Losing a parent is probably one of the most difficult and painful experiences you can go through. The other day I had a childhood friend reach out to me about it since she is unfortunately facing it now. She knew I had lost my father and wanted my advice, but I found it to be harder than I thought. How do you tell someone that it is going to hurt for a long time, that sometimes you won’t be ok, and that it might change you forever? My heart was breaking for her because I know the pain and emotional roller coaster she will be facing for a while. All I could do was comfort her and offer my support. I let her cry and yell as I hugged her and listened. Even though I have been there before, I still couldn’t offer her any answers or take the pain away. No one really knows how to act or what to do and you can never be prepared for it. Everyone reacts and heals differently and it is a personal journey of grief that one must take on their own.
There is definitely a fork in the road on that personal journey where you can either choose the bright sunny road of strength and growth or the dark road of depression and negativity. Sadly, I have seen people choose the darker road where they lose who they are. They let the darkness settle in, start making bad choices, give up on life, and choose to be a forever victim. And some decide to use the grief as motivation to change their lives for the better and to learn to be more aware or present of compassion and love. They grow stronger from the experience and gain a greater appreciation for life.They become the person they always wanted to be and that their lost loved one always wanted them to be.
I lost my Dad at the age of 55 from a heart attack. He had no warnings or prior heart attacks….just the one that took his life. I always remember the day I found out. I was 26 on May 26, 2006 memorial day weekend when two police officers came to our house. I had a horrible feeling what they were going to tell me. …somehow deep down I already knew. They stood in our living room and tried to make small talk but all I could think about was the reason they were there and just wanted them to hurry up and say it. And then the words came….your father is deceased. My dad lived alone in Iowa at the time and they had found him in his apartment so our local police department had to break the news. I went numb and was in disbelief it felt surreal like being in a dream. The only way I could deal with it was to emotionally shut down at the time. I went into auto pilot mode in order to get things done. I had to go to Iowa, gather and clean out his things in the apartment he just died in, figure out what to do with his body in a different state, figure out what he owned. He didn’t have a will and I had to hire a lawyer in Iowa in order to close out his bank accounts and take his car. I just focused on what legally needed to be done. I think it took me one whole year after his death to finally break down and actually grieve. It was such a shock and so sudden. I finally let it sink in and let my emotions out. Some days it would hit me out of the blue and I would just start crying. Some days I would be full of regret and anger. I struggled with my emotions for about 4 years to finally accept this reality and for the daily pain to go away. That was my journey and how I reacted.
Thankfully, because I had my soul mate by my side, I was able to choose the brighter road and used this grief to be a stronger person. If it wasn’t for this experience in my life I don’t think I would be where I am now. It woke me up and gave me a new look at life. It is the reason why I no longer care about big salaries, material things, and value relationships and experiences more. It is the reason why I now work for myself so I can travel and enjoy life. You never know when your life may drastically change overnight so always love those around you and never take them for granted.
So how do I tell my friend what she is going to face? Even in her pain and clouded mind she was able to tell me how much she envied me for being so strong and being the person I am now after my Dad’s death, which is one of the most wonderful and kind things anyone has ever said to me. The only thing I can tell her for certain is that I will be there for her, love her, and hopefully try to keep her on the brighter road. My friend is an amazing person and her Mom would be so proud. R.I.P. Anita you will be missed <3