It’s been 10 years since my dad passed away and my mom is collecting memorial articles from friends and family to compile. I thought I would share mine here. There are two parts, so this is part 1 about grief and I’ll post part 2 about memories tomorrow.
Dealing With Grief and a Memorial to My Dad
This month marks 10 years since my dad passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I don’t think we ever fully get over the grief of losing someone you love, but time definitely helps with the healing process and it’s took me many years before I could even talk about my dad without breaking down. I’d like to share with you my experience of going through the grieving process and a few memories of my dad that have particularly stayed with me. The grieving process is important because without it I would not be able to sit here and write this memorial to my dad. I hope it can help any of you when dealing with grief.
The last 10 years have probably been the most formative years of my life to date—my 20s. It was 2003; I had just graduated college and was off in Hawaii with 2 girlfriends plotting how I was going to live there permanently when I got the phone call. “The cancer’s back.” After a week of tossing and turning, I took an early flight home; I couldn’t stand being away from my family during this time. From September to January, I stayed at home and I’m grateful for those last 5 months. My dad was taken so quickly so for a long time I was in denial. After my dad passed away, I lived at home for 3 years, working and trying to be strong for my mom. I had to be her rock, keep her company, and try to find a way for her to figure out how to live without my dad. I felt it was my duty as eldest daughter.
In reality, I was incredibly lost and my escape was alcohol and partying. Every weekend I would get so drunk I wouldn’t remember what happened that night. It was unhealthy and I made a lot of poor decisions, one of which landed me in a Las Vegas hospital, and I’m lucky to be alive today. I never talked about my dad with my friends or with other people and I always tried to keep my tears to myself.
I remember the moment I realized that it was time that I dealt with my grief. My mom had left a newspaper article for me on the kitchen table and said, “I think you should read this.” The author had also lost her father to cancer and I think I got to the third paragraph when I just lost it and couldn’t read any more. That’s when I realized I needed help. I couldn’t even read an article about loss! A few weeks later, I went to visit a close friend in Santa Barbara. She happened to be living with me in Hawaii when I found out the news 3 years back. I told her what happened to me when I tried to read that article and broke down crying in front of her. I apologized for crying and tried to stop. That’s when she told me, “No, it’s okay to cry and I want you to keep crying.” After I was done, she asked why I felt like I couldn’t cry. I told her I always felt crying was a sign of weakness and you especially shouldn’t cry in front of others. It makes people uncomfortable. She said, “Well, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all and you need to learn that it’s okay to cry in front of your friends. We are here for you.” After that day, I made a conscious effort not to avoid conversations about my dad anymore. I had to get to a point where I could talk about it without breaking down. And it took a lot of tries and a lot of tears. But I eventually got there and I am better for it. Not allowing yourself to grieve creates a lot of pent up sadness that inevitably gets released in an unhealthy way. I delayed my grieving process for 3 years while I was busy being “strong” for my mom. And that’s okay, I don’t regret it. But I am so happy that I finally became aware of what I needed to do and got over my uncomfortableness with crying. There are still situations I can’t really handle: for whatever reason, that last scene in Armageddon where Bruce Willis says goodbye to Liv Tyler still gets me every time! But that’s healthy and now Mike knows to change the channel when that movie comes on TV.