How to Cope With the Loss of a Parent

A young person's journey through grief after the loss of her father
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Created by Darlene

Published on Aug 18, 2022
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"But she wasn't around, and that's the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going into every fight with back up, you are going into every fight alone." – Mitch Albom, For One More day

The most painful part about losing my dad was losing my dad. The man who had been holding my hand from the day I was born. He had been walking with me ever since I took my first step, and yet there, I was, holding his cold hand and covered body at the back of an ambulance. I was too shocked to cry at that moment, and I only had one question in my head, “When will I ever see you again?" He looked so peaceful in his sleep. I was happy that he was resting; cancer had made my old man look so weak. His last month had taken out the goliath in him, and I knew he never wanted me to see him in that situation. Sometimes I could see the fear in his eyes. My father did not want to leave me behind. He, too wanted to stay.

Nothing in life prepares you for what happens after losing a loved one. Unlike heartbreaks, which are common, and people easily share their stories, losing a parent was not common in my circle of friends. I was the only one who had lost their dad. It had been a month, and now more than ever, my dad's absence was deafening. My heart broke every time someone complained that their dad was calling them a lot or that their dad was overreacting to something they had done or said. My friends had already gotten past my loss. They had moved on with their lives, and subconsciously they thought I was over it too. To avoid weighing them down, I started distancing myself. 

I felt like an outcast; I was not “normal” anymore. I would have major flashbacks of moments with my dad, and that alone would make me zone out in between conversations with my friends. For a very long time, I had to deal with a lot of thoughts and sad feelings. I lost a lot of weight and I was getting more depressed as days went by. To cope with how I was feeling, I started showing up less to hangouts with my friends. Whenever I got to my place, I ensured I had enough groceries to last me the weekend just so I could avoid my neighbors at all costs. I never used to open the curtains, I did not eat healthily, and instead, I got myself involved in my books so that I could avoid my emotions. I started feeling lonely even when I was surrounded by people because I felt like I had no one to understand what I was feeling.

Things were turning out so bad for me, until one day when I couldn’t hide it. I broke down in an uber. I thought to myself, am I weird for letting my dad’s passing away affect me like this? It had been five months now, and I can barely have a genuine smile. There was an unending sadness deep in my eyes, and no one could see it. I was getting more afraid, and now anxiety had finally caught up with me. I felt uncomfortable when someone asked me to go out with them. I thought, why would someone expect me to be happy when I have lost someone I had known for twenty-one years? I did not feel safe around people anymore. I wanted to grieve and not be rushed. I wished someone would hold my hand and hug me till I felt warm inside, but all was in vain. I still felt like I was doing life alone.

One Saturday afternoon, my mom called me. She could tell my voice was getting shaky. She was worried about me since I had also avoided calls and messages from my other relatives. That is when my mom said to me, “I am here for you, you are not alone.” After a two-hour call. I decided to open my curtains for the first time. I then took a shower, dressed up, and went for a solo date. As I sat down by myself, I took out my journal, and I poured my heart out. 

Two weeks later, after my solo date, I decided to read what I had expressed in my journal. My opening remark was, "Papa, I am afraid". I was afraid of facing life without my father. I was afraid of moving on with my life without him. I felt as though being happy meant that he was not as important. I thought moving on with my life meant forgetting him for good. However, that was not true. My father would want me to achieve my goals; my father would have wanted to see me happy and smiley all the time. I mean, I had my father’s DNA inside me, and that man was really strong. He had left us behind, but he had left me with a part of him. For the first time in like forever, the thought of my dad left a genuine smile on my face. Yes, it had been months, but I realized I could live my life by celebrating his life instead of reliving that dreadful head over and over in head. I was not alone; I had my mom's and my dad’s DNA. I was just as strong as I was before.

My dad had taught me a lot. He had lived his life fully, he had experienced more than I had, and as much as I felt like death robbed me of years with my father, I decided to be more contented with what life had gifted me. That was how far he was to walk with me, and I am grateful that he was always there for me. Slowly, I was pulling myself out of a dark pit. I realized that some losses can never be fully recovered because some people are not replaceable. The people around me did not know my father the way I did, and therefore, I should not have expected them to feel the way I did. But I also felt they were wrong not to understand what I was going through. There was so much pressure externally for me to fall back to who I used to be, and I did not give in to it, which was right for me to do. I decided to walk at my own pace. I decided to allow myself to be okay with not feeling okay. This was now my reality and my reality alone. The most I could do is to share with those around me how exactly I was feeling inside and how they were making me feel.

To date, I do still miss my father a lot. I go through challenging moments where I do wish he was around to help me, but I am taking my time to heal. I have to keep whispering to my wounded heart that I am not alone, and I know it will get better. I am still his daughter, and nobody can take that away from me. I had to learn on my own what grief felt like. With time I started meeting people who had also lost their parents, and as we shared, I realized we each had to deal with things differently and that the only thing we all had in common was the overwhelming feeling that we felt alone. Death has a way of making one focus on the loss of a loved one. Your brain then tries to keep them alive, and what you do not realize that the reality of things will leave you feeling sad. But if you change your perspective of things just a bit, you shall see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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