* Author’s note: I wholeheartedly believe that everyone processes grief and death differently. I write this in hopes to help others better deal with their own grief and to provide a better understanding of the grief process. This is my story.
When I get the phone call, I will feel pangs in the pit of stomach that radiate to my deepest core. “Dad… he didn’t make it,” my mother will say, choking back tears. That call– those words– will change my life forever.
I will come to realize that the tragic event of my father’s passing will be the catalyst for a major course correction — a personal path toward healing. To those on the outside though, that healing will be presented in the form of isolation, mood swings, behavior changes, and a major shift in ideals. In reality, I will be processing some heavy emotions, and dealing with an existential dilemma which requires lots of time, introspection, self-compassion and rest.
Yes, I will be depressed the months following my father’s death, but I’ll come to realize that my body recognizes the need to take the time and space to heal. I will have to overcome the shame and guilt and burdensome thoughts as I battle with society’s stigmatized views of depression. I’ll quit my job, and I’ll move home with my mom. I will lie to myself and pretend I don’t feel like a failure for the inability to continue the life I had previously built. I’ll appear strong when in reality I’ll be doing my damnedest not to implode.
After my father’s death, I will endure an existential dilemma. I’ll question the meaning of life. I’ll examine and doubt my existence. I will feel empty. “What is the point?” I’ll ask. Slowly, I’ll begin to reevaluate what is most important.
I’ll analyze my time, and how I spend it. I’ll look at the value of each experience. If it isn’t enriching my life, it’s no longer worth my time. I’ll stop filling my time with meaningless distractions, and I’ll structure my time with purpose. If you waste my time, I’ll become resentful. If you value it, I’ll be greatly appreciative and acknowledge it. I’ll begin to realize my time is now my most valuable, non-renewable resource. Once it’s spent, I’ll never ever get it back.
I’ll acknowledge the overwhelming support and love that I felt at my father’s funeral which will kick-start an evaluative process of my personal relationships. I’ll assess the value of each relationship. I’ll make an effort to reach out to friends and family, to express my gratitude, to contact them on birthdays and holidays and create soul-soothing interactions.
I will determine that my self-care, self-worth and self-love are my highest priority. I’ll recognize the emphasis I once placed on productivity in spite of my health, happiness and my relationships. I’ll confess to my previous drive for external validation– recognition at work, admiration from professors, respect from fellow colleagues/peers, likes on social media platforms, affection from lovers– success as determined by external sources. I will determine none of that is important. I’ll discover what truly matters is my internal validation– do I love myself, do I treat myself with compassion, do I promote self-healing?
For the first time, I’ll put my own damn self into therapy. I’ll begin to own my experience. I will begin to develop my voice, my boundaries, and express them openly. I will discover that how I treat myself is how others will treat me. I will begin to heal.
It will be the call that will cause a disruption in my life and it’s trajectory. Subsequently, I’ll be forced to look into the abyss and contemplate my “new normal” — a world in which I exist but my dad doesn’t.