Since my dad’s passing in April of 2012, I’ve learned there are many, varied, and sometimes unusual, ways people find to support their grief and integrate the inescapable reality of loss. No single process is best for everyone. For my own acceptance and eventual comfort, I turned to the pen.
His death was not unexpected. Stage IV cancer was diagnosed more than three years before Daddy died. Nor was the moment of his passing a sudden or traumatic occurrence. He died peacefully holding my hand. Nonetheless, I was traumatized, as I believe all who lose loved ones are, by his physical and abrupt absence from my life. I missed everything about my father’s support, his loving influence and the relationship we shared in our daily comings, goings and doings. His laughter, his unshared memories, his thoughts and his silliness: all were lost with his passing.
Where was I to find my equilibrium without my father’s daily input into my life? I knew I would grieve and miss him, but I never anticipated just how much that would hurt. And then, it was my living reality: he was gone.
I felt so much support from others: my husband, children, siblings, extended family, friends and others whose lives my father had touched. But I needed more than that. I needed to find my own internal compass, to channel my grief into some effort that could bring Light to my own dark corners and perhaps also to the lives of others.
When I felt overcome with the reality of my dad’s loss, I grabbed onto a lifeline that he left for me through his words and his own example: writing. Finding new strength and peace in that activity, I held on and wrote as though treading water in a whirlpool. Gradually I found myself lifting, spiritually, purposefully, and connecting with hope.
Later, as I shared what I wrote, I also found a community of grievers and healers, new friends who connect and support each other with their words, their acts of hope and kindness, their generous presence and acceptance of What Is. I thank you for being a part of that community, for me.
The following excerpt is the first chapter of the story of being-with my dying dad and being-with the grief that followed our parting. The chapter is very short, because that was all I could write on the first day of my journey to a new equilibrium and eventually to a published book. As you read, consider that it might be of help to you to write your own story.
I miss you, Daddy.
Daddy, I promised you I would continue the story, your story and our story, after you could no longer write. Today is the day I start.
In those moments between your last breath and my realization that it was, I felt many things—pain, sorrow, relief, surprise, wonder—all imbued with so much gratitude and peace that your struggle to live and to die at the same time was over.
It’s been three weeks, and I handled them pretty well for the most part, until yesterday. That’s when I melted down. That’s when it truly hit me that I will never know another love like yours, another bond like ours, another unconditional space where I grow and flourish without demands or expectations, with boundless acceptance, unceasing encouragement and a shared history that goes all the way back to my first breaths.
You are my Daddy, and there will never be another like you. I miss you.