On January 22, 2020, I received a call from my mom that I had only imagined in my wildest nightmares. My dad tragically died in an automobile accident. A split second, a crashing impact and head trauma that caused death, our lives were forever changed.
A shattered heart, a shake to the bones and a wake-up call to the uncontrollable circumstances of being a human being. I had talked to him but three hours before it happened – we talked about how excited we were to see each other in three weeks, the boys’ newfound love of Nutella eggs and my chaotic preschool drop off that morning. For my mind to comprehend the fact that he was now gone was just unreal and impossible to accept.
Fast forward through the haze of the funeral arrangements, the phone calls to tell our loved ones, the unimaginable nighttime terrors, the wine and melatonin to numb the pain, and then we landed at COVID-19 by mid-March. Instead of being able to continue with our grief groups and spend time together like we had been every waking minute (my mom, two sisters and I), we were to be isolated and rely on Facetime, Zoom calls and Telemedical therapy talks.
Forced To See The Good
Instead of sinking into the fissures of sadness, depression and negativity that inevitably can happen with overwhelming grief, losing dad somewhat forced me to see the GOOD. With three little ones who rely on me and another one on the way, I simply had to keep going. I had to get out of bed. No choice but to keep moving and find the streams of positive through the trauma and heartbreak.
No doubt there are days when the tears roll and I cannot control the emotion. No doubt there are days I am angry and cannot comprehend that my dad is really gone. And no doubt there are days when I would rather stay in bed and not face the sadness that reality can present. However, I have tried to focus on what I have learned and what I’ve gained through losing one of my heroes.
So, if you’re in a similar situation this Father’s Day – perhaps it’s your first one without your dad – I want you to know I see you. I feel you and I am rooting for you.
Keep the Legacy Alive
For our family, we’ve decided steadfastly that we simply want to keep his legacy alive and can do that by living out his best traits. We can keep his memory strong by sharing stories (and believe me when I say he gave us a TON of good material). We’ve started an annual fish fry, using up all the fish he’s caught and frozen in my mom’s freezer over the years. We’ve decided to keep his pontoon boat for now – taking trips out there with my mom and the grandkids. We’ve began teaching the grandkids how to fish and how to golf – two of his favorite pasttimes.
Experiencing loss, grief or trauma can result in some soul-seeking and deep realizations. I have gained faith (lots of faith), confidence (still working on this, but I have learned to love me for me this past year) and re-prioritized my life accordingly. I’ve truly learned the meaning of ‘life is short’ and realize the fragility of humanity. Soaking in the day–to–day happy moments has become more of a priority. I am human. I am sad some days. The angst of just simply wanting to hold him in a hug certain days is overwhelming. But, I am so thankful for the 36 years I had with him.
Dad, losing you has left a huge hole in our family’s life. Life will never, ever be the same. There is a dull sadness in our hearts – every single day – and an awful sinking feeling when we remember we will not get to hear your voice, feel your strong hug, or watch you rough house with the grandkids. BUT, losing you has taught our family some truly solid lessons, and I know they will keep coming as we navigate this Earthly life without your physical presence.
So, so many people are grieving right now. From a pandemic that has resulted in an alarming rate of deaths, to grief of miscarriages, and the overwhelming grief of living through COVID-19 and all the resulting isolation and uncontrollable changes in life over the past year, we all have been through “stuff”.
We all have our “stuff”. For those of you at the very beginning of heartbreak of grief, please hold on. Please keep going. The darkness is intense but there is always, always light.
Sprinkles of Light
Sprinkles of light that I have discovered or rediscovered this past year due to grief and loss:
–Darn good people exist. Really, darn good people.
–We are not always in control. I have found peace in trusting sovereignty and letting go.
–Memories are steadfast. They are the gift that keep on giving. I am so glad we have so many that involve my dad. Like I said, he gave us a TON of good material. Even though my newest baby will not ever get to meet my dad physically, I believe he will ‘know’ his Pop Pop through all the memories we will share. I also believe my dad held him before he arrived to us – somewhere over the rainbow.
–Kids know best. One day I was saying aloud how much I just wished I could give my dad a hug and my son told me to hug my heart because that’s where ‘Pop Pop’ lived now. Cue the tears.
–Trusting faith, whatever that might look like for you, is sometimes the only way through.
–Joy is sprinkled in everyday moments. Some days it is harder to find it, but it is always there when we look for it.
–Life is really freaking hard. But it is worth the hardships to experience the happy. Losing you, dad, has made me reflect on the happy and never take it for granted.
–Grief is the price of love. I would not trade the 36 years of love I received from my dad for anything. Even though the absence of him is painstaking most days, I am so grateful for the pain because it means there was (and is) so much love in our family.
–My mom and sisters are full of grace. I already knew this, but this year highlighted it.
–They say you sometimes end up marrying someone who has traits of your parents. I see this in my husband every day. He has been my rock and has stepped up to give me the extra care I needed in these trying months. I’ll never forget when he came home with about 15 bottles of shampoo and conditioner the day after my dad died – saying he didn’t know what to do or how to help but he thought I could at least enjoy some luxury toiletries. This is totally something my dad would have done.
–My dad was our biggest fan. He showed up for everything. He cared deeply. He had a genuine humor about him and a ‘say it like it is’ spirit that only increased as the years passed. He was a goof and sometimes we would get nervous that he had offended someone with a crass comment. But, as it turns out, that is one of the things everyone LOVED about dad. Just like we did.
If this is your first Father’s Day without your dad, please keep holding on. The pain doesn’t necessarily get better but perhaps it gets less raw. The sadness doesn’t necessarily get better but perhaps you can soon begin to laugh at the memories again.