I don’t think that I’ve ever talked about the death of my father on my blog, and it is a wonder that today I’m choosing to do so. A good friend of mine lost her father this week and a high school bff lost her mother just last summer. My father would have turned 63 at the beginning of this month. I agree with Kris in this post that the death of a parent has a profound impact on your life and that you sort of join a club. In my case, I’ve been a member of that club for over 16 years now.
And yet, everything I was feeling at that time and all the time afterwards are just as fresh and piercing as it was then. Thankfully, I no longer purposefully wear black on the day of his death and his birthday as I did in junior and high school. But the period from Christmas (when my sister and I were told he was sick) until early March (his birthday) continue to be the hardest time of the year for me. I’m definitely better than I was just a few years ago, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to wake up on Feb 19 (the date of death – just one day before my mother’s birthday, so I can only imagine what she feels) or March 5 (his birthday), without a piercing or dull ache of longing and sadness.
But I am proud of the progress I've made. In the last few years, I finally forgave the 12 year old me. I struggled for so many years to confront all of my conflicting emotions about how and when I was told my father was sick, the sort of denial I entered afterwards, not having the chance to say goodbye, the last time I saw him, the day the ambulance came to take him away, and the numbness I felt from that point on. It never really went away.
For years, I rarely talked about my father – the good times or the last months. And I think holding all that in has put a toll on me. Now, I will talk about my father with certain friendsa and on certain occassions. But not with my family for some reason. It is weird but I can't fully open up with my mother about it. The hurt is just too pure still. Indeed, I still need to see a counselor…
I know that I have baggage because of what happened and the way I chose to deal with it. I became a daddy’s girl without a daddy at the age of 12 – and I know my fear of abandonment, my insecurities, and my search for a “father figure” played out in my relationship with Floyd (and many other relationships for that matter).
That’s the unfortunate stuff that is still unresolved. But, I also know that the strong, independent, driven and success woman I am now would not have been without that whole experience. I sort of committed to taking the torch of achievement, experience, and growth that my father never had a chance to officially pass on. I know that he lives on through me and that he would be unbelievably proud (as is my mother) of the woman that I have become. I like to think that I’m kinder and more responsive to my mother and the rest of my family, especially as they get older.
And yet, what I wouldn’t give to have him back here and to relive (the “right” way) those last few weeks between when I was told and when he was gone. I forgive my mother, my father, and my 12 year old self; but there is a lifetime of grief that remains.
My recommendation to anyone dealing with grief is to talk to someone: a friend, a psychologist, family members, your priest/rabbi, etc. I have experienced and re-experienced all of the stages of grief identified by Kubler-Ross. It doesn't necessarily get easier with time but you learn to live with it and find ways to turn that grief into positive action and change in your life. You just have to be patient with yourself. And most of all take care of yourself.