It has been one month—29 days, to be exact.
Twenty-nine days since I lost my confidant, my hero, my best friend—my dad.
Christmas is right around the corner; I don’t feel like having Christmas this year.
Being 52 years old and the third generation in our family funeral business, one might think I would have all the answers to tragic losses, since I assist others with their coping of losing a loved one on a regular basis. However, I am here to tell you two things:
1. Simply because one has all of the tools to help others grieve does not mean that toolbox opens for oneself.
2. One is never too old to be a daddy’s girl and feel the guttural ache of losing the first man one has said these magical words to: I love you.
My grief is a bit compounded, as my divorce was finalized and my father passed away within five days of each other—a bit much to handle emotionally. Also, it was so desperately important to be at dad’s bedside when his spirit left this earth, but I was still in flight. I was honored to be alongside one of my grandfathers and both of my grandmothers when they passed away and wanted so badly to be with my daddy. Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be, and I have to learn to be okay with that. Learn to accept that everything happens for a reason, even if I don’t know what the reason is.
It is difficult to have the knowledge of what happens in my industry behind the scenes, as it has made me diligent. I was deeply possessive of how things were handled when my father had to be shipped back to his hometown where my sister and I still reside. He simply needed to be dressed in his football jersey and comfy pants to be shipped in.
I had also gone to great lengths to reach the medical examiner and discuss the cause of death on the death certificate as well as getting his hospital medical records and records for the rehabilitation center he was at (for just three days) before he transitioned to a hospice facility for the last five days of his life on Earth.
I feel that all of these phone calls and appointments were my way of avoiding my grief. Keep busy—make phone calls, write the obituary, drive my funeral home staff crazy with questions and demands while I was still in Florida. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t quite ready to fall apart, so I didn’t. I arrived home before my mother and sister and did all of the arrangements and other tasks such as ordering flowers, picking out grave spaces—again, keeping busy as a way of (say it with me) avoiding my grief.
The visitation, funeral, lunch, and burial are all a blur now. It seems like that day has gone into a small room that I cannot enter because I don’t have Alice’s magic drink. I do remember crying for much of that time, talking to those who came from near and far to pay respects to my father, and saying my final goodbye before the casket was closed. Yet I still had to hold myself up in front of everyone and put on a good show (in my eyes).
Now that the funeral and burial are done, and the thank you notes have been written, I’m finally back to work and getting back to my routine. I just know it’s going to come.
It may sneak up on me in public or private, but this I know: I must let it come out. I must let the anger, sorrow, and the plethora of other emotions come out in full force—and I will. I am sure Christmas will be a huge trigger. I am ready.
I am ready to open my heart and let the grief pour out in whatever form it takes. There will be many triggers that others don’t know about that may cause me to break down, but I am ready. I’m ready to accept the challenge of going on in life without my mentor. My confidant.
I am ready to put my thoughts to paper in my journal. I am ready to read the beautiful books given to me by friends who have already lost a parent. I am ready to pay respect and tribute to him daily in how I handle my professional life. I am ready to greet my family members at Christmas and be prepared for stories about my dad—all hilarious, I’m sure—and let my emotions out and sit in my grief, as I know it will be a tough few days. Most of all, I am ready to release this grief, release the pain, focus on our amazing conversations and memories—all while still clearly being a daddy’s girl.
Dad has managed to show that his spirit is present and watching over us. It’s so cool when it happens. My family feels so blessed to have those moments.
If you’re reading this, I wish you peace on your grief journey. I wish that you will be able to let go of your grief sooner than later and instead of stuffing it as I did.
Grief is individual to everyone. Just because some isn’t crying doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting.
If you’d like to help someone who is mourning, please don’t try to “fix” them, as you cannot and it will only hurt that person in the long run. Be there to listen to their grief story no matter how often they need to tell it, offer to bring over dinner or take that person out, offer to go for a walk as reconnecting with nature is quite nurturing. After a few weeks or so, offer to return any dishes that person may have from others who have dropped off food, offer to help clean or hire a service, walk the dog if that person isn’t ready to go out.
But, most importantly, remember this:
Many of the phone calls, cards, people stopping over end after a month or so, and that person may be left alone in their grief for the first time. Make it well-known that no matter what, your shoulder is always available and you’re ready to listen when that person needs to talk.
Being a stable force for that person for all of the firsts—first birthday, first Christmas, and so on—is a true gift that you can offer.
“I’m hear anytime to just listen, or talk, go for walk, your choice. I’m not going anywhere.”
Those are the words that can assist any grieving person—no matter what stage they are in.