My father–the best friend I’ve ever had–passed away two years ago today.
I’ve shared my thoughts here multiple times since that day to help others prepare for loss by imparting the lessons I wish I had known before tragedy changed my life and how to cope with loss in the aftermath. I figure it may be useful to share my current state of mind to offer a glimpse into where others may find themselves two years after losing someone they love.
The most common consolation I received in the days following this devastating news was that it would get better. Because I knew my relationship with my Dad–how much I relied on him and how we cared for each other–I never believed that advice. Turns out, I was right. It never got better. I stopped crying as I did when it happened but the pain and absence from the loss never got better. It never got easier. So I wouldn’t give people that advice.
It’s important for people to understand that losing someone they love may remain with them and cause them sadness and a deep void that can’t be filled. That realization is important because it may also inspire people to really take advantage of the time they have left with people they care about.
I think of my father often but I still can’t look at photos of him or listen to a recording of his voice. It’s too painful. Rosie prescriptions to “be grateful for the time you had together” don’t work on me. I appreciate what I had and I always knew how fortunate I was but it’s misguided to believe that such gratitude reduces sadness over loss; to the contrary, it may magnify it.
Triggers abound. Whenever I read about people losing loved ones in tragedies–without notice–I think about what those people are going through. I relive the stages of grief in my mind: Devastation, shock, denial, and regret, chief among them. I imagine them enduring the agony of the loss and wish I could console them because I know that anguish.
I’ve learned from tragedy that there may be no consolation–not for me at least. I’ve learned to live with the pain. I’ve learned the importance of comforting others in their time of need–and to sustain that support because the sadness, disbelief, and depression that may accompany loss may not subside. To be there consistently for people mourning is a gift they will unlikely ever forget.
In the past two years, I’ve seen my father often in my dreams. But the dreams have been unlike any others I’ve ever had. He’s always comforting me. Either my head is resting on his chest or we’re hugging but what makes these dreams most spectacular is that while I’m having them, he’s alive again. I’ve spoken with a few people who have had the same experience and can only describe it, as I have, as feeling more real than any other dream they’ve experienced.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read this article I wrote on things to do for people before they die. I’ve heard from many people over the past two years who told me they pulled out all the stops in their relationships after I shared my advice not to count on tomorrow.
A friend recently wrote, “After reading your stories about tragedy not knocking, you inspired me to fly to see my father and spend more time with him. He unexpectedly passed away a few weeks after my visit. I’m still in shock and devastated. I’ll be forever grateful that you taught me not to wait and that I spent that extra time with him. I didn’t understand your pain until it happened to me.”
Don’t wait. No matter how much good you do for the people you love, when they’re gone, you may find yourself wishing you had done more. Do all you can now. There are no second chances in death. I doubt anyone has ever fully realized the finality of it until it happens–and then they’re just left with it.
You can read more about my take on grief and how to provide support here.