Grief becomes a scar on the part of our soul that survives. In a lot of cases, we will probably never completely get over the loss of this person. But there might be elements of good news in that loss. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals correctly—it still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.
In January, when most people are setting intentions and beginning a new year with hope and anticipation, it was getting ready to say a forever goodbye to my father. Yes, I had experienced the death of others before. Yes, I had mourned and grieved for the loss of life. No, I could never have imagined what it would be like to lose my father, a person who was half the reason I am in this world.
The loss is something that no matter how hard you try to be ready for it, there is no way to prepare for it. There is no way to tell the overall effect this loss will have on the entirety of your life. Watching someone who you shared so much life with leave creates a vast space. Watching someone who took up space in your heart leave creates an extreme ache in your heart.
I grew very close to my father in the last years of his life. Watching sickness take over someone’s body is not easy. He had his mind up until the end; it was his lungs and other parts that grew too weak. I spent a lot of time in those years listening to him. He would tell me about his latest adventures or all of the information he had been reading about in books. The days when he would say to me about his younger years living the hippie life in California or camping in the Sierra Foothills were my favorite. He had a way of telling stories that would just carry you away, so you were right there in the memory with him.
Now that he is gone, I find there is a certain kind of emptiness in places that used to be so vibrant. There is an emptiness in the time when I would regularly see him. A void when looking at the plants he cared for. Emptiness in the books on the shelves that he spent time reading. An emptiness in all of the things happening in my life that I wish I could tell and share with him. It would be impossible to say that things are still the same. I have learned that life does go on after the death of a loved one and that living through their death changes you.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in this world without my father since January. It’s hard to think that he has missed so much of my life. When something I want to tell him about happens or if there is something I want his advice on, there is an ache knowing he is not there to listen and hear my words. Even exciting things feel a little gray not being able to share them with him.
I have learned the lesson that life does go on. I did wake up the next morning to move and navigate through a world without him. The heavy weight of grief exists, and on some days it makes it hard to walk through the daily flow. I am still out there in the world being the best person I can be. Life is moving forward but is so different in many ways. Experiencing death like this has changed me.
Experiencing such grief and loss changed how I look at life and has transformed me as a person. Experiencing these deep emotions has given me a much clearer perspective on how I view life and where I want to focus my time. This has taught me what is important. Before my energy was scattered across many jobs and interests, but this has brought light to what I want and need. I want to commit myself to the things that make my heart feel most alive.
My dad simply was what he was, and I am grateful for the pieces of him that I carry with me. Things that were important to him now beat stronger in my heart. I now look longer at the sky with more curiosity. I listen to the birds and absorb their colors with my eyes and their songs with my ears. I walk through the trees with new meaning. Places, things, interests to him are now sanctuary to me.
I know I will never go back to the person I was before. Watching him leave this world was showing me the significance of living life with purpose. I have learned that this will all end. I have learned and changed to love fiercely and to focus that love on what’s important.
I have cried almost every single day since January. I have been riding the waves of grief to the fullest. There is nothing to prepare you for loss and grief is a process. I merely go on day by day and move through this world in a new way.