My Journey with Grief: A Year After My Dad Passed Away
Today marks one year since my dad passed away.
My dad called me on Thursday to let me know my great uncle would be in town on Sunday for lunch and asked if I would be joining them. I had my first set of finals for grad school the upcoming week, but I loved grabbing a bite to eat and catching up with my dad and great uncle so I agreed and marked it on my calendar.
It was a beautiful slow Sunday morning in June. Trevor and I walked to the local coffee shop to grab iced coffee and bagels for breakfast. Whenever we had lunch planned my dad would call the night before or early in the morning to make sure I was still free and ask when I would be coming over. He didn’t call the night before and I never heard from him that morning which I found strange, but then remembered he was moving into his new place he had been renovating for over a year. I figured he was busy and so Trevor and I decided to go climbing for an hour before lunch time.
After an hour at the rock gym, I gave my dad a call and got his voicemail. I figured he was still busy so we decided to drive to the farmers market near his new place and pick up lunch. I gave my dad another call and left a voicemail letting him know we were about five minutes away and would love to stop by if he was around. No answer. I didn’t really think much about it and headed home with Trevor to start studying for my finals.
Around 5 PM, I got a call from my great uncle saying he was worried about my dad. He hadn’t heard from him all day and if anyone knows my dad, you know he’s responsive to texts and calls. I gave my great uncle a call back and told him he was probably busy finishing up moving into the new place, but I would drive by and see how he was doing. In the back of my mind I felt a small tinge of panic, but I figured everything was fine. I hung up and told Trevor we needed to drive over to my dad’s now. As we passed lights and broke speed limits, the panic started to grow and I started to string together the pieces of the day. It was so out of character for my dad to not respond to me or my great uncle. Something was wrong.
We reached my dad’s place and I rushed out of the car. Trevor leading the way. Honestly the rest of the day is a bit of blur. I can barely remember the timeline of events. Trevor kneeling on the floor yelling at me to call 911. Falling to my knees screaming at the top of my lungs. Crying to the first responder. Trying to remember addresses, dates, medical information. My dad’s body frigid. His lips purple. His blood clearly coagulated. Knocking on neighbors doors to help. All I could say through my sobs is “I don’t know what to do”. Calling my mom and her telling me she wasn’t coming. The cops asking questions I didn’t have answers to.
I do remember asking the cop if my dad was dead. I already knew the answer, but I needed to have a sliver of hope. He said the medical examiner would need to pronounce him dead, which would take a while since there was only one for the whole county and it was marked as non-emergent. I cried.
We left before my dad’s body was picked up. I think it was recommended I should leave so I didn’t have to see his body zipped up and carried out on a stretcher, but part of my brain wishes I stayed. I think it’s because I have such hazy memories of what happened that I wish I had any other chance to remember that day.
I didn’t realize it, but that would be the last time I would ever see my dad’s face again.
My great uncle and my best friend drove to my place to stay with Trevor and I that night. I stayed up all night sick to my stomach. No one prepares you for this kind of pain. No one tells you that it’s also fear feeding your pain. Thinking back on that night my chest and stomach still ache like a sore muscle. Heat climbs up my face until it reaches my eyes and they start to water.
Grief is hard. It’s unpredictable and everyone’s journey with it is different. I am so lucky to have had an army of people by my side, supporting me in any and every way they could. At times, grief still feels lonely. No one has the same memories or relationship with a person making it a unique experience. As a young only child losing a parent, it is hard to find anyone who can relate. Most of my friends never even lost a grandparent. It was something I really struggled with, but felt comfort in hearing from public figures who shared stories of losing a parent at a young age: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michelle Obama, and Jen Rubio, just to name a few. Although their stories were not exactly like mine, they comforted me. They gave me hope. Their stories made me realize things will be ok.
I think it’s also hard coming to the realization that life goes on whether you want it to or not. This moment shattered my entire life and I really just wanted everything to stop moving for a second. I wanted to yell HOLD ON! I wanted to tell everyone I just need a second to breathe. I wanted the whole world to feel my pain and mourn with me, but that’s just not how life works. It keeps going.
When I returned to work, projects had moved on without me. My friends gathered and had dinner parties that I missed. I felt out of place in my own life and in my own skin. Everything had changed and I hadn’t quite adjusted to it, like a camera lens slightly out of focus. Everyone kept telling me that time heals wounds, you’ll feel better in a year. A YEAR… I’m already an impatient person
1) I couldn’t fathom waiting a whole year until this unbearable pain went away and
2) It hurts so much, how could this pain ever go away.
It’s been one year since my dad’s death and it still hurts. It still aches, but the fear has vanished. I am so proud of myself for making it this far in my journey with grief. I still fight an uphill battle some days, but others I’ve reached a plateau with a good view. I know he’s smiling, looking over my shoulder as I write this post. I know he’s proud. I can feel it.
Dad, thank you for all you’ve taught me in my 23 years and what you’ve taught me even after you’ve left this world. Thank you for always being the first one to hear me out and encourage me to achieve anything I set my mind to. I know I’ve inherited your OCD tendencies and stubbornness, but I love that about you. I hope I’ll get to pass your kindness and full-of-life attitude to my kids one day. Keep smiling, laughing, and playing old-time tunes. I hear you, I see you and I love you. This one is dedicated to you.