Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had

img_6902That 80’s hairband Cinderella was right. You absolutely do not know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

I thought I was prepared to say goodbye to my Dad after watching him suffer for 7 years, but the truth is you are never ready to say goodbye.

I knew my Dad was a larger than life, real life super hero. He was my father, my best friend and really the greatest man to ever walk to planet.

I learned how to dance while standing on top of his feet, he taught me how to throw a baseball, but most importantly  with an enormous amount of love and patience he showed me how to stand on my own two feet and helped me evolve into the independent woman I am today. Right up until he took his last breath he was telling me he loved me. I know God smiled at me the day he chose me to be Al’s daughter.

My Dad prepared me for almost everything life would throw into my path, but I wasn’t ready for the incredible pain I would feel once he was gone. I wasn’t ready to feel as if someone tore my heart out with a butcher knife leaving it outside my body for me to attempt to put back.

My father was a fighter and he fought hard to be with his family. I took for granted that he would continue to fight and would just be here with us forever. I never stopped to think that someday he just wouldn’t be here.

I absolutely adored my father. I cherished every single second we had together. I took hundreds of photos together, so many he would call me the paparazzi and we would laugh endlessly. I posted our hospital selfies on Facebook and he would call me to announce how many likes we had. I never knew all of those wonderful moments would evolve into memories. I never thought despite all the photos we took, someday they just would not be enough.

One day my Dad was here and the next day he was gone.

One day I was standing next to my Dad’s hospital bed quickly talking to him because I had to get home and the next day he was gone.

One day I was rushing my father off the phone to watch television, and the next day I would be yearning to call him.

I always made visiting my father a priority – NOTHING was more important than spending time with my father. But even with that, there was just never enough time.

Cherish every single second with your father.

Pick up that phone and call him. Stop making excuses no one is too busy to call their parents.

Visit him. Stop making excuses no one is too busy to visit a sick parent.

Love hard and forgive the mistakes because we are all human.

As my Dad’s quality of life diminished and his illness progressed, my entire world exploded.

I was never ready to say goodbye and I’m still not ready to live in this world without my father. I miss him with every single breath I take. I still cry for him and yearn for the incredible father daughter bond we had. It’s been three years and I’m still learning how to survive in a world that doesn’t have a seat at the table for my person of significance.

Learn from my heartache friends, make the time to appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had.

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The Greatest Gift My Father Left Me

IMG_3416This Sunday will be my third Sunday as a fatherless daughter on Father’s Day. The pain doesn’t go away, you just learn how to disguise it. My father died after a seven year battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer. He spent the last four years of his life surviving on a peg tube inserted into his belly. That peg tube was his sole means of nutrition.

I felt robbed. Robbed of the relationship I dreamed of having with my father as he grew older. Taking him out to a restaurant or pretty much anyplace was out of the question. He was too sick and frail and couldn’t eat orally. As my father’s health was ripped away from him I became angry. I couldn’t understand how my father, the man who was larger than life now needed my assistance just too slowly shuffle to the restroom and eventually press a button on the television’s remote control to change the channel.

It wasn’t fair.

Why my father?

The moment my father took his last breath was one of those unprecedented moments, a moment that is now a part of me, a moment that defines me. A moment that, despite my father being so ill I could never imagine the pain and the waves of sorrow that would try to suffocate me for the rest of my life. I could never imagine the enormous void my father was about to have on our family. As I held his hand and watched my father take his last breath, I felt pain so ferocious I was positive that I too was dying.

I would be lying if I told you that three years later I had some sort of an epiphany and I’m okay with the suffering my father endured. I’m not.  I would be lying if I told you that as time goes by the holidays become easier. They don’t. I would be lying if I told you I no longer have moments where I feel incredibly small and alone in this world as a fatherless daughter. I do.

And my pain is magnified during weekends like Father’s Day.

While my friends are scrambling for the perfect gift for Dad, and others are trying to squeeze their father into their chaotic schedules, I’m trying to figure out what flower will last on my father’s grave. I desperately try to quiet my brain as I’m bombarded with the endless Father’s Day commercials and I sometimes scream at my television, “Do you have the perfect gift for the dead Dad?”

Since my father died, each June, I now have an ache from missing my father on Father’s Day. But despite my heartache, I know I was fortunate enough to be raised by a man that loved me enough to leave a mark to last a lifetime. I know I am truly blessed to be one of “Al’s daughters.” My love for my father is so massive, that even three years after his death it remains unfinished and messy in a tangle of emotions that surround a day that will always be for him.

And even now, as a grown up I would do anything to hear his voice, to spend just five more minutes with him. I would still do anything to buy him the best gift money could buy and to take him to the fanciest restaurant around, when in my heart I know he would be just as happy with that silly macaroni tie that said, “My Dad Is Rad.” That gift I made him a lifetime ago, back in kindergarten. Because he loved me.  And love is the greatest gift my father gave me, a gift that never dies.

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The Day Jesus Took The Wheel

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There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

And that moment happened three weeks ago.

My father taught me everything I needed to know in life. He taught me how to dance, he taught me the importance of self-respect, he taught me how to be kind and compassionate and like many Dads, he taught me how to drive.

My Dad was a car guy, I remember being a young girl and he would sit me on his lap and let me “drive” in parking lots while we waited for my Mom in the store. This was the 80’s so that was normal back then, now not so much! But you get my gist.

When I was of driving age, my father taught me how to drive. Rule number one, always wear your seat belt. Rule number two, keep both hands on the wheel. My Dad was an excellent driver, he had lightning fast reflexes and eyesight like a hawk. He also had an undeniable belief that he owned the road. With my real life superhero by my side I learned how to navigate myself through traffic and never be afraid.

When I passed my driving test and he handed me the keys to the car, I remember my father telling me, “Lisa Mia, it’s not you I’m worried about it’s the other drivers on the road. You must have eyes all over, always drive defensive. Please honey, be careful.”

Years have passed since then and I’ve always considered myself a safe driver. Driving is when I have my alone time and I think. Driving is when I think of my Dad.

Three weeks ago, my entire life changed in the blink of an eye.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

It was a normal Saturday morning, I was on my way to do my normal boring Saturday morning routine, when I realized I forgot my cell phone at home. I was about a block away from my house, so I made the decision to return home to retrieve my cell phone. A decision I will regret for the rest of my life.

I put my blinker on, looked like I always do, and then something happened. I saw all white and instantly I felt my father’s presence – perhaps the strongest since his death three years ago.

For a brief moment I felt strong arms wrap around my body.

I wasn’t afraid because I felt surrounded by pure unconditional love. There are no words to accurately describe the love I felt surrounding me at that exact moment. I didn’t hear tires screeching or feel an impact, I only saw white. And then I realized I smelled smoke and my car was in the middle of a busy road. I saw people gathering on the sidewalk and I felt confused, I started to remember feeling a slight impact, I thought I was rear ended. A woman in a minivan slowed down, rolled down her window and yelled to see if I was okay. I couldn’t understand why so many people were coming to help me. I was only tapped, or so I thought. And then I realized my air bags were open. ALL OF THEM WERE OPEN ON THE DRIVERS SIDE OF THE CAR. And burning, I smelled something burning. Was there a fire? Oh God, please not a fire, I need to get out of here. Then my left eye started to hurt, REALLY HURT, and my vision was blurry. The entire left side of my face began to throb.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I took a deep breath and I quickly looked around.  I wiggled my fingers and toes, I recited the Our Father in my head. I then screamed at the top of my lungs for God and said, “Dear God please give me the strength.” My vision was so blurry, and the smell was awful, the burning, where was it coming from? I realized I needed to open the door and get out of my car. With all my strength I pushed open my car door and made my way across the street.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

“You’re going to be okay, I am right here with you.” is what I heard in my head and I knew it was my father. It felt as if someone was guiding me across the street, helping me. Confused, because I still thought I was rear ended, I made my way across the street and turned to I looked at my car.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I saw my wheel torn off, pieces of my car all over the road, plastic pieces everywhere, a puddle of fluid under my car. My airbags were deployed. I couldn’t believe all of that “stuff” came from my vehicle. The sight of my car made my entire body began to tremble, I could not believe my eyes.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I made my way to a man standing on the side of the road with some other people.  The man offered me his hand and smiled at me. I looked at the Good Samaritan and between tears I said, “How is this possible? I thought I was rear ended, I was going home for my phone. I have to call my husband, I need my husband.” And then I started to cry while I stared at the heap of metal that was once my car in the middle of the road. The Good Samaritan looked at me and smiled, “You’re lucky to be alive, you can use my phone.”  He was so calm and reassuring. I remember trembling so badly that the Good Samaritan had to dial the phone. I remember him smiling at me saying, “You’re safe now, the police are here.” And he left. I’m so thankful that this stranger stopped what he was doing to wait with me for help to arrive.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

As the police began to pull up, I noticed a woman on the other side of the road. She was frantically waiving her arms, screaming for me. She was screaming, “You guys have the Boston Terrier! I’ll go get your husband!” She ran to my house to get my husband. I wish I knew her name, I only know her because I have noticed her walking her dog the weeks leading up to my accident. Now, a few weeks post-accident and I have yet to find that woman to thank her. My husband and I look for this woman daily, we want to thank her for her act of kindness.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

Despite all the chaos that Saturday morning, but I could feel my father’s strong presence. I could feel my father’s protection and love, but I felt something else, something even more powerful. I felt God’s love and protection that morning.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I remember being loaded into the ambulance feeling shaken up but so incredibly thankful and blessed as I watched the mangled wreck that was once my car fade in the distance. I remember closing my eyes and quietly thanking God for being with me that morning and protecting me.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

Life can be messy and chaotic and we never know what tomorrow will bring. But through it all there is a God up there and God is good all the time, His grace and mercy are boundless. He is so willing to forgive, so eager to answer prayer, and so ready to bless us beyond what we deserve or hope for. I cry when I think of what happened to me a few weeks ago, I am forever thankful for all of the blessings bestowed upon me. And someday when God calls me home, I hope to tell Him in person, “Thank you God for being so good to me.” 

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The Power of Journaling

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Ten years ago, when my father was diagnosed with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer none told me that I was about to embark on the ride of my life. As my father began his grueling treatments I went out and purchased journals. I began to feverishly put my feelings down on paper and document this new, often horrific journey.

My journey with grief began the day a mass on the base of my father’s tongue was given a name – squamous cell carcinoma. As a matter of fact, I still have the paperwork that I frantically faxed over to the team of doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering to evaluate my father. The cover sheet in my father’s handwriting ends with “I would like to see the doctor as soon as possible. Thanks for your help.”

Our family had no idea the cruel battle we were about to embark on. We only knew that that we needed my father to live. Life without him was unimaginable, it still is and he’s been gone three years.

I watched cancer hijack my father’s body until I could hardly recognize him. Those radiation treatments for that “little” mass at the base of his tongue wreaked havoc on his entire body. The radiation eventually destroyed his entire epiglottis, making it impossible to eat or drink orally for the last four years of his life, relying on a feeding tube inserted in his belly for his sole means of nutrition.

Sunken cheekbones, his dark hair gone white. Pale, pasty skin. Brown eyes that were distant, almost empty. Strong hands that had guided me throughout my entire life became thin and frail, and often trembled. The last four years of my father’s life are forever etched in my brain, a painful reminder to never take life for granted.

A few weeks after my father’s death, my husband encouraged me to write down my feelings and send them to the Huffington Post. I thought he lost his mind. Who wants to hear my sob story? I was already on the verge of depression, why would I share my darkest feelings with the entire world? Instantly I envisioned internet trolls making a mockery of my grief. My husband’s response to me was, “Steve Harvey had a make up blogger on his show yesterday and I don’t really know what she was talking about, but I think you should share your articles. People will read them, I believe in you.” I laughed and began to critique a very private essay I wrote to my mom who was my father’s caregiver for his entire journey with cancer. I then decided to go big or go home, and I sent my article to Ariana Huffington. I remember thinking, well if I’m going to share my deepest feelings with the entire world let’s start with someone I admire.

The next day I was a Huffington Post Blogger. I also began journaling again.

Why? Because grief has a way of making you feel like you’re trapped on a deserted island and you’re all alone. My articles and journals have been my lifesaver when no one could save me. And guess what there have been no internet trolls, just some really incredible people who are also hurting as they embark on their own grief journey.

Grief is a long, lonely journey and my journals and expressive art are my most intimate, trusted friends during one of the darkest, most difficult times of my life.

If you’re lucky, friends and family will offer as much comfort as they can give, but they all have their own lives to live and after the funeral most people don’t want to hear your sad story repeatedly. Let’s face it, grief makes most people uncomfortable. We live in a society where death is taboo, and we are expected to “get over it.” Unfortunately, there is no getting over a person of significance. Where there is great love, there is great grief, and if we do not find an outlet we will not heal. If you broke your arm would you leave it unattended? So why do many choose to ignore their grief and think it will just vanish?

Writing has provided me immense comfort and relief at a time when nothing or no one else could. My writing is one of the places where I can speak the truth and express my emotions. My journal is always there for me to listen to the same story, over and over, without judgment until I am ready to move onto the next chapter.

Journaling is is an effective way to keep their legacy alive.

10 years ago, I was unaware that expressive writing and journal therapy are actual ways for healing. I’ve always grabbed a pen to document my feelings, to process what was happening. By putting my emotions on paper, I could somehow make sense of what seemed impossible and find strength to carry on.

Journaling is also the cheapest form of self-care there is and a great way to heal grief. Even if you don’t start your own blog and share your raw emotions with the entire world, I challenge you to go buy a journal and start documenting your feelings throughout your grief journey. Why not keep a journal by your bed and each night write down your feelings, you never know you might find it helpful.

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“I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You”

rainy-83136_1280Christmas is a time when friends and families come together. It is also a time when the absence of family can be more keenly felt.

When I first lost my Dad almost three years ago I remember returning to work feeling lost. I remember arriving at work one morning sitting in my car staring at my office building. It was bitter cold morning in January and I sat in my car for what seemed like forever staring into the horizon. I felt lost and totally alone. I was heartbroken, angry, sad and devastated all at once. I was unable to control my emotions and I did not like it one bit. I felt as if my entire body was being weighed down by enormous bricks and I was sinking fast.

I spent much of my first year of grief in a fog, often getting sucked into tidal waves of sadness. Many times, I felt as if I was standing on the edge of a black hole with one foot in and the other slowly slipping away.

The entire holiday season has amplified my grief, bringing me back to that cold January morning. The twinkling lights, festive songs and the constant pressure to be happy often knocks me off my feet. I often find myself daydreaming throughout the season. I watch my friends with their fathers and I think about how much my Dad is missing, and how much I miss my Dad.

Just yesterday I received an email from Macy’s with incredible bargains for Dad this Christmas, and I began to wonder do they have a bargain for the deceased Dad? If my Dad was alive would I be purchasing him yet another pair of pajamas, or an ugly sweater for him to return? I like to think my Dad is watching from Heaven, and how he’s finally pain free, but somehow, it’s not the same as him being here with us.

I miss my Dad every day, but Christmas is especially difficult. My Dad was the life of the party, he was the loudest, funniest, most loving person in the room. He was filled with joy and now there is a huge hole in our lives.

I am learning that the best way to cope with grief is to talk about the person you have lost. Surround yourself with caring, empathetic individuals. Be prepared for periods of normality, and then, sometimes out of the blue or during special occasions, intense emotions. You will never truly get over your loss but there is great comfort in talking about your loved one and keeping their memory alive.

Christmas has a nostalgic pull for anyone who is grieving. It’s easy to become cocooned this time of year and want to hibernate in your bereavement bunker.  But the person you  lost would want you to carry on.  Be gentle with yourself and take it slowly through the days leading up to Christmas. It may not be the same Merry Christmas it once was, but it can be a new holiday wrapped up in memories of someone very special. Take time to hold family close and remember the ones you lost. That’s exactly what I will be doing this year.

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Nothing Can Prepare You For Grief

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My father was gravely ill for the last 7 years of his life, he was terminal for the last four years of his life and on hospice the last 4 months of his life. He spent those 4 years housebound, surviving on a peg tube inserted in his stomach. Not an ounce of liquid or a morsel of food passed his lips for the last 4 years of his life. He lost his ability to swallow thanks to aggressive radiation treatments. For the last 4 months of his life, he was given a shiny red walker that he refused to use in the beginning and eventually he couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without it. The final weeks his life he wasn’t even able to press the button on the television remote control to change the channel. My father’s strong voice became gurgly and sometimes it was unrecognizable. He had a special suction machine that I had to stick down his throat and pull out phlegm because he was just too weak to do it himself and if we didn’t use that machine he would have choked to death on phlegm. Thanks radiation.

I was given front row seats to watch cancer rip apart my father piece by piece.

I couldn’t give my father a tight bear hug because his feeding tube was in the way. I couldn’t take my father out to dinner like other people my age because he was unable to eat. When I’m around someone on a trendy diet I can feel my blood begin to boil. My father’s ability to eat was ripped away from him without a choice, I cannot wrap my brain around someone deliberately depriving themselves of food for the sake of vanity. Maybe someday, but not today. The last few weeks of my father’s life he had so many wires and tubes sticking out of his body it was terrifying for him and our family.

My father was 69 years old when he died. He spent the last 7 years of his life suffering unlike anything I have ever witnesses in my life. Even the movies were more merciful than what I witnessed my heroic father endure. I thought I was prepared for my father’s death, I mean after watching a person you love and adore suffer for so long you THINK you are ready to say good bye. You tell yourself they are going to a better place, free of pain and suffering and if you are a good person, someday you will meet again. You tell this to yourself over and over and you think you are prepared.

But…

Nothing can prepare you for the gut wrenching pain of grief.  But I can tell you, it is a pain unlike anything I have ever endured. There are times the pain is so horrific you are positive your heart is shattered in a million pieces and nothing can put it back together. And if you are like me and you spent 7 years watching someone you love suffer you also feel selfish because you are sometimes so incredibly sad that your person is gone and you need them because they are your person. Nothing can prepare you for the pain of grief. Not sickness, not pain, not suffering because when someone is gone, they are gone.

When you lose a parent, you lose a piece of yourself. You lose your past, your history. I lost not just my father, but my best friend, my protector, my advisor and the guy who taught me how to dance while standing on top of his feet.

Not a day goes by that I do not miss my father. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my father.

Your family members are your first squad goals.  And when you lose a member of your squad you lose a tremendous piece of yourself.

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Sometimes Grief Tastes Like Chocolate Ice Cream

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“Daddy, can we go for ice cream?” The answer was always yes. Even when I didn’t finish my dinner the answer was yes.

This was our ritual for years throughout my childhood.

When I was young, I thought all fathers took their daughters for ice cream at least once a week.

When the summer evenings became hotter and hotter, my Dad would pile us up in the car and take us to Carvel for ice cream.

Take me into a Carvel and I am immediately transported to my childhood. My senses begin to dance with the aroma that I can only describe as sweet vanilla heaven. Even if I’m not hungry once I step foot into a Carvel ice cream shop I find myself wandering around for a scoop of ice cream feeling like a 5 year old little girl again.

When my father lost his ability to eat from his cancer treatments, I lost a tremendous piece of me. Watching a parent endure a horrific illness is one of the most difficult things in the world. I stopped going into Carvel, stopped indulging on delicious treats. I spent four long years watching my father survive on a feeding tube. For a very long time I walked around angry, and because ice cream was such a big part of my childhood memories, Carvel became an innocent victim.

Grief makes a simple trip to a place like Carvel anything but simple. Carvel was loaded with landmines that I was not ready to face. Abandoned rituals that were once fun are common in the land of grief.

But last week, for the first time in a very long time I stepped foot in a Carvel. Just walking in there was a major accomplishment. I was positive the entire store could hear the sounds of my heart breaking all over again. Tears quietly began to roll down my cheek past my dark sunglasses. My hands began to tremble as I remembered what once was. And suddenly my grief let go for a moment and I was able to remember my Dad as he was. I was able to remember my Dad before the cancer took over. I could see my Dad standing before me, smiling and healthy. And somehow I was able to stand in Carvel and smile as memories of my Dad came rushing in.

Eventually the tight grip of grief will let go, even if for just a brief moment and you too will be able to remember your loved one as they once were.

My Dad is no longer here, but I raise my ice cream cone to him. Chocolate ice cream with sprinkles brings me back to the sweet, cool, creamy taste of a simpler time.

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Dear Friends, Take The Photos!

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Lisa & Dad 1975

Yesterday I struggled to find a photo of my Dad and me.

I’m working on a new and exciting project to help raise awareness for dysphagia, the disease that stole my father’s quality of life and eventually my Dad from us. While a part of me was over the moon that I was selected for this incredible honor I struggled.

See, my Dad is now gone two long years, he was gravely ill for the last four years of his life and housebound the final two. All of our photos are hospital selfies. For the last four years of my father’s life I didn’t have the luxury of taking him out to a nice restaurant, or attending events with him. He was too sick.  At first I had family members scold me for taking such unflattering photos of my Dad. How dare I share such photos! I probably should have dragged him outside and filtered the heck out of those photos. Maybe photoshop him at a NY Yankee game. Right? Wrong. My Dad was so ill just walking to the bathroom was a chore for him. Those hospital selfies were the best we could do. So, to the people who were “offended” sorry not sorry I photographed my father so I could remember every single second I had with him.

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Lisa & Dad 2014

What you will see from our photos are portraits of my Dad and me as we care for each other on bad days and bond together as father and daughter on the good days. One thing is for sure – I adore my father and he loves me. And that is the best medicine you can get.

My extraordinary relationship with my father will live forever in my photographs.

Friends, take the photos. It doesn’t matter if you are all dressed up, feeling frumpy or in the hospital.

Take the photo. When you are gone you family will want those photos. Take the photo.

Messy hair, hospital gown, endless tubes, and beeping machines – those things won’t matter when you are gone. I promise you, your children won’t notice those things. What they will notice is your kind, loving eyes and that you took the time to take the photo.

See, to me my Dad was a real life superhero. I never once looked at him and saw a sick, frail guy. I saw my father the man who protected me my entire life. Even when his cancer had him at his worst I saw the man who was my first love and greatest protector in life. I saw my Dad.

So someday when you are not here what will matter is that even during your worst moments you loved your family enough to preserve that moment and capture your endless love.  If a picture is worth a thousand words when someone is alive, imagine the value when the person is gone.

No family wants to look back into time at endless hospital selfies, but this is my story and these are the cards I was dealt. What matters to me now that my father is gone is that he loved me so much that he was willing to capture our moments together even in the hospital on his worst days.

It’s true, father does know best. Mine certainly did because he knew I would cherish our precious photographs for the rest of my life.

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Lisa & Dad 2015

Dealing With Loss and Grief

pexels-photo-247195.jpegThere are times during my grief journey that I feel incredibly alone. Since my Dad has left my world has become quiet. Sometimes I replay one of his saved voicemails just to hear his voice. “I love you Lisa Mia” his voice is muffled and I can hear the pain he endured for so long and just like that my heart begins to ache. I quickly hang up, and I desperately need a moment alone to weep for the loss of my Dad, my best friend, my biggest fan in life.

My grief now a part of me, forever. There are times I honestly think there is no way I could ever feel better again. My grief is so powerful; my losses have transformed me.

I am on an endless quest for peace within my soul.

Grief is NOTHING like the movies portray it.  It is extremely messy and complicated. Grief thins out the herd, leaving even the strongest on their knees begging God for mercy.

During the almost 2 years, 3 months and 6 days since my father has died, family members have disappointed me, friends have vanished and new bonds have formed.  I am carefully navigating my massive waves of grief. The anchors in my life have been cut and the void in my heart is deeper than I ever could have imagined.

As the days evolve into months I am realizing that my grief is also made of love. It is because I have loved so much that I am hurting so much.  Through my grief I am choosing to be a living example of my love. I am slowly accepting my tremendous loss by remembering the gifts my Dad gave me. He encouraged me to nurture relationships while we dealt with his illness and death. He encouraged my work and education, so I would have fulfillment and a successful life. Not a day goes by that I do not miss my Dad. But I find strength by remembering the memories we shared, and those memories cannot be taken away, by anyone or anything.

Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving… That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. ”
― Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

My journey is showing me that we can heal through heartbreaking loss if we are brave enough to face it. Facing our grief is both painful and terrifying. I wasted so much of my time angry at people who failed to acknowledge my father’s death. I now refer to that as misplaced anger. Facing my grief head on has taught me about the grieving process, which at times is messy and complicated.

Below are some lessons I am learning along the way. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, I hope that the suggestions below can you find your way.

My journey is showing me that we can heal through heartbreaking loss if we are brave enough to face it. And facing our grief is painful and terrifying. I spent a full year angry at people who were too busy to even acknowledge my father’s death. Facing my grief head on has also taught me about the grieving process, and below are some lessons I am learning along the way.
My journey is showing me that we can heal through heartbreaking loss if we are brave enough to face it. And facing our grief is painful and terrifying. I spent a full year angry at people who were too busy to even acknowledge my father’s death. Facing my grief head on has also taught me about the grieving process, and below are some lessons I am learning along the way.

1. The pain will always be there, just not as intense. When someone we love dies we are left with a gaping hole in our heart. The pain is intense and at times paralyzing. The pain never goes away, but as time passes you learn how to survive. During the early days of my grief just showering and speaking was difficult. People were calling to express condolences and I just wanted to lay in bed and stare at the wall. Those were dark , devastating moments, but as time passed I slowly found my way back into the light. There will always be moments when a memory brings me back, but I am learning who to confide in and how to express myself.

2. Look through old photos, emails, letters and anything else you may have shared. There is comfort in memories. The photos with my Dad are now my lifeline. I treasure every single one of them, even the not so flattering ones.

3. Exactly how we choose to heal is up to us – sometimes setting aside 15 minutes each day to be by yourself in a quiet place to give yourself space to grieve.

4. Grief will change your address book, and sometimes it’s for the better. Those that cannot be there for your during the dark times are not worth your precious time.

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Why I Won’t Apologize for Choosing Happiness

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I admit it…I’m the glass is half full kinda girl you know the one who makes lemonade when life hands you lemons. I’m the girl who is always taking pictures and posting them on Facebook. I take pictures of my food, I posted 9 million wedding photos and a zillion more photos of my dog being amazing. I even took photos throughout my father’s illness, it was not a happy time but I knew someday he would not be here and someday (now) those photos would be all I have left of him.

And I will not apologize for it. Ever.

I’m sure people have ignored me, blocked me or unfriended me. That’s fine with me. I still won’t apologize. I’ve never been one to really care what others think of me, and because we live in a tell all social media world each of us has the right and the responsibility to take charge of what we put online.

I believe that I am in charge of my own happiness. What I say determines how my life will unfold. I won’t apologize for choosing happiness. I won’t apologize for being positive. This is the life I want to live and the life I want to share. I watched my father, my real life super get ripped apart by cancer. I held his hand until he took his last breath and not a day goes by that I do not miss him. I will always honor my father’s memory by choosing happiness, it’s what he wanted. Choosing to constantly critique other’s flaws is a reflection of you and your own insecurities, and not how I choose to spend my valuable time.

My father spent the last four years of his life unable to eat or drink orally. Sitting at the table with someone unable to eat is heartbreaking and devastating, but my Dad always chose to smile and be thankful for time with his family. If I just enjoyed an amazing meal with my husband I will share it and be thankful that I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. I won’t complain about the calories and punish myself. If we get a blizzard in March, I’m thankful to see the snow glistening off the branches. I choose where I live and I choose to celebrate all seasons.

I share photos with my husband and our friends being fancy, silly, smiling and enjoying life. Our life is an incredible blessing and I choose to savor the good times. If we have a disagreement that stays behind closed doors and that isn’t something I choose to share, because I don’t want to stay trapped in that moment.

By trial and error I have learned what to share and not to share. When I am down and feeling  broken those are feelings I only share with my inner circle, with the people who I know will hold my heart with extreme care and not trash it.

Yes, I am a grief writer and I talk extensively about my grief. It is possible to write about heart breaking grief and still try to find the beauty in life. It’s what our loved ones would have wanted. It’s what I do every single day. Every single day I honor my father’s beautiful memory by always choosing happiness, even during the difficult times.

Life is beautiful because you believe it’s beautiful, and the more you showcase the beauty the more you inhabit it.

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