Losing a parent at any age is never easy. At a young age while dodging hurdles adolescence throws at you, it can be tremendously devastating. In 2008, I was a sophomore in high school when my dad lost his battle with lung cancer. After he died, I immediately clung to feeling as numb as possible to continue living on without him. Even during his wake-keeping when I laid my eyes on his body resting in the casket, I remained in denial to keep myself from breaking down.
My denial carried on for a while…and my immediate family noticed. My sister, Victoria, would lash out on me about my emotionless responses when everyone else mourned his death. After recognizing how much this also impacted her lift, I realized she was going through her own internal turmoil, which we since resolved. Despite having to remain strong as a new widow of our smaller family, my mother started to also show concern over my apparent coldness.
But I felt like this worked. Repression always has for me. Little did I know it only does for so long.
March 16th marks my father’s 10-year death anniversary. March 16th will always be a day I dread each year for the remainder of my life. One thing I noticed that was different this year than previous years is that I expressed my pain a lot! I chose to heal by crying at work, laughing with my sister, reminiscing his life with my mom, and happily living mine with my friends. The entire week of his death anniversary was a roller coaster of emotions for me, and I didn’t get to see my therapist to sort them out either.
At work, I cried for what felt like an eternity the morning before his actual death anniversary. Everything was a trigger, but that’s because I repressed mourning him for ages. And you know something?
It felt good.
As an adult, I see a lot of my dad’s traits and qualities in myself. His dedication to eating healthy, being fit, friendly, avid learning and daily coffee consumer to name a few. I am my father’s daughter. But like the rest of us, he wasn’t perfect and I am not going to pretend like he was. Remembering both the good and not-so-good aspects of my dad helps me mold the woman I am becoming everyday.
There really is no tutorial or guide that universally works to help others cope with the death of a parent, or any other loved one for that matter. I will say that time is a tremendous healer in that after so long, you can go back to that pain and analyze it with a new mindset or a stronger spirit than after they just passed away. Be prepared to endure the spontaneous emotional peaks that the grieving pattern puts us through, because it is likely to happen as unpredictable as it is. Accept it and heal from it!
When my dad died, I got in a relationship with a scumbag that year who was known to get around. I allowed him to use me because I foolishly depended on him as a form of comfort and security. Needless to say, that unhealthy relationship lasted for 2-hot seconds, and it was for the good. Remember your worth, especially if you want to go right back into dating the same year a traumatic event takes place. It’s common we seek partners that remind us of our parents in some form, but desperation will have you settling for anyone to achieve that. Do NOT do this! You deserve so much better and your parent would want that for you! Simply saying we have Daddy Issues should not be the excuse to lower your dating standards.
I wish I had spoke to more people about how I felt back then, but I was so used to keeping everything in that things mentally snowballed anyone ever realizing it. I carried on like everything was fine, when it wasn’t. I finally shared some skeletons in my closet with my mom, and she had me go to group counseling, individual counseling and even bought me my first dog to help with my recovery process. Her efforts were successful in the short-term perspective, but long term I learned the rest was up to me.
Sharing my story made me feel less alone and less debilitated by losing my dad early in life. Weddings, father’s day, and other holidays are all still tough, but I have come a long way. I will always miss him. Fortunately, I firmly believe he hasn’t truly left me. It is not easy, but it will only keep getting better.
If you also lost a loved one, what coping methods have you learned? Please leave comments below and we can all learn something from each other!
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