There comes a time in everyone’s life when they lose a loved one, and that is a time they will never forget. I, very recently, lost my father. He came to Seattle with my Mom to stay with my kids and I for Christmas. They were here for a week, a week full of eating treats and watching movies, and memories that I never knew would become precious treasures of moments in time.
When he was here, he never showed one sign of sickness; stress, sure, but he was not ill. We enjoyed every minute with him, something that was extremely easy to do because he was so full of happiness and life. My kids could not have been happier to have those moments with him, and my mom too of course. So, the week finished out and the night before they were flying out, my mom and dad and I had a long talk. A talk about, life, religion, and my marriage. I felt good, I loved talking to my dad about all of these things, he was full of wisdom and love. The next morning I slept in and my husband did not wake me up when he left to take them to the airport. Little did I know, the night before was the last time I would hug my father.
New Year’s Eve came two days later, and with it a phone call from my parents. They were with my father’s parents in Gilroy, California. He sounded so happy, and had called to tell me to keep smiling and keep being happy. That is all that mattered to him, his family being happy, and he gladly gave all he had to make sure we all were.
We talked a little bit and said our goodbyes, and that was the last time I heard his sweet voice. How I wish I could have a recording of it. New Year’s Day was a beautiful day, and I had a feeling I could not get past, but I did not really pay attention as I figured it was just me thinking of how I wanted this new year to turn out. Well, I was about to have the rug pulled out from under me!
I woke up late, around eight-thirty or so, and I did not feel normal. Something about the day felt off, almost as if something had happened and I did not know what it was. I was sitting on my couch about to watch some T.V., when my sister’s name popped up on my phone. Confused why she would be calling, I answered to sobbing; right away, my heart took off, and I knew it was something devastating. The next thing I heard was “Oh Brooke, you didn’t hear yet, Dad died early this morning.”
My breath was gone, my heart was gone, my world spinning. Nothing mattered. I hurt like nothing had ever hurt before. Instantly the only thing I could think of was “Why didn’t I wake up and hug him goodbye and tell him how much I loved him, and how he was my best friend?” What happened for the next two to three hours was quite literally moaning and wailing. My dad had left this life, I could no longer discuss every little thing about my life to make sure it was the right choice. I no longer could get a big bear hug from him that made everything all better. He was gone, and it was completely unexpected.
After crying and throwing up, and having a headache from the screaming, came the guilt. You hear about the pain and missing your loved ones, but no one really talks about how terrible it is to drown in the guilt. Guilt about how you took every moment of that person for granted, of all of the things you said to hurt them out of anger, guilt of not saying goodbye. It is an awful pit of despair that grabs a hold of you and let me tell you, it is almost impossible to crawl out of.
You can think yourself into a hell that will destroy any joy you have in your life. No one can tell you how to handle it, you must go through it to figure it out. That is what I have learned. You can read as many things as you want, and yes it does help not to feel alone. It helps to know that what you are feeling and experiencing is not completely crazy. It definitely lightens the load to know that you are not alone in going through these things, like having five siblings. I have had support from all of them, and I have been there for them. Most days that is the only thing that gets me through, and knowing that he is completely stress free and happy now.
If I can offer any advice from being through this life-altering event, it would be to take it one day at a time. No matter how cliche that sounds, or how many times you have heard it, it is the way you have to live. You cannot think about the past, do not think about all of the things you wish you had said or done. You cannot do that to yourself; you are human, you are flawed and there will never be a relationship that is perfect that you will never have any regrets about.
Do not think too hard about the future; have hope of course, but when you feel as though you cannot breathe because you are missing that person so much, the future seems like an impossible task. So from my experience, take it one day at a time, be present, deal with how you are feeling in this moment. That is, after all, the only moment you have control over, and beating yourself up for things you cannot control will rob you of any true joy you have in your life right now. Realize that your loved one wants you to be happy, because guess what? They are happy too. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed; yes, you are supposed to cry and grieve, but you must keep moving forward no matter how tiny the steps may be.
I am not a counselor or psychologist, I am open and honest human giving sincere and heartfelt insight into my own personal experience. I know the pain of losing someone close to you and I am proof that you can turn it into passion for all of the things you have wanted to do. Live your life and make that person proud of you, because they want it for you too, they are still with you every step of the way.
By Brooke Latu
Photo by Hartwig HKD – Flickr License