Thursday, May 28, 2015
As I sit here writing this blog post, it has been exactly eight months since my Dad passed away. I was talking to my sister about it and we both thought, “How did THAT happen?” How did it suddenly become eight months since we’ve seen or spoken to our sweet Dad? I wrote a blog post in February about a few things no one ever told me about losing my Dad. Since that time, a few more things have arisen which haven’t necessarily shocked me but aren’t things I thought about or others shared with me about their experience with losing a parent. Perhaps those of you going through a similar experience can relate to some of these:
A Year Of “Lasts”
Everyone told me that the first year without my Dad would be tough because I’d have to get through all the “firsts” without him; the first round of holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, etc. Yes, those are definitely emotional days. However, no one told me about the first year also being a year of “lasts”. For example, this weekend last year was the last time my Dad spent the night at our house. This time last year was the last time he roamed through my garden and gave me all his words of wisdom about successfully growing vegetables. This is not only a year of firsts but also a year of going through all the “lasts”. There are only a few more “firsts” to get through (Father’s Day, the one-year anniversary of his passing) but I don’t know how many more “lasts” there are to experience. They catch me off guard. They come up suddenly on the actual day or in the actual moment I remember them. They are not something I was anticipating; however, are a big part of the journey of adapting to life without him.
Life Looks Exactly The Same But Is Drastically Different
As Spring sprung this year, everything looked exactly the same as it did last year. Beautiful flowers, lush green bursting everywhere, pollen coating us all in a haze of yellow. Yes, exactly like last year, but so drastically different. My Dad loved Spring. He loved flowers, gardens, fresh vegetables, and warm weather. He loved spending time on our property, down at our pond, and talking about all things Spring and Summer. That was all extremely different this year because he’s not here to enjoy it with us. This year everything looks pretty much the same as it did last year but feels like a new world to me. When my Dad died much of how I viewed life changed. Much of what I knew to be fundamentally true in my life came into question (I’m actually writing about this and much more in a new book – more info on that forthcoming…). Although life around me appears to be just as it was before he died, everything is drastically different.
Time Only Stands Still For You
As I continue to move through life since my Dad died, I realize I’m the only one who feels like time should have stopped on September 24, 2014, when he passed. (When I say I’m the only one who feels like this, I include my family members who feel his loss the deepest.) There have been many times the past eight months when I’ve been with groups of friends, other family members, or colleagues and see everyone acting so “normal”. In those moments, I have to remind myself that for them, life is completely normal and time has continued to move as always. It’s only not normal for me. I’m the only one standing there amongst the crowd wondering how something so seemingly petty can be so important or how everyone can be laughing hysterically when my heart is broken open. I’m not begrudging people for living or laughing. I expect nothing else. What’s surprising is this feeling that time somehow stopped when my Dad died and, how difficult it has been for me to feel that normal sense of my life carrying on along with everyone else around me.
Time Makes It More Real
Everyone says that time heals all. I know this is true. I’ve experienced it many times in my life. It has not yet happened with regards to my Dad’s sudden illness and quick passing. What I’ve experienced is that the more time that passes since his death, the more real it gets. This sometimes makes it feel worse as opposed to feeling as if time is healing. As I referenced earlier, my sister and I are both in disbelief that eight months have passed since we last spoke to or saw our Dad. How can this be? The realization of that time lapse makes it all the more real. Right. He really did die and he’s not coming back. We need to find a new normal without him. This is reality. And yet….
It Still Doesn’t Seem Real
There is still a part of my brain that still doesn’t believe what happened last year is real. I watched pancreatic cancer take my Dad’s life from the inside out – my vibrant health-conscious Dad. Five months from diagnosis until death. It still baffles my mind. As I think back on it, I’m still processing all the events: the phone calls, the waiting, the test results, and all the agony of watching him suffer. It feels like my family and I went through a horrific dream for five months – a dream that gets more real with each passing day since he died. I look back and wonder how we all moved through that time. It was as if we were on autopilot. I remember feeling numb most of the time. I now know that the grace of God got us through. I know that during those five months of numbness, the ability to move through each day (each moment sometimes) was because of God’s grace and the strength of others. I still have instances of grabbing my cell phone thinking I can send him a quick text about something funny I just thought of or want him to know. For a split second my brain actually thinks he’s going to be on the other end to reply. In those and many other instances, it still doesn’t seem real. Yet, I know it is. I also know my brain and heart are still processing all the events of last year. Even now, eight months after he’s passed, it continues.
So those are my latest insights and “surprises” about moving through the first eight months after losing my Dad. I share them because, yes, writing is therapeutic for me, but more so to help any of you who may be experiencing a similar situation or have experienced it in the past. As I said in my last post on this topic back in February, I believe the more we share our experiences with each other, the more we realize we are not alone.
**Blog image contains two photos of my Dad and me: one taken in the 1975 and one in 2013.