear is this: everyone around me is going to die. I feel as though every day I wake up with a sinking feeling that today is going to be the day I get the message that one of my siblings are going to die. Then the next day I wake up and feel in my heart that it's my mom who's going to die. And then the next day, it's one of my friends. It's not every day but it's too frequent to not notice the reoccurring thought. Are these messages from God reminding me to enjoy every single person while they're alive? Or is this a message from God reminding me to enjoy every single person while I, myself, am alive?"
For me, denial was an initial thought. In the days that would follow, I would wake up and think it was only a nightmare and I would let myself believe this to be true until I was reminded in whatever way that it wasn't. It could have been the fact that I had to go shopping for a black dress that would remind me. It could have been the stacks of food on the counters at my mom and dads that reminded me. Or it could be the instant stomach ache I would get when someone said his name. It was easy not to deal with the death of my dad, to act like it didn't happen, but the hardest stages of grief will always come no matter how long you put them off.
Why God? How could You do this to me? To my family? What did I/we ever do to deserve this? Why DAD? Why did you leave me? Didn't you know I needed you? Didn't you know how much this would hurt me? Why this? Why that? WHY? WHY? WHY? These questions would go round and round because I was so freakin pissed. I will not apologize for my words because it's so dang true. In fact, if I was being honest, I would use much stronger words than those. I was so mad I could swear. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs every day because I was so angry. I was so hurt. I was so broken. Doubts would come with every single one of these angry thoughts. My heart and my head were so consumed with negativity that most days I couldn't even see that tiny sliver of sunshine peaking though the black clouds.
If only I had spent more time with him. If only I had told him I loved him. If only I had noticed he was sick before he did. If only.. the guilt eats away at you. This is definitely the most reoccurring stage for me at this point in my life. It all comes down to quality time. I wish I spent so much more time at home growing up. I wish I didn't run off every night with friends chasing those memories. I wish I had a lot more meaningful visits with him. He had so much wisdom for such a young person. I wish I had known more about his life, about how he grew up, about his trials. Why didn't I ask? If only I could have one more moment with him. I've envisioned this moment with him, every single thing I'd say. I would tell him I loved him more than he could ever know. I'd tell him I miss him more than he could ever imagine. I'd tell him my life will never be the same without him in it. I would thank him for being the best dad I could have ever asked for and then I would give him one last hug and kiss.
Depression is huge. Even though you may not have the typical signs of depression, it's still there. The first two years after my dad died were my best and my worst in my life. I cannot stress how much fun I had during that time. I cannot express how many moments were happy moments with the best people but with these moments came severe lows. During the first year, most nights I didn't sleep. I would be up a lot at night. Some nights I just couldn't sleep with nothing on my mind but now when I remember those other nights, my heart is filled with sadness. If there were a time I could give my younger self a hug, these nights would be them. My brain wouldn't stop. There would be nights of complete exhaustion that I would plead to God to take me home as well. "I cannot actually survive a heart break of this magnitude. I cannot be this sad all the time. I cannot live my life this way. God, if you are there, I actually cannot live with this much sadness. Take me away as I sleep tonight." But then, by the grace of God, I woke up every morning. And I survived every day. I know I didn't actually want to die. I didn't want to literally end my life but I wanted the hurt to end. I wanted the sobbing to end. I wanted the aching to end. But over time, those days and moments of extreme feeling of sadness gradually become more and more distance with more and more feelings of peace. Acceptance.
Do you ever truly accept your loss? I don't know. I feel as though some days my heart is at peace, but others, I'm back at stage one. Moments of complete peace are really a gift from God. These moments may not come too often but they give you so much strength to fight another day. They fill your empty cup. These days are like a ray of sunshine after days or weeks of rain.
It's been 5 1/2 years and still not a day goes by that I don't think of him. In times of trial, he always had the right words to say to bring you comfort. In times of happiness, he couldn't hold back that hug or kiss. I know he loved me because he showed me all the time. In all his actions and all his words. I know he would have given anything to continue to be there for his family, but God had other plans for him.
I am completely broken but slowly, each day, I'm putting the broken pieces back together to build something new. I'm a completely different person because of my grief. I've changed. Loosing someone does this to a person. But all I need in life is look at myself in the mirror and like who I see, scars and all.
I miss my dad, a lot. On bad days, it's hard for me to see the point of him dying. It's hard to see the silver lining. But on good days, I couldn't be happier for him. He's singing with the angels. He's playing with each and every baby and child that enters heaven. He's kissing those babies heads and he's teasing each and every child God brings home. My dad is my angel.
My dad died, but I'm still living.
Lots of love,