What I Didn’t See Coming

Since my dad died 18 months ago, I’ve come to realize that when someone you love dies, you don’t just have to say goodbye to him at the time he passes away but also at every crossroad.  I’ve discovered that there are endless firsts and tough moments to get through, not just obvious ones like holidays and big events, but many others that are equally if not more challenging to struggle through under the heavy blanket of grief.

As children, we look forward to firsts – the first day of school, the first time to ride a bike without training wheels, the first time to go on a date, the first time to drive a car.  Firsts seem happy and are something we treasure.  But, somewhere along the line, we suffer a loss, and we have to adjust.  And then the firsts that come can bring about a sadness that is hard to shake.

And so as we travel through the forest of firsts and other challenging moments in the midst of our shock and our sadness, we are forced to let go, one finger at a time.  For me, the milestones have been hard, but some of the most difficult things to get past so far for me have been the ones I didn’t see coming.

Topping the list are The Flashback Moments. The first time I went to visit someone in the hospital after leaving the one with my dad and knowing he wouldn’t be coming back.  In the elevator when I was visiting my friend that day, I almost had a panic attack when the flashback hit, and the unexpected flood of emotions that swept through me was shockingly debilitating.

When I hear about someone having a baby, I flash back to when Dad was happily rocking my newborn daughter in the rocking chair when she was just a few days old and I heard him singing to her and having a one-sided conversation with her.

There was also the first time I went to a funeral after I’d buried my own father and the first time I realized I was in the exact place I was when I found out Dad was sick.  There are the flashback from every time I hear someone say “Howdy!” just the way Dad used to greet people in passing, and from when I hear a song that he used to sing and know the only way I will ever hear his beautiful voice again is in my dreams. The toughest of these Flashback Moments so far, though, was walking into my parents’ house the first time I’d been there after he wasn’t.  During all of these times, my mind is pulled back to another time.  Sometimes it is to a happy, healthy time, but more often it’s to darker days that let me know I am still heavily in the midst of grieving.

And then there are The Stinging Moments, those that rub salt into my wounds. The times when I am watching TV and the story line is one in which a character is dying or has cancer.  When I close my eyes to go to sleep at night and all I can picture is the image of my dad’s frailty at the end. The times when I’m searching for a contact on my phone or in my email and his name automatically pops up.  That happened just now, when I typed the number 18 in the first sentence of this post.  The time I checked my calendar just a couple of weeks after Dad’s passing and I saw my notes about the trip to the Brain Tumor Clinic at Duke that we were supposed to be taking that week. Those are the times I keep forgetting to expect, the ones that leave me with a just-slapped feeling that I’m not sure will ever go away.

Probably the most frequently occurring difficult times for me since Dad went on ahead have been The Empty Chair  Moments, the ones in which I am startled again by his absence.  I think about him many times each day, I fall asleep with tears on my pillow almost every night, and I talk to him in the car pretty often – so that part of missing him has become part of my routine these days.  But family vacations and holiday gatherings are so tough without him. I keep thinking about how he would’ve loved the things that we are all able to do, the ones that he now isn’t here to do … going the beach, riding a roller coaster, playing with the kids, listening to the conversations and the laughter.  All of those moments together that feel so great except for the fact that he’s missing.

The first time I went on a run after my dad died, I got about a mile from my house and the tears started; being out there on the road by myself, away from any distractions and so aware of the empty space beside me, was tough, and I didn’t see that coming.  It wasn’t that I never ran without him before; it was that this time I was running and I was so acutely aware of the fact that he wasn’t. He couldn’t be. He wouldn’t be again.

At my daughter’s high school graduation last spring, I felt the love, the excitement, the joy, and the pride more than anything else. I actually got through it without a tear, but what happened later that night was even harder than I’d thought the ceremony would be. We had made a dinner reservation for nine; however, when we got to the restaurant, the table was set for ten.  I don’t think anyone else except me noticed, but the chair that stood empty after we’d all taken our seats seemed to me like such a glaring physical sign of the very important person who should have been right there.

The first time we gathered for a family photo with one less, and every time since, we can all feel Dad’s absence so strongly – it feels like the reverse of a Where’s Waldo photo. The first time I did something that I knew he would be proud of and I had to feel his pride in my heart because I couldn’t hear it in his voice or see it in his eyes. The times when I need to ask him a question and he isn’t here to give the answer that only he knew. Ouch.

Also making the list are the surreal Not-Supposed-To Times when I have to do something that I shouldn’t have to be doing – like when I visit his grave, like when we had to clean out his car to sell it, and every time I hear my voice telling someone that my father passed away.

Closely related are The Stand-in Moments when I am having to do things my dad should’ve been here to do – to worry about my mom, to tell his grandchildren that he is proud of them, to give my mom and my sisters the advice that I think he would be giving were he still here.

And finally, there are The Obscure Moments, those unique to him and perhaps even imperceptible to others who didn’t know him in the exact way I did: the first summer Olympics, the times when I think of something I know he would think is funny or interesting and I realize that I can’t share it with him.

When we took my daughter to visit the college she will attend this fall, I felt Dad’s absence so acutely. Dad was so good at meeting people, and I know he would have loved to be there to help her meet people and acclimate to the new surroundings. On the night of my daughter’s prom, just a few months after my dad died, the kids and their parents all gathered at a park before the big event for a photo shoot, and grief descended upon me like dew falling at night.  It was the first big event involving my kids that we had to get through without Dad being around to know about it, to see the pictures, to hear about how much fun she had.

Even the minor everyday times can come in intermittent blasts, like when I eat an apple and catch myself thinking I should just go ahead and eat the core too (“It saves time!” he used to say.) These things leave me with an aching in my heart because he enjoyed them so thoroughly and now he can’t.  But at the same time, somehow those memories bring a smile to my face as I remember how unique a person my dad was, and how his perspective and his “don’t sweat the small stuff” attitude are something I will carry with me forever.

With all of these unexpected moments, I am left to wonder: Does it get easier when these firsts happen again as seconds, and then thirds, and then so on? Do the shock and the pain lessen as the time when he was here gets further and further out, like a balloon floating in the sky?

What has your experience taught you? What words can you share here with others who face these firsts?

Special thanks to Stephanie Bullard Lancaster for sharing this piece with us. You can read more of her work on her blog.

Photo credit.

41 Comments:

  1. Meredith said on October 23, 2012 at 9:30 am ... #

    What a beautifully moving and thoughtful post! Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your story. My father died very recently (not even two weeks ago) from complications related to his advanced lung cancer. So I’m aware, or think I am, that I haven’t even scratched the “grief surface” yet. It’s far too early for me to offer advice or any firsts, but I’m taking advice wherever I can get it. I am sorry for your loss, but please know that your post surely is helping others as it has helped me.

  2. S. said on October 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm ... #

    God… that shook my foundations.
    It really is a moving post. I lost my father three months, 21 days and 14 hours ago, to the complications of an advanced osteosarcoma in the ear. It was exactly five weeks before my 14th birthday. I am still trying to keep breathing, to cling to whatever shred of joy there is left, to calm myself at times I feel not worth the oxygen. I am hopelessly thankful to you for sharing the post. It all seems so recognizable to me, this waterfall of memories you’re being exposed to, at most peculiar moments – I think grief and solace are two lotes from the same tree; separate yet intermingled, to the point that one cannot distinguish either anymore.
    – Amersfoort, the Netherlands, 23rd of October 2012

  3. nicole said on October 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm ... #

    Thank you…until you hear someone else’s story you feel your all alone. I lost my 2yr old son and 7yr old nephew almost 5months..on the 30th it will be 5months. We were camping and a horric storm came out of no where and a tree snapped 50ft up and fell on our tent. Coming home the first time without my Matthew seeing his stuff as he left it, was gut wrecthing. Watching my 6yr old son get used to his baby brother and cousin not being around to play is heart stopping. Seeing my 16yr old daughter trying to process the loss there are no words. I feel these firsts and I cope to get thru them. Now with the holidays approaching I pray we get them. And honestly I dread all these firts that have yet to come.

  4. Carrie said on October 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm ... #

    I write after losing my father very abruptly ten years ago. I was 19. I got an instant message from him “Have a great day, Beauty” and that afternoon I found out he had had a heart attack while driving home and didn’t make it.

    The only thing I will say is that it never does go away. I graduated from the law school he had also attended. I passed the bar exam he had passed. My sister has had two children. I have moved cross country.

    It starts to just feel bizarre when I count the moments that he is missing… and realize that ten years of life have gone by without him.

    As I become an adult (cough*), the hardest times are when I think about the advice I’m not getting from him. I think about the fact that if he were alive, he would be my biggest fan and most trusted advisor. The tears still come. The milestones are still missing something foundational.

    The thing that does happen, though, as time passes, is that you begin to realize that life continues. There is a strange comfort in that.
    You realize that a father has children in order for his legacy to continue – and instead of thinking about his absence, you begin to live for him. You run because he cant. You tell the new generations anecdotes so that his memory never goes away. You always remember, and you live with his legacy. With your purpose to continue it the way he would have wanted.

    Despite the grief, I thank him. I know that if I could get through the loss of such an intricate part of my life, I can get through anything. In this respect his passing has made me strong. I try to think of it as a gift. The gift of strength…

    Stay positive.

  5. Lori Ann Patterson said on November 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm ... #

    I have experienced so many of the emotions and thoughts as the author of this article. I not only remember all the “firsts” regarding life after the death of my younger brother (and only sibling), but I also remember the “lasts”. The last time i spoke to my brother, the last time we watched a NFL game together, the last time we went to Lake Tahoe together, the last time we were “normal”~ before he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 41. I call those the pre~cancer days. I never thought I could get through some of the milestones since Michael’s death ~ the first Christmas without him, my niece and nephew’s birthday without him, the first Mother’s Day & Father’s Day without him and the most painful first anniversary ~ from Aug 20th-Dec20th ~ reliving every single day of his illness and his death and funeral. I had (and still do) such a hard time just going out in public. We have lived in the same small town our whole lives, so every where I look are reminders and memories of my brother. On one occasion, I walked into a grocery store several months after my brother died, saw a big display of Otter Pops (a favorite of ours since we were kids) and became so distraught I had to leave the store. One fortunate thing I have noticed concerning remembering my brother’s life is that the painful memories are slowly fading and the good memories, the childhood memories, and the happy times I spent with my brother are becoming MORE VIVID and are so comforting to me. I seem to smile more than I cry these days. It is an ongoing daily struggle living without my brother, but I am amazed that I have managed to get through seven years. My heart will always have an empty place since my brother died, but it is still beating and life still goes on.

  6. Anita said on November 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm ... #

    My Dad died of cancer a little over 21 years ago, when I was 18. I recognize so many of your moments. For me, the space between the moments has grown with time. And although the seconds and thirds were still hard; with the tenths, elevenths, fifteens, the crushing grief has been replaced with this oddly gentle, familiar, almost precious, sadness that is so much a part of me now that I can’t imagine myself without it.
    As time has passed there are of course new first moments; some of them expected – the birth of my son, my own PhD graduation (my dad was a scientist too). Others caught me off guard – the shock of reading his CV and realizing that the first class he ever taught as an academic was the same as mine, the surprising anger I felt when I moved here to the US and discovered that Father’s Day is on a different day of the year here. This was oddly like another little loss, another way that life moves on and leaves him forever behind.
    Still others could not be correctly seen as moments, they loomed from the distance as inevitable and awful milestones – such as the passing of the precise minute in which it became true that I had lived more of my life with his absence than with his presence. But even in this moment, digging deep into the heart of all these feelings, it’s more like visiting an old friend than picking at an old wound. My grief and loss is woven into the fabric of me and has, I think through that slow weaving, changed in quality.
    I remember one day, the second anniversary of his death. I was driving down a very long, straight, empty road of the sort that Australian has in spades. I had this sudden image of my life as me speeding down that road. Dad was forever behind me and my future stretched out empty in front – awful for the fact that for every minute I lived, I got further from the last moment we were on the road together. So much of that image has held true, life does barrel forwards at a pace that can take your breath away – with no regard for one’s desire to stop and turn back. What was not accurate was the vision of emptiness and the sense awfulness. It is surprising to me looking back that it was all bearable and that my life has been full and often joyful and exciting, but it has. I have loved and been loved, I have made a new life, and through all this made for myself, a life. I did all this without him next to me, instead I have made all that he has been to me, including the grief, a part of me and carried it as my little passenger.
    I hope one day you will feel the same way, or something similar. It feels to me like a good way of traveling.

  7. Trevor said on November 14, 2012 at 8:09 am ... #

    God’s Word, the Bible, provides the greatest comfort of all. The Christian apostle Paul stated: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Thinking about the Bible-based hope of a resurrection can be the greatest comfort while grieving the loss of a loved one………..

  8. Janet said on December 22, 2012 at 11:51 pm ... #

    I find comfort in knowing I am not alone in my grief. Even though my father died decades ago, when I was twelve, I miss him intensely. I suppose I have what is called complicated grief, but even after years and years of therapy, my sadness about my father’s death, my trauma, really, is only just manifesting clearly. I feel like I am two people: the grown-up woman and the adolescent who lost her protective and loving parent. I did not have a loving mother – after my father’s death, I was left with a bitter, angry mother who never cared for me.

    I very much like what Anita shared, that she carries both all that her father has been to her AND her grief for him as a “little passenger” that is part of her journey. That is a helpful image: my therapist has been trying to get me to see how much of my father is embedded in me; if I think of the grief itself as just another little part of the package, perhaps the rest of my journey will be eased.

    Thank you for this site.

  9. Joy said on February 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm ... #

    I stumbled upon this site while at work thinking about my Dad. He passed away two weeks ago on Jan. 28th. (It was also my Mom’s birthday). This was a wonderful post and I have sat here fighting back tears, only because I don’t want to loose it in front of others. I am glad I found this site. I have been feeling exhausted and tired. I am not motivated to do anything, but I know I have to keep going. I don’t want to sink into the abyss. I know my father is in Heaven and that he is no longer suffering. It’s just those of us left are having a hard time. My father had Alzheimer’s, so it like I have lost him twice: 1. Real Dad & 2. Physical Dad. I thought I was okay with him passing, but now, I really miss him and how he used to be.

  10. karen Brady said on March 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm ... #

    Beautifully written , WOW !! I lost my Dad when he was 44 and I was 19 , to a massive heart attack. It was one of the hardest times of my life. I was in college and expected to continue on , forging ahead , all of my friends LOVED my Dad. They were all so sorry for my loss. That was 30 years ago , and I have just tried to make him proud . He missed my college graduation , my wedding and the birth of my 3 son’s.. BUT I see him , I see him in them . They are loving , they are FUNNY and they are kind. I guess my point is if you have a wonderful parent YOU are blessed , so few do. They leave memories , special sayings and fleeting thoughts with us for ever ! The ” missing ” never goes away, it gets “easier”. Bless you all to find “happiness” on the other side of grief as that is what they want for us..

  11. Nicole said on March 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm ... #

    Thank you for this! My dad passed from a brain tumor almost 9 years ago and I still have all of these thoughts and emotions. I feel guilty and selfish wanting him to share my successes but mainly I wonder “what would he say if he were here?” It is nice to know others have these grieving moments no matter how much time has passed!

  12. Mark said on March 8, 2013 at 4:15 am ... #

    We lost our father ths last January to cancer. To date back a little….My wife and I, December of 2011 were blessed with a child. Who, at the time we knew the chances of survival were very slim. So before she was born, Our parents were called. So, both our fathers were there. During the whole process my dad was there with us holding hands and givin advice like only my father could. Then she was born, and we had to say goodbye after only a few minutes. both our fathers helped with lots, though i sought my dads emotional support, and still did for some time. When he learned the we were to have another, he was there for us the entire time. We lost her in November after a short time. Only this time, in the aftermath dad wasnt there. The day of our infants service. We took my father to the hospital, to find out a few days later that he had stage four cancer. Then, we all spent as much time as we could with him. But he is gone now. i think about him daily as i do my little angels that are no longer with us. It dos get easier for some. But in the wake of things it may seem un-bearable, Believe me… Not a day has passed in over a year that i have not thought of a lost loved one. Im lucky enough to have family around. that helps… Some. We all know our Fatthers on a different level than other people do. So i know each person has different reminders that act as a trigger.

  13. sara said on March 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm ... #

    As I sit here tears flowing, I know that life goes on. I am a month shy of one year from my dad passing. I searched “one year after the loss of a parent” in google and found this page. My husband saw me crying and asked what’s wrong… I don’t know. I do know that I don’t like it. I’m the person who is there for everyone else, but I don’t know how to be here for myself. I have plastered on a professional face every day since it happened and I cry in the shower so I don’t bother others. I try to hold it all together but some times I slip and have those “grief attacks” but as much as I try I’m finding it harder and harder to want to go out and do those things that used to make me happy. Its not that I don’t want to be happy… I just don’t want to do anything. I think “letting go one finger at a time” is going to stick with me. I just have to get thru this….

  14. Lisa said on March 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm ... #

    I lost my dad 3 years ago. Every time I see an older man I think I see my father in him…I think I see a resemblence….even when there is no resemblence at all.

  15. Robyn said on April 12, 2013 at 4:35 am ... #

    Thanks Stephanie for expressing so well the grief and loss we feel when Dad dies.

    I lost my soulmate, my Dad in October 2008. Having nursed him for four months I returned to the UK and then wasn’t able to be with him when he began to fail again and then passed / went next door. Dad was my mate, my friend and my parent. Four and a half years on I speak to him often, hear his voice, something will trigger a memory and I find myself chuckling and saying “alright Dad, I know you are still with me”. My Dad could sing and some so I hear something he used to sing and find the tears pouring down my face as I try to sing the song and yet I’m smiling at the same time at the memory. When Dad first passed, everyone would speak to or listen to me about him. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to speak to anyone about Dad. It becomes “get over it”, “time you moved on” and yet there is no “getting over” or “moving on” from such a loss. I’m learning that there is a level of acceptance, a knowledge that Dad has physically gone, however there is also the sure knowledge that Dad will always be within me through memories, photos, tapes of his singing and whilst the tears do still come – often unexpectedly – this does help incredibly.

  16. saim said on May 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm ... #

    i recalled all the scenes of 18 years back when he was alive…

  17. Roxanne said on May 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm ... #

    I lost my Dad to liver cancer a year and a half ago. I thought I was prepared for the grief-but I did’nt realize how many facets grief has. What suprised me the most was the loss of mostly all of my long term friends. A few fell off right away, like I had the plague-then the others, one by one. My best friend of 25 years isnt speaking to me now because I have been a pretty selfish friend over the past few years, but as sad as it makes me, deep down, I don’t care. I am not the same person I was before my Dad died, and I will NEVER be that person again. The callousness of people (especially those that profess to being your friend) amazes me. I had one friend ask me what was making me so emotionally hardened??? what makes me feel really awful is thinking “just wait…just wait until something happens to YOUR Dad-then let me know how you feel”. On top of all of that, my eight year old neice was recentley diagnosed with brain cancer-so my world is still ripping apart at the seams on a daily basis. I miss my Dad, I am scared for my niece and my sister-trying to help my Mom keep it together-and no friends. Anyone else have this happen?

  18. Dayna said on May 21, 2013 at 1:30 am ... #

    My mom is in poor health, she had a heart attack and has had 3 angioplasties. Her and my dad planned for her to go first (which I always hated hearing). My dad was a health nut, always taking vitamins to help this or that. 2 weeks ago my dad died of a massive pulmonary embolism, very unexpected. I stayed with my mom for 2 weeks, but know I am 300 miles away. We have a wonderful family who tries to help my mom out as much as possible, but I still worry about her. So with all that I am having a very hard time trying to keep from crying all the time. My heart hurts so much from his passing that it don’t feel like it will ever lesson.

  19. kristen dalrick said on May 23, 2013 at 9:55 pm ... #

    I just had a “stinger”. It’s been 7 months and every time I think I am through it, I’m not. I really miss my daddy. I’m way too old at 40 to use the term but he’s always daddy. He wasn’t perfect, far from it. His struggles with PTSD after Vietnam and subsequent alcoholism took him from me at 65. He did the best he could and I never doubted he loved me. He took care of our family and suffered his demons quietly until they ravaged his body…but he was my daddy and my blessing and curse was to be alone with him at the end of his journey…and I said goodbye to my daddy. And now that he’s gone I wil never fill that hole in my life.

  20. ursula said on June 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm ... #

    My dad died last September and today I creid and cried remembering today was the last time we spoke. I did not know he was dying and was not allowed to see him and say goodby. I was not allowed at the funeral or burial either. My dad and I were very close and had many healthy talks about the end of life. I now know that my dad did not want me to see him so ill and dying. He wanted to spare me the pain and did not want my last experience with him to be devistation. However, I would of liked to have that choice. Although he knew that I loved him very much, I would of preferred holding him and looking in his eyes and telling him how much I loved him. It has been very hard for me since I was his youngest child and he was the first man I loved and trusted with my life. I was the one sitting on the sink at the age of two watching him shave. I would spend the day with him at work and would watch with amazement how he made it all look so easy. He loved people and people loved him. He had an amazing personality which I inherited along with his work ethic. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel his spirit. I know he is always with me trying to help me move forward. I visualize his hand holding my hand when I take walks because we always held hands on walks. My heart is heavy and I miss him. He was always there no matter what time of the day or night. I listen to old messages he left me just to hear his voice again.

  21. Jenny said on June 18, 2013 at 3:55 am ... #

    My dad died a month ago as of Father’s Day. We were astranged, and I received a phone call while teaching at a graduation ceremony. I was the only living blood relative and needed to make the decision to pull him off life support. Being a person who has never experienced seeing a person that way…it was devastating. I felt rushed to make the decision and although it was the right thing to do I feel guilty. I can’t seem to play my instrument it gives me a. Panic attack thinking about it. My family doesn’t want to talk about it or even mention his name. I go from one emotion to the next and can’t remember anything. I cry at anything that reminds me of him which no one seems to get.
    I can’t sleep…I still have nightmares of walking in to his hospital room that day. I feel as though I’m empty inside and can’t get rid of it. I feel like I am one good additional stressor away from losing my mind and so alone .

  22. Rose said on June 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm ... #

    I am also still in pain over my fathers passing.
    It’s been 18 months and I’m back to square one on.
    Everywhere I go reminds me of him.
    It’s going to be a long road.

  23. Hannah said on July 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm ... #

    My dad died on the fourth of July this month, and its been nearly a month. every minute is a new emotion every time i see something that reminds me of him i cant stop crying. i feel like i’m losing my mind i miss him so much i would give anything to have him back.

  24. Cliff said on July 29, 2013 at 8:52 pm ... #

    My Dad passed away on April 30,2013. We didn’t expect it as we had just been to the Dr. the Friday before and they said he would be getting a new difibulator & battery and pacemaker by the end of May. I was at my parent’s home that day and was blessed to eat lunch with Mom & Dad. Little did I know it would be his last meal for within an hour he had a massive heart attack. Dad had just turned 77, but looked so much younger. He and my Mom had just Celebrated their 52 Anniv.
    Dad was no stranger to health problems, but was always a survivor. He has his first open heart surgery in 1985. The years followed with stints and other heart saving procedures. He was also a cancer survivor of 15 years. He was our Super Man. He was a man who Loved God and who knew Jesus was his Savior. Dad led by example in his life. He was caring, kind & loving. I guess I’ll close just by saying Thanks Dad. I Love & Miss you. I’ll see you in Heaven when it’s my time to go.

  25. Mary ___ said on August 3, 2013 at 1:50 am ... #

    So glad I ran across this. My dad passed July 14, 2013. I have never felt so much sadness in my life. I agree with a prior post mentioning feelings of still being a little girl. I am also in my 40’s. My father had Alzheimer’s. What a sneaky and cruel disease. I watched my dad go through so many stages and I always hoped we would beat it somehow. I have cried so much, I have practically made myself sick on occasion. He is still the first thing on my mind in the mornings and the last thing at night. I miss my dad so much. It takes eveything in my power to stay motivated for the following day. God bless, because your heart is truly broken when you lose someone you love dearly and you have to go on without them. However, with soothing words, they are in a better place without pain and suffering which was very hard to bear.

  26. don said on September 5, 2013 at 11:26 am ... #

    my pop passed on july 5th 2009 and it’s still devastating at times, like right now, everything you said has been and is, spot on, toughest part is when they’re good,decent,loving and kind people, it really does hurt, as i got older, i realized that i really liked my folks as people, if i had just met them i would’ve liked them, i feel very lucky to have shared time with them

  27. Debbie k said on September 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm ... #

    My dad has been gone for 10 days….I cannot move…..I went to work 2 days but I am in a fog…How will I make it through? Did I mention that I cannot move. I know he would not like me feeling like this. He would say I have to live my life..but I am so sad…

  28. Christina said on December 16, 2013 at 2:35 am ... #

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I lost my dad June 18th,2013 to a tragic accident,he was run over by a company work truck arriving at his job of 25+ years as a US postal carrier. Everyday I relive the US Postal inspector and local police coming to our door and telling us the horrific news. My mom was out of control crying and in complete denial.She demanded to see him. The police pulled me aside,making me promise that i would not let her try to drive up to the post office. They told me the scene was still under investigation and that they would still have to confirm identity. He was that badly disfigured.I Still replay what he may have looked like in my head. I love to remember him as the best,funniest,dad of four kids and grandfater of two. Greatest husband to our mom for almost 33 years

  29. Andrea read said on January 10, 2014 at 5:11 pm ... #

    I lost my dad in June 2012 from cancer and he suffered very much which is terrible to watch and never leaves you. What I wasn’t prepared for though was after he passed feeling worse as time goes on rather than feeling better as everyone says ‘time heals’. I don’t actually agree with that as time goes on its gets ever harder for me! I think at first you are in a bubble for the first 6 months and think you are doing ok but then reality suddenly hits you that your dad is gone forever and that is so tough! I think it’s important to be aware of this as I think your body does this actively to protect you from what you have just experienced, kind of a buffer system but be aware that you may feel ‘ok’ for quite a while but it will get worse before it gets better again. I would be interested to hear if this is the same for others.

  30. Susan said on January 12, 2014 at 2:20 pm ... #

    Today is the first anniversary of my dad’s death. It snuck up on me. I didn’t know I would be this sad today. My dad was the best person I ever knew and my best friend. Cancer is a cruel disease and these a wonderful people don’t deserve it. For some reason I keep reliving the scene of his horrific death this time last year.

    I miss you dad, I will see you again.

    Why can’t there be visiting hours in heaven?

  31. Naomi said on February 5, 2014 at 5:34 am ... #

    I completely agree with you Andrea, I thought I was coping so well after we lost my Dad to renal cancer, but like you, my protective coating has worn off and 18 months later I’m feeling worse than ever. Sometimes I still feel in shock, I just cannot believe that my amazing, strong and brave Dad has gone forever. I have to tell myself though that Dad would be upset and disappointed if he knew I was feeling like this. He was so positive and somewhere I know he has passed this on to me. I have so much to live for and now I want to do and see some of the things that he wanted to do. Thank you to all of you for sharing your stories, it helps to know that I’m not alone, until you’ve been through it, no one can understand or feel your grief.

  32. Judy said on April 4, 2014 at 11:37 am ... #

    You write beautifully and express your heart so lovingly. I do feel your pain, and feel I want to share with you my heart in what I hear from your beautifully expression. What I see is so much pain and suffering. I see that you have so much love for your dad that you can’t seem to see him in any of those special occasions that you mentioned.

    I can share that I lost my sister who was a mother of five and under 40, then shortly thereafter, my dad could not live with the pain of her loss and gave in to the cancer that ate him up. Two weeks later my dear 17 year old nephew came for a 10 day visit to get his senior photos done and was killed on his last day her in a car accident just minutes from out home.

    The grief at that time I had was bigger then life. I was unable to see any joy as I focused so much on the loss. I was not able to remember anything other than the pain I felt and I carried it with me.

    Until one day, my life was changed. I, by the grace of God, was somehow blessed with this great amount of love , and it’s like God spoke somehow to me to pull me out of such a dark state. I somehow was able to remember the good times with my baby sister and my dad. Somehow day by day, but not allowing my thoughts to go to a place of fear, I was able to feel them with me.

    Through prayer and meditation, I was able to quiet my mind and pain and allow love to flow in. That is when I knew I was looking at it all wrong. I could only go to events in the past and think only of my sister not being there for her kids. It got so bad I was treated in emergency for anxiety as I thought I was having heart attack. It was at my nephews wedding..I could only see that empty spot in the church pew.

    That breakdown was the best thing that happened to me. I had to surrender it all. All the pain, all the grief. I did.

    After treatment and time, I learned that we have it all wrong when all we see are empty chairs and the moments they are not there. I have learned that all those times I was so focused on the pain of not seeing them there, I could not see that, all that time, they were there!

    We do not allow or accept anything that is not physically present, thus, we create so much pain and anxiety over the “have nots” and the “not theres” we completely loose opportunity to connect with our loved one.

    If we can just trust and allow those moments to just be.. and allow ourselves to learn and grow from the experience , everything else just seems to come into play.

    I know now, with all my heart, that my dad and sister and nephew are always present..especially in those empty chairs and lost moments. They are in every fiber of our memory and heart. Because the soul never dies, they are always there trying to touch our hearts in someway.

    When we are grief ridden, we miss out on capturing those “nudges” our loved ones send us. They never stop, and will never give up. I can tell you that they do not want this pain and grief to run our lives. They want us to continue our journey and do it in love and peace. They want us all to know they are happy and complete and they hope that we can allow our hearts to heal enough to be open to all possibilities in faith.

    I stopped going to the cemetery..the healing began then. The body is not what I loved about them. It was their soul, their spirit that I was connected to. I allowed myself to pull away from guilt and fear. To open up to all the possibilities in life and faith. To trust that I am meant to be where I am. I learned to honor their memory from my heart and not from all the rules and regulations on grief and how it should be done. I just trusted me, my heart. That is when the lights came on. I went inside and stopped trying to control everything and everyone around me.

    Faith is truly all we need ..and love of course. Grief and sorrow are different. Grief is something we act out in a way. We try to find a way to breath and just survive. Sorrow we carry with us in everything we do. We carry it in the moments that should be lived in joy. Those time we will never get back. That wedding day that should have been spent in joy and gratitude, was robbed by our sorrow. Sorrow is not choice but grief is.

    How we choose to live through it is personal and by choice. But we also can choose to experience it and then move on. I believe once I let go of the grief the sorrow then changed into something more of light …something clearer in a way. I was able to know my heart hurts and missed my loved one, but then I could also move on to knowing I am blessed and thankful for each day I get to be here and learn and live. I do it well now. I do it in complete gratitude. I do it with my loved ones.

    These things are hard to find words for and I am not a writer, but felt I needed to share this with you. I hope it helps your process.

    When we can only focus on the loss we are missing out on the message. I hope you can find your peace and open your heart to the love your dad still has for you..just in a different way.

    We never stop growing and changing. Our loved ones were finished with whatever it was they wanted to learn and they moved on..those of us left behind have to learn to live without their physical presence. But if we can just trust and have faith they are with us, just differently..then we can enjoy the connection with them that have changed into something even more
    amazing.

    When we are able to spend time, soul to soul, in that place of peace..that is when all things come to the center and you start to see on the other side of things. I have been blessed to be able to get past that despair and desperate pain and emptiness, because I was able to trust and allow God to heal me in his way and time.

    I have been blessed with so much since my heart has opened and hope and pray you too can find that peace as well. You father lives on in all that you do and all that he is part of never stopped, it just changed.

    When you see that chair, know that it’s not empty but full of him and his spirit. When you walk your daughter down the isle, or son, you will feel him present with you..walking right by your side.

    He wants you to know that he never would leave you, but that he just moved over, on to the next place. He’s still the same but in a different way. He wants you to feel his joy and love and he wants you to know that everything is going to be ok.

    He doesn’t want you to think of all those times you think his is missing because he isn’t. He’s right there and he desperately wants to be able to reach you and tell you ..”I am right here”…

    God Bless…

  33. Greg said on April 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm ... #

    What a nice site. I just stumbled upon it. Thank you! I lost my Dad on September 22, 2012. He had COPD for many years. As time went on, he had some medical issues that he dealt with with short hospital stays. His back started to hurt and he began loosing weight. Moving forward, he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his bladder. The day we went to the Oncologist, I took a pad of paper with me, thinking I would be taking notes on how to help him during his treatments. Unfortunately, he was told he had 4-12 weeks to live. Nothing could be done. We got hospice immediately and Dad died within 7 days of that appointment. He was home, in the hospice bed. I slept on the couch next to the bed each night. I am his youngest son. I could NOT let Dad lay there at night, alone. I had to stay by his side. On the 21st of September, we knew he was going.He was medicated, sleeping and calm. I was taking phone messages from friends and relatives and relaying them to Dad as they came in. Telling him that (so-n-so called and said he loves you.) On the evening of September 21, 2012, I was sleeping next to his hospice bed. I was on the couch. I woke at 1:30am and heard Dads lungs gurgling. I woke up my brother and gave Dad some meds to calm his breathing. We checked his Oxygen absorbtion levels twice and they were perfect. The third time I could not get a reading. I looked at my brother, then to my Mother standing near. I checked Dads pulse once again and there wasn’t one. He passed at exactly 2am on September 22, 2012.

    As mentioned in some of the comments posted here, it is hard to believe that the pillar of strength all my life was now gone. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him. Several times per day. It’s a VERY hard thing to accept. On one hand, I am glad that Dad is not suffering. I believe in Heaven, God, Jesus. I truly feel he is there. It’s just so rough not seeing him and being able to share things with. I can go on and on, but it’s rough to even write this. We lost his brother, my Uncle just 40 days prior to dads passing. It was a rough year. Mom is still with us and healthy. I just feel so shocked about Dad, that I am on egg shells now in watching Moms health. I can’t take another loss. Death feels like such a cheat. It really does. I feel at times like were given these people in our lives to enjoy, love and share things with. Out of nowhere, they can be gone. Never to return. The thing that does help is I have faith that I will see them again in Heaven. It helps. But, there is no substitute to their presence. Sharing helps. It gets a bit easier each day, but I know it will never be the same.

    All I can do is hang in there, have faith and keep one foot moving in front of the other. I hope you all hang in there too.

    God Bless!

  34. Lori said on May 19, 2014 at 7:01 pm ... #

    Reading the article and all the comments drove me to tears again. I lost my dad March 3, 2014. Everyone says it gets better, but, it has gotten worse. At first I was in denial and kept expecting him to ring my door bell and be there in his baseball cap, plaid shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes. Then reality sunk in, he is never gonna ring my door bell again, I am never gonna cook for him hear again, etc. He gave me unconditional love and was supportive of me no matter what. He was always glad to see me, I can’t say that about Mom. It is so hard now that he is gone. I never expected the grief to hurt so bad. I never wanted to live without him. I just feel like I am in a dark hole and cannot climb out of it. I have never felt so empty.

  35. Jude said on June 1, 2014 at 8:40 am ... #

    Today is the 1st anniversary of my father’s death. The whole day I didn’t know how to feel, pangs of sadness came sometimes. I know I haven’t gotten over it and it felt weird that life goes on. I keep reliving this day a year ago when I was rushing to fly to see him but he passed while I was on the plane and was told on landing that he was gone. Not being able to say goodbye was the hardest and something I would have to live through forever. He was living with me sometime before he passed and when I came back and went to the room he stayed I just couldn’t contain it. Seeing all his things, his medication, pyjamas, his English lesson books – it felt like “What’s all these for? My father still died at the end”.
    My tears are flowing from reading the article and the comments here. I miss him so much and just him being there.

  36. Alex said on October 9, 2014 at 12:51 am ... #

    My mom died of brain cancer 21 months ago. I had a tumultuous ten years in overseas service before her illness and during the course of her two brain surgeries. Then, seven months after she died, I met a widower with three teenagers whose wife/mom had died near the time my mom died. Now that our respective losses are at the 1.5-2 year mark, it is as if the five of us are all feeling the grief worse, as if we are unfreezing from shock. My mom was great with teenagers and I am so sad that she will never meet my new instant family. I thought it was wise to step in to a situation where grief was known. But at this time, I wonder, will we laugh and sing and be carefree again? Can my own grief experience be of any help to my beloved boyfriend and his kids? Is there something about the 1.5-2 year time frame? My loss was prolonged and agonizing. Their loss was sudden, unexpected, and totally shocking. I need help articulating the similarities and differences I have observed. Has anyone else out there been in side by side grief situations like this?

  37. Eva Teitelbaum said on October 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm ... #

    When ever I seem to be upset and reminisce on the memories I held with my dad I search the Internet. While I was grieving this time I came across this beautiful writing. It truly touched my heart as I read it in tears. I lost my dad over 7 years ago when I was only 12. My senior year Of highschool I wrote an essay that helped me and I believe will help others.
    This I believe: love lives for eternity.

    As a child my dad and I were inseparable and I was always with him. It was as if we were attached at the hip. He led and I followed. Wherever he went I wasn’t far behind, even when he was in the bathroom shaving his face or the kitchen making his favorite pastrami sandwich. I followed his gargantuan footsteps with my petite feet.

    My father was more than a dad to me. He was my best friend. I confided in him with everything and about anything. He was my hero. I look up to him and treated him with a great deal of respect. To me he was like superman is to a little boy. He was an incredible role model I thought highly of.

    When I was young I couldn’t possibly have loved anyone as much as I loved my beautiful dad. We definitely had our moments when there were arguments and disagreements. At the end of the day I loved my father with all my heart. My love for others was No where near as powerful as the love I had for him.

    A little over five years ago the world I knew came to a crashing a burning end when I lost the one person who meant the most to me, my father. I lost my dad, best friend,hero, the one person I truly loved with all my heart. I was devastated, worse yet, I was heart broken. Everything seemed so surreal. I felt as if someone had ripped out my little girls heart and thrown it on the freeway. Then I thought I would never be able to love someone again and that if I gave out my heart it would be lost for eternity.

    Now, after all these years, this I believe: love lives for eternity. I have never lost the epic love I had for my father and never will. I have learned from experience that love never drifts away like the wind through my fingers. Once your love for someone enters the gates to your heart it will always remain.

    Not a single day goes by that I don’t think about the man who helped give me life. All the memories we experienced together are still clearly imprinted in my Mind as if it were yesterday. Even though he is not standing before me today or able to give me a simple kiss or hug, the love I hold for my dad will always stay alive deep with in my heart because this I believe: love lives for eternity.

  38. Erin said on October 28, 2014 at 12:47 am ... #

    Wow! I’m so glad I read this because I have felt like this since my dad passed from cancer August 9 of this year. I was extremely close to my father and was an only child. Going a week without speaking to him was rare. Towards the end of his life we talked daily. I didn’t think I could have gotten any closer to him but after he got so sick we were closer than ever. I miss him terribly. After every 9th day in each month passes after he’s been gone it’s just another reminder he’s farther and farther away from me. Like since he’s gone he’s traveling to heaven or something. It’s strange. I go each day crying thinking of either good memories or saddened because he’s gone. Sometimes I think being an only child dealing with his passing is a good thing. I don’t have to share anything of his, I can go through his things at my own leisure. But then having to deal with everything alone is tough. I feel alone. His mother passed a few years before him who I was also very close to and I feel like half of me is gone with him. I hope over time all of this gets easier then again I hope it doesn’t because that’s just more time I’ve had to spend without him. Thank you for sharing this because it helps me realize it’s not only me.

  39. Rachel said on December 30, 2014 at 12:56 am ... #

    I lost my dad on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Prior to hearing about his death, we had not spoken for 6 months. He was only 57 when he died, a sudden and massive heart attack. I’m struggling to trust myself that I did the best I could over all the years to keep a relationship with him. I always felt that he held a bit grudge against me because of my parents divorce, one that my brothers never experienced. These 6mo without talking were not our first, but now that he is gone it’s hard to remember what we were even fighting about. I suppose we both hurt each other from time to time, but I have a hard time forgiving myself for not continuing to be the bigger person and just accept the shortcomings. I always wanted him to apologize to me and act like the dads you see on TV. I miss him so much now, but I don’t feel his presence at all. That’s what is the most saddening. This is just a void with nothing to fill in it’s place now. Just my regret for not reaching out more.

  40. Geeta said on February 16, 2015 at 7:25 am ... #

    I have lost my Dad in 2013 due to Cancer and since that day i have lost myself too…i have forgotten laughing loud like we used to do together… I want my dad back but there is no such a way to get. Sometimes i regret for living in this world without my dad. Dad loved us so much that we have never thought that he will leave us any day… i always try to convince myself that dad is around me, he is always with me but sometimes it seems fake to me as if he is there than why he is not answering… i wanted to know why my dad left me here in this world. My mum is crying almost every day since my dad passed away. Though my Youngers don’t show there pain but i know they are hurt like me… Every single day goes with the same sorrow and question why this was happened? After reading this article somewhere i have realized that it’s the same pain from which all of us suffered…Is there any chance to meet him again ?? :(

  41. Alka said on March 31, 2015 at 1:46 am ... #

    My Mum passed away on 23-Aug-2014. She was just 60-61 years old…never enjoyed life..never did anything for herself..always thought & done everything for others. This was the 1st time she thought for herself that too when My Dad insisted as she was having pain in her knees but could easily walk off on plane land..but had difficulty & pain during walking through the staircase that too was manageable through painkillers. She was perfectly fine before going in for Total Knee Replacement Surgery. After the surgery, she just survived for 1 month & 10 days only. This all happened due to the carelessness of the doctors of the famous hospital here. The hospital and the doctors have just made business, they are not at all concerned about the lives of the people..They are just bothered about the Money. If that day I-e- 22-Aug-2014 the Doctor cared to see her even for few mins, she could have survived.
    Within few hours, I lost my everything, My Mother, My Best Friend, My Sister, My Guide, My Teacher.
    Our lives are shattered. I wish I could get even one moment back from that time, so that I can act more actively & could thrash/slap that bastard doctor and tell him to see her.
    I love her a lot..more than anything in this world..I miss her a lot. Life is so meaningless, different & difficult without her being around. I always used to Thank God for giving me such a lovely & wonderful Mother, but he don’t deserve to be thanked as he could have saved her through that doctor or by any kind of magic.
    Every night when I close my eyes, I can see & feel her pain..that hurts me even more. I feel like there’s nobody who love me now. I have lost the meaning of love, the day I lost My Mum. I really wish my life comes to an end too as I am nothing without her. I am dead internally. Only thing I have learned in these months is to love her more, miss her more & to fake around smiles to fake people in the fake world while when you are crying inside! Life is never gonna be the same ever again without her.I am never gonna be the myself ever without her being there in this life now!

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