WHAT I'VE LEARNED IN THE YEAR SINCE MY DAD DIED
My dad died less than a year ago on February 2nd, 2015 (I was 24). This is what I've learned so far.
- •You are under no obligation to be okayThe thing about grief is that everyone asks after you for a bit and then everything goes back to normal for them. But my normal is gone and it won’t ever be back. I've been finding a new normal. Since others around me have returned to their lives, they forget that the foundation of my world cracked, and the expectation to be okay happened a lot sooner than being okay did. But just because someone else thinks I should be okay doesn’t mean that I need to be.
- •Sometimes your friends can't help youFriends want to help, and we want to let them help. But sometimes they just can’t. I didn’t really know what to do with this information. My friends have always been able to help. But I’ve spent a good portion of the past 10 months realizing that there are things that other people just can’t do for you, no matter how much they may want to.
- •Sometimes being sad needs to be a solitary activitySitting alone and being sad might be just what is needed. On Father’s Day, my family went out to dinner to ‘mark the occasion’, so to speak. It was the most uncomfortable I’d ever been. We were just all there, thinking about Dad, sometimes talking about Dad and I really just wanted to be alone in my room.
- •Those who share your loss are sometimes the worst people to talk to about itTalking to my mom about it kind of drives me crazy. We handle things differently, and I’m not sure we do it in compatible ways. And really though we lost the same person, we did not suffer the same loss.
- •Loss creates new expectations of peopleI have higher expectations for the people in my life now. We’re not kids anymore and now we’re dealing with real adult things. You need to call. You need to drop a note every once and a while. This goes for always, not just after a major life event.
- •It is impossible to let go of "what could have been"The idea of my father walking me down the aisle at my wedding or dancing to Ben Fold’s “Gracie” at the reception will live forever in my imagination just as it did before. You can’t kill what you’ve imagined. Adjusting to the idea that now these things cannot and will not happen has been one of the hardest things of the past few months. I have a feeling it will continue to be hard for a long time.
- •Crying in the car happensSometimes bursting into tears is how grief manifests itself. And sometimes this happens at a red light on the way home from work. There might be not any warning. It’ll pass.
- •People won't get why some things are important to you and others aren'tA lot of people didn’t understand why it really, really mattered to me how I looked at the funeral. But I knew everyone would be staring at me and the last thing I needed was to feel self conscious. Other people thought I’d have strong opinions about things like his obituary and I really just did not. Surprising things become important and priorities change.
- •Simple things might be the hardestThings like buying your first car without being able to consult your dad about it. Or reading a book he would have loved. There’s just no telling what will be hard.
- •You'll forget some thingsI cannot remember what I said to him the last time I was alone with him. I remember the basic idea…but the details are completely gone.
- •You'll remember othersI remember what pair of underwear I was wearing
- •Reading about what you’re going through might be counterproductiveAt first I read a lot about grief, loss, and the aftermath of losing a parent. I just…didn’t know how to know if I was handling it in a healthy way. It turns out that obsessing over if you’re grieving “right” isn’t the healthy way to grieve. Just feel what you feel and don’t worry about if it fits the mold or not.
- •Cutting ties doesn't work how you think it willOne thing I thought would happen after the funeral was that I wouldn’t have to see or speak to my uncle ever again. But…he’s still related to me. He’s still invited to reunions. He shows up and stuff. So while in MY mind we’re through and never have to speak again, unless every member of the family suddenly decides to ghost him, reality will differ from my expectation for a bit.