What happens months after someone we care about passes away? How do we feel? How does it compare to how we felt the day it happened? How does life change? Although experiences differ, this article sets out to answer those questions through my own experiences. Six months after my father, best friend, hero, and mentor suddenly, tragically, and unexpectedly passed away, I thought it might be helpful to tell you about my life today. I hope these insights provide a lens into grieving the loss of a parent for people who haven’t yet experienced it. Perhaps those who have will relate to some of these feelings.
How I Feel Six Months After My Father Passed Away
1. I don’t think I’m any less stunned today than the day it happened. It’s still surreal, traumatic, paralyzing, and impossible to accept. The finality of it is with me every day, especially when I go to bed at night. I dream about my father often. He is alive in the dreams which is incredible until I wake up and realize I was dreaming. He usually shows up to offer advice during conflict. I suppose it’s a sign of how much I miss him, his guidance and comfort, and wish he was still here. Several times, I have been hugging him in the dream or resting my head on his chest as I used to do when I was a child and he would read to me in his favorite chair.
2. I’m still unable to look at photos of us together. I try but it’s too painful. I have a recording of an interview I did with him a few months before he passed away. I’ve attempted to listen but it’s also too difficult.
3. I still miss calling my father every day. Deactivating his cell phone and selling his car was an excruciating process and a stark reminder of the finality of death. I miss seeing him. I think about the plans we had. I go places and remember us being there together. Whenever I see an old movie, I remember us watching it together, where we were, or simply think that he was alive when it was released. It makes me wish I could go back in time and relive my childhood knowing what I know now. I would be even more grateful but that’s the benefit of hindsight. When it is over, it is really over. There is no going back.
4. Whenever I see a child with his father, I think of holding my father’s hand as a child and all the activities we did together. I think about telling that child to cherish every moment. I miss holding my Dad’s hand as a child, making him proud, helping him, and a million more things.
5. I feel people’s tragedies more now. When I see a plane crash, car accident, fire, flood, terrorism, or any loss of life, I think of their suffering and what their loved ones must be enduring. It’s more acute now than before. It’s just what I needed on top of the daily trauma I feel over the abuse and killing of animals.
6. I lost my father and my dog one after another so life is simply different now. I’ve learned to mask pain. Keeping busy helps. Doing good helps. Being grateful helps. I wondered how I would go on when it happened. Each day just starts anew and I try to make the best of it but I walk around with this loss on my mind. A part of me died that day.
7. In 1987, I started writing a newspaper column on social justice issues titled Kirschner’s Korner. My father used to cut the articles out of the newspaper. He took great pride in them. He told me I was his favorite author and inspired me to keep writing. He taught me to be a muckraker. He instilled confidence in me to continue pushing the envelope. I found dozens of my original articles in his closet after he passed away. He saved them for 30 years. Whenever I publish an article, I often think back to seeing him sitting on the couch smiling as he read my work. I wish he still could. I lived to make him proud.
8. I never got to say goodbye. My Dad was here and then a few hours later he was gone forever. That’s a difficult experience to accept. But there is no choice. The finality of it is still excruciating. I want to fix it and I can’t. I remain frozen in time–the last time I saw him, the last time we spoke, and the time I found out it was over forever. There is a void in my life I can never fill now but I continue to try to lead a meaningful life to honor the love he invested in raising me.
9. I remind people to cherish time with people they love because when they are gone, they will miss them more than they can imagine. Here is a collection of articles I wrote after my father passed away. Perhaps you or someone you know will find guidance or comfort in them.
10. There will come a day when you have to say goodbye to the person you can’t afford to lose. Love that person today like you don’t know if the final day is tomorrow. Don’t take anything or anyone for granted. When you lose someone you love, life may go on but it will never be the same again. Trust me.