A year ago, my Dad passed away. This post isn’t about feeling sad or missing him, because I do still feel sad and I miss him everyday. I needed to put my thoughts down, because I’ve learned a lot about handling loss and myself in the last year and I felt the need to share it. I know many friends who have lost a parent or loved one in the last year. Many of them, the same way we lost Dad, suddenly, without warning. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned in the last year, my lessons could help others too.
It’s okay not to be ok.
When a loved one passes away or you’re going through a difficult time, everyone wants to ask if you’re okay. We often found this to be a silly question, but appreciated that we were being thought of my our friends and family. It’s easy to say, “I’m well.” or “I’m good.”, but in the last year I learned that it was okay to say, “Ya know, I’m not ok.” Because there were some days, and will be many more, where I wasn’t okay. Maybe I missed him more than usual or maybe something triggered a memory and so for that day, I wanted to be sad and wish he was here. If you’re not ok, it’s okay to say that and feel that way. For me, I found it felt better to just say, “I’m ok.” Those were the days I got the biggest hug, the best advice or a fun story about Dad.
Grief is not a period of time.
Often we think of grief as a stage that we go through. First, denial, then anger, sadness and grief. Then once you make it through you feel better – right? Not exactly. Grief is more like a tattoo or scar you receive. At first, it hurts and you can feel it everyday, but then that pain fades, slowly. Very slowly. Some days you may brush up against it and it hurts again and other days you see it and smile thinking of them. It’s something you learn to live with and becomes part of you.
I think what’s been the hardest this last year and will continue to be, is wishing Dad could be here for the everyday success and frustration and being here for the big events. New babies, puppies and homes. I’ve learned in the last year that he’s absolutely still around. When Mitch and I got Briar in May, like any new pet owner, we struggled to get him house trained. I would cry when I got home thinking we were doing something wrong. I remember taking Briar out before bed at night and walk him around our block. I would talk to Dad. I remember thinking, if Dad where here, he’d tell me, “Kid, relax. You’re not gonna fuck up the dog. Keep doing what you’re doing.” I remember smiling hearing his voice in my head, taking a deep breath and going back inside with the pup. Dad may physically be gone, but he’s here. He’s a part of me everyday and I know he’s still here for the everyday and for the big stuff.
Dad used to tell me when I’d get anxious, “Be good to yourself.” I still tell myself that when I get stressed or feel like I need to get everything done. Dad always had a list and there was always a project. I wish he had more time to just enjoy and not be rushing to cross something off the list. That’s what I wish for everyone: enjoy, appreciate and be good to yourself.