As I listened to the ominous sounds over the phone, coming from the ICU room where my father lay dying, I really believed that this was the hardest part. I’d been preparing my mind and heart for this day for months. We had first found out that my father had esophageal cancer just nine months ago. It had been a whirlwind of chemotherapy sessions, hospital admissions, doctor visits, and heartache ever since. We knew the inevitable was about to be on us. We knew that his cancer was about to win and take him away, our loving father and grandfather.
I wasn’t close when the nurse told me that he was gone over the phone. I was almost 2,000 miles away when she called. But I breathed a small sigh of relief that my father wasn’t in pain anymore. He was finally at peace.
I told myself with confidence that the worst was finally over.
What you may not realize is that my father passed away more than five years ago. But not one day goes by that I don’t think about him, that I don’t grieve for him, that he isn’t on my mind. I often catch myself thinking about something I want to share with him, like a professional success or my daughter getting a good grade, and I realize that I can’t.
No, I’m not over my grief. I can never be over my grief.
I’m very grateful for that.
Some people like to call grief a “process” or say that there are “stages.” But I disagree. Those two words imply that there is an ending to grief, which is simply not true.
You don’t just say, “Yes! I’m done missing my dad today.”
My grief is not going away any time soon. I would love it if people would stop telling me to get over it.
To be honest, I don’t mind the person I have become since my dad passed away. I have become a better person to friends that are dealing with their own losses. I have realized that dozens of funeral bouquets get tossed in the garbage after the service, so I bring wine to drink instead.
I’m also nicer to the strangers around me. If a cashier is not as nice as I would hope, I consider that maybe they are just having a bad day. I think back on the time I had a panic attack while grocery shopping and ended up leaving all of the groceries behind. No one knows what someone is going through, so I have learned that it is always a good idea to just be kind.
I don’t gently ask my PTA friend how she is doing at the meeting after finding out she lost her mother. I tell her “death sucks” instead. That’s exactly what I needed to hear when my father died. His death has caused me to become a bolder woman with less of a social filter to worry about.
You won’t ever hear me say that “He is better off” or that “God is welcoming him” to someone that is grieving terribly. Sometimes, being silent and just available to a person who is dealing with a death is the best thing you can do.
Small, simple things, like running for groceries or offering to pick up a child from school, is the best way to help in times like these. Grief has taught me that words don’t always help-actions do.
So please, I implore you. Stop telling me to “get over it.” I won’t, and I don’t want to.
What did you think of this? We know death is hard, so leave us some comments below. Then, pass this on to family and friends who may need to read it.