The loss of a parent
I will do my best at articulating my experience but just know that everyone is different in how they grieve and how they process this kind of trauma.
My father became a father late in life. By the time I was born he was 56. He died at the age of 79. I was technically still 22, I was only a couple days shy of turning 23 when he passed away. Twenty three years is not enough time to have with a parent. There is no right amount of time that is enough. I just wish I had more.
August 2019 - My dad had been having some complications with his health already and it was apparent that he didn't have long to live. Living almost five hours away from him, I would be doing my best to try and see him, at least during the weekends. No amount of time felt long enough. Around mid August he was put on hospice care which is something given to terminally ill people or people on their death beds. It's supposed to ease the pain that the individual is in.
By this time my mom had been in contact with me, telling me that he had been put on hospice but she put it like "It will help him feel more comfortable." At this point I was pretty irritated because I was 22 and I knew what hospice was and why people are put on it. My mom was doing her best to help us kids be prepared for the death of our father by not using the words, dead, death, or dying- It wasn't working. I essentially snapped at her over the phone because she continued to try and tiptoe around this subject that everyone will experience in their life. I tried to apologize because I genuinely did feel bad and I was going through a lot of stress at the time. I told her to start using these essential words and to use them in sentences such as "your father is dying." It wasn't like I was oblivious to that fact but I needed her to know that I knew what she was trying to say but didn't want to say.
Why didn't she want to say these words? Well according to her it was because she wanted to protect us kids and just wanted to save us kids from the pain. My mom hasn't experienced the loss of a parent but she lost a brother. We have an idea of what each other might have felt but we will never know. Like I said earlier, everyone is different. No one can truly understand your pain, but they can have a sense or idea of what you've gone through.
No amount of protection or sheltering can prepare you for this kind of loss. My reasoning for making my mom use these words is because it's not going to make a difference. I wanted to hear those words. That might seem unsettling to some but I would rather hear the truth than the sugarcoated version. In my opinion, you're doing more damage by giving a sugarcoated version. I wanted to be as prepared as possible, I didn't want to be shocked or surprised by the fact that my dad died. I still was. No matter what kind of condition your parent is in, you still have this belief that they will be around for forever - at least that is what you want to happen. The truth is - hearing my mom use the words dead, death and dying didn't prepare me. I thought it would but it didn't. I still feel like it did help in some way - but nothing can prepare you for this.
My dad died on August 27th of 2019. I was on my way to the bathroom and my brother sent me the message and I collapsed onto the bathroom floor. It felt like I couldn't breathe but at the same time I was sobbing. These feelings came to me through waves. It was a physical pain but at the same time nothing was touching me. The pain was in my chest and it was a sharp yet dull pain. It's the hardest thing to describe. And yet it is the most painful thing I have experienced.
Death is pain and numbness combined. I think the pain you feel from the loss will follow you through out your life. It will come and go. However, my numbness happened during the his funeral services. I think the numbness can happen anytime during the grieving period - but it will eventually get better with time. You'll slowly start feeling like your old self- this is different for everyone, this could take years, months or days. It just depends. But the numbness will go away. It's the pain that haunts you. What pains me is that my father will never become a grandfather, he'll never witness his children get married, he won't walk me down the aisle at my wedding, and just the fact that I can't call him up and talk about his day. I don't think about this pain everyday, but it does cross my mind often. The amount of times that it will cross my mind will lessen but it will increase once I cross these milestones in my life without him.
August 21st - was the last time I verbally spoke with my father and had an actual conversation. I didn't know it was going to be the last time I would talk to him but I had a good idea that it would be. The nurses said that he probably wouldn't last through the weekend. I drove up by myself and I did a lot of crying and thinking. How do you talk to someone when you know that it will probably be the last time you talk to them? How do you even begin that conversation? Or even more importantly, how do you end that conversation? I realized two things: One, you can never be prepared to talk to someone for the last time. There is no book telling you how to do that. Second, the conversation doesn't have to end. It might seem like it has but I find myself thinking about my dad and how he would react to certain things happening right now in my life. I will forever have him in my memory and my heart and I think that is a way to continue that conversation. Now, I am thankful that I had some warning with his health and I knew that the end was near. Some people aren't able to say their goodbyes. I think I am lucky enough to have had that opportunity of being able to say good bye. I am not going to tell you what we talked about or how our last visit went but it was one of the hardest things to do.
August 24th- 26th - I was informed that dad was in his final stage of life. On the 24th I attempted to drive up north but I could not do it because I was going through some of my own medical issues. I called my mom while on the side of the road, crying, telling her about my health issues and feeling so bad that I just couldn't make it up. I took solace in her words "dad wouldn't want you coming up if you're not feeling like you can. He'd want you to be healthy and safe." I turned around and went home. Thankfully, I have an amazing significant other that took off work the next day to drive me up. We both saw him on the 25th but he wasn't talking. He was sleeping. His breathing was short and it had short pauses in it which signified that he was close to death. My boyfriend and I just sat in his room. I didn't want to wake him up.
The 26th - was the last time I saw my father alive. This was my last good bye. I was there with my boyfriend and we stayed in his room for a bit, he was still sleeping. I was given some alone time with my dad. It was just us two. I got up from my chair and I held his hand - it was warm compared to my cold hands. I had teared up during our last visit but this is when I started to really cry. I told him that I loved him. I then got my boyfriend to come back with me so he could say some final words if he felt like it. He did. I continued to hold his hand. At moments when I thought I was ready to leave I would take my hand back and the second I did that was when I went right back to holding his hand - I couldn't let go. I couldn't let this be the last time I held my father's hand. I gave him one last hug and told him I loved him and I had to walk away from my dying father.
The next day was the worst day of my life.
But I was relieved that I was able to have some kind of interaction with him before he died.
His services came and went. Again, the pain is so hard to describe. I couldn't stand looking at my dad in a casket. Having an open casket can be part of the grieving process - it makes you come to terms that your loved one is in fact...dead. I still find myself thinking "I can't call him up anymore. I can't drive over and visit him anymore. I can't laugh and joke with him anymore." It was like my brain was reminding me that my dad is dead. Why was it doing this? Why did I have to be reminded? I think it's because I still have to come to terms with it and that. will. take. time. I know my dad is dead but I just don't want it to be true. Can't this just be a bad dream?
Time can be well spent. Time can be wasted. But when it is spent with loved ones, that time will be treasured. I wish I could have my dad back so I could spend all of my time with him but I can't. Whatever you do, don't take your time spent with ones you love for granted. Time is merciless, it doesn't stop, slow down, speed up for anyone. However, overtime, you can accumulate some amazing memories, cherish them.
"My little girl yesterday, my friend today, my daughter forever"
I love you, dad.