11 years ago today, my life changed forever. Nothing has been the same since and I know it never will be. It’s taken me 11 years to accept and live with this. I don’t have to “get over” what happened as so many would have me believe. It’s not something to “get over”. It’s something that is part of me and I’ve learned that change isn’t always good and some things never really do get better. And that’s ok.
On April 27, 2005, I woke up to the phone ringing. Isn’t that how these stories always start? So cliché… But I digress. The phone woke me up and my sister was on the other end to tell me something was wrong with my father. I wondered what now could be possibly wrong with him as I had watched him turn into someone I didn’t even recognize over the past few years. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t spoken to him in 3 months time as I was angry with him… something I will always deeply regret. She told me he had woke up in the middle of the night, got out of bed and passed out. He had been taken to the hospital and they were doing a cat scan as he hadn’t woken up since fainting. She told me not to worry yet as they didn’t know much, to go to work and she would call me when she knew more.
I had a bad feeling, so I went to work and cleared my desk. I got a call telling me to come home. They wouldn’t tell me what the cat scan said. They just told me to come home. I was sitting at my desk sobbing, trying to figure out how bad this could be. I made the 2.5 hour trek back to my hometown to the hospital he was in. I’m told that he was in a coma since hitting his head, but that he would squeeze people’s hands when he heard my name. They told him to hang on, to wait for me. And he did.
By the time I got there, he was completely unresponsive. No blinking, no hand squeezing, just a deep sleep. I learned he had a brain tumor. The largest they had ever seen (he’s in some medical journal for it) and it engulfed so much of his brain that nothing could be done. The doctor gave him a week. He didn’t last the day.
I sat beside him and I held his hand. I told him how sorry I was, for fighting, for being angry, for not talking to him, for holding a grudge and being immature. I told him I loved him and I didn’t want him to be in pain or suffer and I was going to miss him and I wouldn’t know what to do without him… but that it was ok for him to go. And he did. I held his hand and I watched him draw his last breath and leave me. And part of me died with him that day. There is a hole in my heart that will always be there. I remember the day of his funeral I heard someone sobbing “No no no no!” and I fell to the ground as I realized it was me. He was only 54, I was only 22 and it was all so sudden. I wasn’t ready.
I was told it takes about a year to get over the death of someone. It’s not true. You never get over it and you don’t have to get over it. It is something that changes you and stays with you. I spent so many years trying to move past my grief instead of accepting it and living with it. I thought it was something to push aside and be angry about. Something to shove aside, push down, push away.
I have since been told that our bodies react to grief similar to a physical trauma. Each year, around the time of the death of a loved one, our body can go into a shock – just like it did initially. Instead of pushing it away, ignoring it, I’ve started being with my grief. Writing about it, thinking about it, crying about it. And honestly, it’s an easier burden to bear.
I am opening these wounds and sharing them with you in case you have had a hard time coping with loss. I want you to know that it’s ok to not be ok. To take time for yourself and be gentle with yourself. Take deep breaths. And cry. Cry until you’ve got nothing left. Watch sad movies, read sad books. Eat junk food. Do what feels right for you. And know that there are people who are there for you.