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An ongoing series of informational entries, created by our counseling staff:

Losing a Parent

Posted by Sarah Meteer

August 21,  2017

When I first lost my Dad, I was in shock. At his funeral, I kept touching his ice-cold shoulder. I needed to stand right next to his casket. I remember bragging to a dear friend “doesn’t my Dad look good?” I recall my needs to touch my Dad’s shoulder and tell my friends’ relatives how good my Dad looked. Those were things I never ever would have thought I would do but in that moment, those intense moments of grief, I found comfort.

My Dad was AMAZING! He always helped others, going out of his way so others felt important, so others felt good about themselves. My Dad was blessed with a special way to connect with others. He was blessed and given a purpose to help others. He was a teacher, coach, principal, son, brother, uncle, husband, father, grandfather, lover of black Labradors, sports fan, athlete and 100% compassionate.

The night I walked into the ER, I was 6 months pregnant and I looked at my older sister and I knew now that my Dad was no longer here on earth with us, he was gone…I was instantly sick. Physically sick in the ER bathroom. My thoughts were unidentifiable. I was filling too much at one time. Then I saw my Mom sitting in the ER waiting room. Oh, Dear God! How will Mom survive without Dad!?! After hugging my Mom, sisters and soon to be brother-in-law I asked the ER nurse when can I see my Dad? I must see him. Once I see him I will understand. He should be sitting up in the hospital bed, giving me a thumb up. But he wasn’t. My Dad was laying the hospital bed, his upper lip slightly swollen and cold. He was such a handsome man full of life and kindness and now he wasn’t. It was too difficult to comprehend, he was just here with us and now he isn’t. What is going on?

Seeing my Dad laying in the hospital bed I realized this awful nightmare of my Dad dying was real. I felt sick again. I was sweating, crying, praying and feeling overwhelmed at all once. I asked the nurse how did my Dad die? At first, I was told he had a blood clot next the nurse said a heart attack. Nothing made sense but he was gone. I kept thinking he will wake up but he didn’t. I had always thought of my Dad as more than human. He was tall, strong, athletic and healthy but now, he was gone. What the hell were we going to do without Dad? Without DAD! DAD! DAD! HE was no longer here.

My immediate concern was for my Mom. I remained focused on her and how could I help her? Watching my Mom grieve with a broken heart was awful. I ended up focusing on her. I turned to my church immediately after Dad passed. I couldn’t even say he died for a couple years, I could only say my dad “passed away” or “was in heaven.” Going to mass made me feel close to my Dad. Dad is in heaven with God now so when I go to mass I am even closer to my Dad. I could feel my Dad with me at times. If it wasn’t for my 2 daughters, being 6 months pregnant and caring for my Mom I would have become very depressed. Instead I was forced to care for my daughters, Mom and be positive. My Dad was extremely positive and I decided to follow him and make this disaster of losing him into a positive outcome. I would be more faithful, a better person trying to live in the moment because life can change in an instant. My worries of dying starting to take hold of me. I became anxious and worried often about myself dying, leaving my daughters, husband and family alone feeling all the feelings I was having. It was a lot to feel at times and I cried very often. Mostly in the shower or driving.

Trying to stay positive I would tell myself that I was lucky to have him with me until I was 33 years old. I would remind myself of the positive things my Dad said throughout his life. I would say “Jesus I trust in you” anytime I felt upset. This was a helpful prayer introduced to me after I asked my very faithful sister-in-law why God would have taken Dad?

Grief never really disappears, but it becomes less intense. In the beginning grief is overwhelming and you wonder how will I get through this? At first it is minute by minute survival, then it moves to hour by hour, then day by day etc. Some moments and days are awful then you catch yourself smiling which feels strange or even laughing.

I pulled away from my best friend which is also my husband. In my mind now death took on a life of its own, as odd as that sounds. Therefore, if I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself and not be so close to my husband then when death strikes again maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. However, after specifically asking my Mom if she would have preferred not to love at all to prevent the pain she was currently feeling, she answered NO WAY! She would rather feel the love she felt from my Dad and deal with the pain now because the love she felt when he was here was well worth the incredible pain now.

I made mistakes while grieving but I also made improvements, like strengthening my faith. It has been 5 years since my Dad has passed away. (The word “die” is still hard to type/say). I still think about him several times a day but I don’t cry as often as I once did. I notice I do things that my Dad would do, it helps me feel close to him still. I put his pictures out at home and sometimes must take the pictures down because seeing him makes me miss him too much. I have a black Labrador pup now since the one my Dad gave me passed away a couple years ago. Watching sports, having my black Labrador and teaching my daughters to have morals and respect for themselves and others helps me feel close to my Dad. Helping my Mom makes me feel close to my Dad because he wants us to help her and remain a close loving family.

Grieving a parent is like the ocean. Some moments your calm the next moment you are a huge wave of emotions splashing against the sand. Grief is like the ocean because it changes and changes quickly.

Being honest and allowing yourself to feel anger, sadness, absolute despair, happiness and comfort is part of losing a parent. The stages of loss are real. Journaling, counseling, praying, saying the rosary, volunteering and writing a letter to your deceased parent can help the grieving process. When grieving be selfish, take care of yourself. Try to remember the happy times that make you smile and pray. Prayer is more powerful than I ever realized until I began saying the rosary for my Mom, to help her get through the day. The next day my Mom would be better even if slightly better, she would smile or laugh or have a good moment because I prayed the rosary for her. God heard my prayers.

My aunt left me a voicemail the day before my Dads funeral and I want to leave her message to you in closing:

                                                   “You can do this. You are stronger then you believe!”

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