While many people look to February as the month of love, this time of year always brings about an overwhelming amount of sadness. On February 8th 2011, my dad lost his battle to lung cancer and our family was forever changed. We buried him on Valentine’s Day 2011 and his birthday is on February 27th, so to say that February sucks would be an understatement. I can still remember this time like it was yesterday. My dad had been sick for years, but to protect his children, he didn’t officially let us know of his cancer (or how bad it was) until three weeks before he passed away.
Over the course of three weeks I went from having full on, life-changing conversations with my dad to him not even knowing our names. By that point, the cancer had spread to his brain and there was nothing else that the doctors could do. I was on my way to school one morning when my mom called me and told me that she would be picking me up because my dad had passed away in his sleep.
Sharing the story of my dad’s passing actually isn’t the reason why I’m writing this post. What I really want to dive into is the weight of grief and how I managed to overcome it. I can truly say, seven years later, that I am in a better place than I’ve been in a really long time. In past, I’ve spent this day curled up in a ball and crying, but this year I can say more confidently than ever that I’ve made peace with the fact that God needed my dad more than I did.
I still have my moments where I cry (writing this post being one of them), but I don’t feel as overcome with sadness as I once did. I choose to spend this day celebrating the life of my father and being thankful for the beautiful relationship that we had. I can’t sit here and say if there is a “right” way to deal with grief because everyone experiences this differently, but I thought I’d share what has managed to work for me after all this time.
1. Pray without ceasing
I don’t know what you may believe in, but if it had not been for my faith I don’t know what I would’ve done. I can say wholeheartedly that prayer changes things. When I was in some of my darkest moments of weakness, He made me stronger. I fell into a bit of a depression after my dad passed, and the one scripture that pulled me out day after day was 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”. Despite the confusion that I felt, I reminded myself daily that He is the one who’s in control. I had to rely on prayer and the strength of Jesus to get me through this incredibly difficult time. That’s the funny/tricky thing about faith. It’s easy to trust God when things are going good, but the true testament of your faith is if you trust Him when things go south. To say my faith was put to the test would be an understatement, but that’s where prayer came in handy. I also made sure to ask my friends and family to pray for me too. There’s definitely strength in numbers, so having more people uplifting you in prayer is never a bad thing.
2. Cry until you have no tears left
Sometimes you just need to let it out. One thing that I learned about grief is that it’s important to be honest about how you truly feel. There’s no need to put on a front for anyone, and try to pretend like everything is okay when it’s not. There is no time stamp on grief, and you have a right to feel however you want for as long as you want. There’s nothing more therapeutic than letting out emotions that you’ve been holding in for a long time. For a while, I would pretend that I was okay just to be strong for my family, but deep down I felt like a piece of me had died as well. If it wasn’t for the prayers from those around me and my mother’s steadfast faith, I honestly don’t know where I would be. If you feel like the grief is consuming you, then you might want to talk to someone.
3. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help
Grief has this way of weighing you down to the point where you feel like your drowning in pain. If you feel like you’ve reached a point of no return, now might be a good time to reach out to someone for help. With lots of therapy, I was finally able to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel I was in. Going to therapy doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it just means that you need a little extra help getting your emotional and mental health back on track. Even now, I still find myself doing check-ins around this time of year just so I can sort out my emotions.
4. Honor their memory the best way you know how
When my dad passed, I almost felt as if those around me were waiting for me to go crazy. I had seen the paths that many people have gone down when they’ve lost a parent, and I knew that I didn’t want that to be me. My dad wasn’t the overly emotional or affectionate kind of father (and I spent many years resenting him for that), but one thing I knew with every fiber in my being was the endless love that he had for his family. Rather than trying to numb the pain of my loss with substances and withdrawing from everyone, I made the decision to honor him by continuing to live my life the way I knew he’d want me to.
5. Come to a place where you accept that life goes on
After I went through all of the cycles of grief, I finally came to a place where I realized that I would have to accept that this was going to be my new normal. My dad would no longer physically be here with me, and there was nothing that I could do about that. No matter how strong I am in my faith, there is no book that prepares you for loosing a loved one. There’s no instructional manual that exists on how to grieve in the best way. What I do know is that being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. While I would give anything to have my dad here, I would rather him be at peace in heaven than be in pain here with me. Life is meant to be lived, and I know that my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to live anything less than a happy, healthy and fulfilled life. In order to do that, I had to find the strength to keep pressing forward.
Please don’t feel like this is a manual for how to deal with grief. Everyone experiences loss differently, and know that it’s okay if my way doesn’t work for you. All of us have to be in tune with our emotions and assess where we’re at in the process. Loosing someone is not easy, and unfortunately loss is apart of life. With this in mind, it’s important to make the most of your time here on earth because you truly never know what day will be your last.
It’s also important to tell the people in your life how much you love them while you have the opportunity. One thing I can say wholeheartedly is that I have no regrets when it comes to my dad. I made sure to tell him how much I loved him on a daily basis, so I find great comfort in knowing that he left this earth knowing how loved he was. Additionally this experience has made me even closer to my mom and my brother, and I now have a greater appreciation for time and just how precious it is.
How do you deal with the weight of grief?