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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“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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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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Forever and Always – Why I’m Still Proud To Be A Daddy’s Girl

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Dad & Lisa way back when

I’m a grown up.  No really I am!  I thought once I was old and married I would stop telling the world what a Daddy’s girl I am.  But as I have grown up and my life has evolved I’m even more proud to label myself as a forever daddy’s girl.

My father was an all star baseball player, I have magnificent memories of watching my father from the stands yelling, “That’s my Dad!” After each game we would head to Carvel for my usual, chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles.  He wanted me to share his passion for baseball and he tried to teach me despite the fact that I didn’t have an athletic bone in my body.  That was okay though, my Dad found other ways to strengthen our father daughter bond throughout my life.

With a lot of patience my father did manage to teach me how to throw a baseball.  He also taught me how to dance while standing on top of his feet, how to drive, and he taught me that no breakup was worth endless tears.  Perhaps one of his greatest lessons was the importance of respecting myself while respecting others. I could always count on his words of encouragement or suggestions for improvement while he was waiting for me on the sidelines throughout my entire life.

I am without a doubt my father’s daughter. We share the same smile, the same eyes and the same sense of humor. We are, without a doubt, “cut from the same cloth.” Being labeled as “Al’s daughter” is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

 

The number one reason why I will always be my father’s daughter is because he was my first love.

My father dedicated every second of his life since the moment I was born to being my protector, my friend, my advisor and my toughest critic.  Because my father was such a good listener he always made me feel like everything I was saying was important – at least to him!  And because of that he always made me feel important.  There is no greater gift than that.

My father taught me how to be resilient and tough, even during the darkest moments of my life.  Even as my father’s life was coming to end and I cried and begged him not to go (like he had a choice) I remember him smiling and telling me, “Lisa honey I will always be with you, I promise.” He helped me become the fiercely independent woman I am today because he needed to be sure I would be able to protect myself when he was no longer around to do so.

During the final days of my father’s life I asked him, “Dad can I get you anything?” His response, “Just be happy and kind.” I was not expecting a response like that.  I wanted to get him more pillows or perhaps another blanket.  Or maybe he wanted me to rub his back because those darn hospital beds are so uncomfortable.  His answer confused me at the time, how could I be happy while my beautiful father was dying in front of my eyes?  My heart was breaking into a million pieces and being happy was not an option.  But now looking back I know that even while facing death my father was putting my needs first, by offering his advice and wisdom.  And that is why I will always be a very proud Daddy’s girl.

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I Became A Better Person The Day My Father Died

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Photo Credit:  Maxpixel

Do you have a moment in your life when everything came to a screeching halt and life as you knew it changed instantly?  I do.  It was January 17, 2016  in the wee hours of the morning.  I watched my father take his final breath and leave this place we call earth.  This moment has played over and over in my mind.  If I close my eyes tight enough I can still feel his protective grip as we held hands one last time. Regardless of how old I was, or how sick my father became, the strength of my father’s hands symbolized a sense of security, power and protection for me.  I studied his hands that night knowing I would never see them or him again.  I can still feel the agony of my heart shattering as I watched him leave his earthly body and ascend to Heaven.

My Dad was sick for seven long years, the last four years of his life he was housebound barely surviving.  His pain management was a failed attempt by doctors to give him some sort of quality of life.  Many times I would walk into the room to find him screaming in pain, begging God for mercy.  My heart still breaks when I think of this memory and my eyes begin to flood with tears.

For four long years my father was unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of liquid – he survived on a peg tube inserted in his stomach.  I vividly remember my father’s strong hands trembling in pain, his body becoming weak and frail.  I’m still angry that my father had to suffer endlessly.  There is no reason for anyone to suffer from life changing illnesses, there is no reason for anyone to suffer period.  As I watched my father deteriorate before my eyes, I felt robbed of things that seemed so basic.  Family meals, going out to dinner, and eventually just a simple conversation became too cumbersome for my father.  Life can be so unfair sometimes.  Until a basic human need is ripped away from a loved one and there is nothing you can do to help them it’s difficult to imagine how precious life is, how valuable your health is.  You begin to see how trivial some things are.  The problems you had pre illness now seem laughable and manageable.

I was given front row seats to watch cancer slowly dismantle my father.  In case you didn’t already know this, cancer is the biggest bitch on the planet.  Like a thief in the night cancer slowly stole pieces of my father until he couldn’t even get out of bed and we had to assist him with the most basic tasks.  I remember helping my father use the restroom during the final days of his life.  He cried and apologized to me, he was horrified that his daughter had to help him use the restroom.  I held back tears and told him that’s what adult children are for and I will love him forever.

Three days later our family sat in the hospital waiting for God to take my father home.  Watching someone you adore die is a life changing experience.  Death is not glamorous like a Hollywood movie.  Death is a life changing experience that annihilates your entire life while shattering your heart into a million pieces.  One minute your loved one is there the next they are gone.  Seven years of horrific pain, praying and pleading with God to save your loved one and then just like that they are gone.

There is nothing that can prepare you for the loss of a person of significance.  Despite my father being so ill I simply could not grasp the enormous feeling of loss immediately following my father’s final breath.  I remember immediately thinking, “No wait, come back! Please! I need you Daddy.”  But it was too late my father was gone after a long valiant battle with cancer.

Grief is not linear.  It ebbs and flows.  Grief is messy, complicated and painful.  Regardless of how horrific someone’s illness is when they are alive, once they are gone, they are gone forever.  I cried more in the days following the loss of my father than I have ever cried in my entire life.  Just when I thought my tears had run out I cried some more.  As I began to walk my grief journey I became comfortable with my wide range of emotions and with the emotions of those around me.

My father’s death has made me a better person—more present, empathetic, and committed to others while trying to have a positive impact on those around me.  A year after my father’s death, with the help of the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders I established the Albert J. Ingrassia Fund.  This is my effort to raise awareness for the countless patients living like my father and for the families so they know they are not alone.  My fiancée and I have decided to donate the flowers from our wedding to patients receiving care at the inpatient oncology and hospice unit at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, NJ.  This is our effort to share our unconditional love with others.

My father was an incredible man.  He was kind, loving and larger than life.  He dedicated his life to his family and as a result led a rich life.  These small efforts are my way of keeping my father’s legacy alive.

I don’t think anything can prepare you for the loss of a parent.  Losing my father was a massive blow, he was not just my father, he was my best friend, he was my person.  I was robbed of the opportunity to watch my father grow old, celebrate milestone birthdays, take him to dinner, and have him walk me down the aisle later this month at my wedding.

I will never stop missing my father, he was my first love and my real life superhero.  As I walk my grief journey I have learned the following:

  1. Never miss an opportunity to say “I love you.”
  2. Don’t waste moments. None of this is monotonous, it all matters.
  3. It’s okay to be less than perfect. When you die the important people that matter only talk about the good.
  4. Strength has very little do with muscle and brawn.  Strength has everything to do with our unique ability to conquer the trials and tribulations that life throws in our path.
  5. A father’s legacy changes the world, one daughter at a time.

My father’s story is far from over. I am the beneficiary of an infinite inheritance of virtue, character and fortitude. I am my father’s living breathing legacy and as long as I have breath in me I will continue to tell his story.

What lessons have you learned as you walk your grief journey? Please share in the comments section.

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What Grieving Friends Really Need

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Photo Credit:  Pexels

My feelings were crushed the night my father died.  My entire world exploded when my father died.

As I silently observed my father take his last breath, I felt my heart beat hard inside my chest, exactly six times before I burst into uncontrollable tears.  And then suddenly my sobbing stopped and so did my entire world.

My father’s death was expected after a very long illness.  But that still did not prepare me for the gut wrenching, debilitating pain of grief.  The days leading up to his death were mentally exhausting. Two days before my father died I sat next to his hospital bed begging him not to go, not to leave me alone.  And then the man who held my hand my entire life and gave me butterfly kisses was suddenly gone forever.

You are never ready to say good bye to a person of significance in your life.

The days following my father’s death I felt like the drunk friend who arrived to the party late.  I found myself angry, sad and devastated constantly misjudging everyone’s well meaning actions.  My thoughts revolved around one thought, “My father just died, my entire world just exploded, how do I go on?”

When someone you love dies, every single relationship in your life is reevaluated.  Friendships as well as relations with family members are now ranked by who offered condolences, who texted you, who picked up the phone and maybe even who “liked” your latest photo of your deceased loved one on social media.  If your loved one endured a lengthy illness you may even find yourself evaluating friendships based on who was there for you during the illness.

I began to question lifetime relationships.  How good of a friend is someone if they failed to recognize that my father died?  How strong of a bond do you have with a family member who begins spewing gossip just days after throwing the dirt on my father’s casket?  Did you really respect my father or your relationship with him if you are unable to show respect to his immediate family following his death?  Do I even want to bother to nurture these relationships after suffering such a horrific loss that they failed to recognize or respect?

Grief opens your eyes to one’s true colors.  The widow returns to an empty house, the children are now living a life with a massive piece of their identity missing.  Life as they knew it is forever changed.

The sad reality is after the funeral is over and the condolences stop rolling in everyone but the immediate family returns to life. And when that happens the immediate family can feel a profound sense of isolation.  They begin to look around feeling alone and sometimes abandoned.

Until you have been spouse of someone for 40 plus years it is impossible to comprehend how debilitating grief is.  I lost my father, but my mother lost her husband, her soul mate.  My mother spent the last 7 years of my father’s life selflessly caring for him, the last year of my father’s life assisting him with basic human needs while preserving his dignity.  She showered him, helped him use the restroom, fed him, she became his lifeline.  Slowly I watched my parents go from a dynamic inseparable duo to my mother learning how to live life as a soloist.  Losing my father has shattered my heart, but watching my mother endure losing her soul mate has taken my grief to a whole new level, often leaving me breathless, devastated and feeling utterly alone.

So what do you do?  How do you prevent you lifetime friend from feeling alone?  The massive void left by death can never be filled by another but it sure does help to be surrounded by supportive, kind individuals.

  1. Offer help, but be specific

Start out by asking exactly what they need.  When and if they tell you nothing do not let that deter you from helping.  When we are grieving we have no idea what we need.  Take a peek around their home and make helpful suggestions.  “I can babysit any afternoon this week”, “I can drop the kids off at school this week”, “I can mow the lawn this week” or “I can go grocery shopping for you this weekend.”

2.  Let them vent without judgment

Grief makes you crazy.  Grief makes you feel like that drunk person who showed up at the party late and begins misjudging everyone’s actions.  Your friend needs to vent.  Let them vent and just listen. Let them cry and get it out.  Let them know you’re their judgment free zone and what is said to you stays with you.

3.  Continue to invite your friend out even if they decline

Grief is exhausting; grief makes you want to stay hidden in your bereavement bunker isolated from the world.  Continue to invite your friend out to the places you went before they began grieving.  The movies, lunch, dinner, the mall.  Your friend may be trying to make sense of a world that was just turned upside down.  Even if they keep declining, let them know you will be there when they are ready.

Friends and family return to life, but the immediate family of the deceased is now living a new, horrific normal.  After the flowers have faded and the sympathy cards have been packed away what grieving people need most are friends and family.  You can’t stop the rain for your grieving friend, but you can grab an umbrella and share it with them if they are willing to let you in.

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What It’s Like To Plan A Wedding Without Your Father

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Photo Credit:  Pixabay

My father loved my fiancée.  I am extremely blessed, despite my father being terminal he was able to spend valuable time with my fiancée and they forged a priceless bond during the six years we dated.

My father wanted to give me away on my wedding day.  He wanted to shake my new husband’s hand at the alter and tell him to take care of his daughter.  He wanted to share that very special father daughter dance with me.  He wanted to give the traditional father of the bride speech, but being the dynamic speaker my father was he would have had our guests both laughing and crying.

As a little girl I would practice dancing on top of my father’s feet and he would spin me around our living room until I was dizzy and I would fall to the floor giggling.   I walked through life holding onto my father’s strong, comforting grip knowing that he was my protector who loved me unconditionally.  As a little girl I knew that someday I would find a soul mate who possessed all the admirable qualities my Dad had, a man who loved his family fiercely and treated his wife as an equal with love, kindness and respect.

But what I didn’t prepare myself for was when my father was diagnosed with stage IV base of the tongue cancer in 2008.  Seven long years later, after a very brave battle cancer stole my father from our lives forever.

The one aspect of my wedding that I never predicted was being a fatherless bride.

When my father died a big piece of me died.  I remember laying in bed begging God to let me see him one more time, hear his voice one more time, or maybe just take me for a quick visit and bring me back.  During my early days of grief I had no voice; I had no desire to speak.  I felt as if I was having a strange out of body experience.  I simply observed everyone and everything.

I wasn’t going through depression I was and still am grieving the loss of my father.

Eventually the days turned to months and a whole year passed.  I’m really not sure how I survived the first year without my Dad.  It hurt like hell. I cried a lot, I still cry a lot only now I have learned how to hide my pain and disguise my tears.

But one thing is certain; Ronen became my rock and my constant.  He was there for me throughout my father’s illness, held my hand as I watched my father take his last breath and has not stopped wiping my tears as I mourn one of the greatest losses of my life.

Grief is funny, most people assume after a few months it’s business as usual and you’re fine.  About three months into my grief journey people started asking, “So, when are you guys getting married?”  Or my personal favorite, “So, are you upset that Ronen didn’t propose before your Dad died?” My grief was raw, my grief still is raw, but I would simply smile and tell people how much my father adored Ronen and how much I love and respect Ronen.  Unfortunately these questions would force me to retreat into my grief bunker away from the world and its ignorance.

Grief is hard enough, the last thing a griever needs is to field stupid questions.

Ronen, the most patient man on the planet continued to wipe my tears and allow me to take shelter in my grief bunker as needed.  And then on February 6, 2017 Ronen proposed to me on the beach in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida, my favorite place on the planet.  Immediately after saying yes, I cried because I wanted to tell my father our wonderful news, and then I cried harder because the reality of being a fatherless daughter hit me during one of the happiest moments of my life.  That’s how grief works, it’s messy and unpredictable.  You’re smiling one minute and then the next you’re grabbing the nearest form of life support riding a massive wave of grief.

Almost immediately we decided on an August wedding because my father would have turned 70 this August.  I wasn’t ready for the emotional roller coaster I was about to ride, I’m still not prepared for this ride.  I wasn’t prepared for all the questions from vendors that involved my Dad, and having to tell these well meaning people that my Dad is dead.  It doesn’t matter how you drop that bomb you will always have a few awkward moments of crickets chirping.

Planning my wedding without my father is bittersweet.  I  lost count of how many times I have wanted to call him for his advice or to just hear his voice.  I will never have that moment that so many do with their fathers, giving the bride away, dancing and the anticipated father of the bride speech.  My heart aches when I think of this.

The void of my father is massive. But there are moments where I can feel my father’s love, moments if I am quiet and listen carefully I can hear his voice and feel the warmth of his smile as the sun glistens on my face.  I am realizing that I not a fatherless bride. My father may no longer here physically, but as my father said to me the night he died, he will always be my father and I will always be his baby.

Our bond is intangible, unbreakable and unforgettable; no distance, silence, or death could undo that connection.

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The Things They Don’t Tell Us About Grief

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Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I am a fatherless daughter.  For seven long years I watched my heroic father suffer and scream in pain.  Cancer stole bits and pieces of my father nonstop for seven tortuous years. Despite the fact that my father was surviving on a peg tube unable to eat or drink orally, enduring endless pain, I begged God not to take him because I simply could not imagine life without my father.  

I watched my parent’s fairy tale marriage evolve into never-ending hospital visits. The flowers that my father would bring home just because became a faded memory.  The love notes my father used to leave around the home for my mother were replaced by his shaky penmanship reminding him to take his never-ending list of medications.  

Our family spent 7 years searching for a cure for my father, begging God for mercy.  And then, just like that my father was gone.  When I lost my father I lost a big part of myself, my identity.  

The days following my father’s death, were spent in my “bereavement bunker”, my safe zone.  When my father took his last breath, I lost my voice.  I could not speak to anyone and just leaving the house was exhausting.   I have a confession, I didn’t wash my hair for the first 5 days following my father’s death, I was just too tired.  I was certain I thrown into my own personal hell the moment my father died.  My pain was gut wrenching and never-ending.

There were moments; there still are moments that I am positive the sounds of my breaking heart are deafening to anyone around me.  

My father just wasn’t my father, he was my friend, my best friend.  I will miss that bond for the rest of my life. See, I didn’t just speak to my father once in a blue moon, we spoke daily, sometimes multiple times a day right up until he took his last breath.  Each day without my father is an adjustment, and as more time passes it is a cruel reminder of the massive void in my life.  I still have moments when I retreat into my bereavement bunker because it feels as if the world cannot handle my grief.

Friendships, even some family relations are not immune to grief.  Despite what you may think, what television leads you to believe, some people will vanish when you need them the most.  Some people will say hurtful things at the most inappropriate times, even going as far as telling a new widow to “get over it”.  Many have no clue what to say or how to act.  Others are extremely uncomfortable around someone drowning in grief.  Some are petrified of how your grief makes them feel.   Some people are harboring their own guilt and resentment and simply cannot handle the depth of your grief.  Grief has a unique way of forcing you to do a friend and family purge, and forcing you to retreat to your bereavement bunker.  

Death is uncomfortable for many.  Death is a reminder of our own mortality and mortality is an uncomfortable thing to think about.

We get uncomfortable being in the presence of a woman who has lost her child, especially if you have your own little ones that you can’t imagine being without for even two seconds.  Or the new widow.  It’s terrifying to think of life without your partner.  Simply put, it’s difficult to know what to say to a person who has experienced a traumatic loss.  

Unfortunately we all experience loss at some point in our lives, it’s inevitable.  

Your grieving friends and family need you now more than ever.  Time will lessen the sting, but for the griever the moment their loved one died they were handed a life sentence without parole.  Grievers wake up each morning and pray that something, someone will give us a glimmer of hope to get through the day.

Reach out and touch your grieving friends in any way you can.  Now is the time to shower them with unconditional love, their hearts are shattered.   I promise you, your grieving friends will never forget the ones that were their light, their glimmer of hope as they sat isolated in their bereavement bunker.  

 

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To My Father As I Plan My Wedding

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Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I am missing you with a new painful sting these days.

I miss calling you and discussing my wedding plans, I miss your advice, I miss laughing with you.  You have only been gone for a year, but my grief has blindsided me since my engagement last month.

I really miss being your daughter as I plan my wedding day.

I’m just a few weeks into planning the best day of my life and I feel like you died all over again.  Lately, I find myself constantly telling strangers that you are deceased, sending me crashing into those ferocious waves of grief.

Fathers are such a significant part of a bride’s wedding day.

From the flower that I am supposed to pin on your tux to our father daughter dance. Every single time I tell someone that you will not be attending they respond with a sad face and offer condolences shattering my heart all over again.

We want this to be a celebration of love and we are trying to weave you into our wedding day in various ways.  But it’s not the same, and boy oh boy does it hurt.  They sell memorial pins and I can hang a photo of you on my bouquet.  Some magazines tell fatherless brides to reserve a chair in your memory or light a candle for you.  All agonizing reminders that that I will be a fatherless bride.

How can the happiest day of my life also be one of the most painful days of my life?

I proudly wear your wedding ring on my neck every single day, I wore it the day I found my gown. It took all my strength not to burst into tears when I “said yes to the dress”, knowing that you will not be there to walk me down the aisle, dance with me or give one of your memorable speeches.

Your wedding ring hanging next to my heart is another cruel reminder that you are no longer here.

Three days before you died I sat with you in the hospital and cried harder than I ever cried. I told you how terrified I was to lose you.  I begged you to stay because you couldn’t miss my wedding, I needed you in my life, forever preferably.  It sounds so selfish, because you were in so much pain, but I didn’t want to let go.  The fear of losing you was an agonizing gut wrenching pain.  With tears in your eyes you smiled, held my hand and promised me you would be there.

It has been so heartbreaking and lonely with you gone but I want you to know that I am not alone any more. The day Ronen proposed he officially became my family and each day we are building a future together.

Dad, you will always be my first love, my forever hero.

Thank you for loving me, supporting me and guiding me. Thank you for every compliment you gave mom, because from you, I’ve learned what it truly means to unconditionally love your spouse.

A girl’s first true love is her father.
—Marisol Santiago

 

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A Letter To My Father One Year After His Death

dadlisaDear Dad,

It’s been one year and one month since you are gone.  According to Google that’s 9490.01 hours but to me it feels like an eternity.  I still wake up in the morning thinking this is a nightmare and you’re not really gone.  At night I look at the sky and make a wish on the brightest star I see and I believe it is you.

When I was young you told me we grieve for ourselves because the deceased are in a better place.  As a woman, I know that is true, but I still miss you terribly.  For seven years I watched you endure horrific pain.  I prayed and pleaded with God to heal you.  Towards the end of your life I was so angry that my prayers were not answered.  You were not supposed to die unable to eat; it seemed like such a cruel death sentence for such a good man.

When you died my grief became so overwhelming and suffocating that on numerous occasions I was convinced that I too was dying.  My heart was so heavy and the pain was unbearable.  You played a major role in my life and now you were gone.  For my entire existence we spoke every single day, even when I was away in college.  That’s 40 years of saying “I love you”, 40 years of being a Daddy’s girl, 40 years of feeling safe, 40 years pure, unconditional love.  And now just like that you were gone.

Would I ever smile again?

Watching Mom mourn you is unbearable, there are times I’m certain I can hear the sounds of her heart breaking.  I watched Mom selflessly care for you throughout your marriage, but with extra care the past 7 years.  So much that it was not uncommon for you to shout to the doctors that you were alive because of Mom.  As your health began to fail, Mom was the one breathing life into you each day.  I will never forget how your eyes would light up with joy when Mom entered the room.  You and Mom showed me what true, unconditional love looks like.  Hearing the gut wrenching sounds of Mom mourn you is a heartbreaking, agonizing experience.

How do I comfort someone mourning their soulmate when I don’t even know how to comfort myself?

The people who I thought were going to be my anchors quickly became the holes in my lifeboat.  Complete, utter disappointments.  Our family desperately needed kindness, love and support, anything else seemed cruel and unwelcome.  Taking a page out of your book I chose to break ties and ignore.  One of the greatest lessons you taught me is to quiet a fool with silence.  Unfortunately death brings out quite a few fools.

But you prepared me for this.

From teaching me how to walk, to throw a ball, even to dance while standing on top of your feet, you showed me ways to stand on my own two feet.  A dad’s job is not only to protect his little girl, but also to show her how to defend herself when, one day, he is not around.

You were the biggest influence in my life.  

A father is the one who guides his daughter through life, and now even in death you are guiding me. You are constantly showing me that love never dies. You speak to me through feathers, music and if I listen closely I can still hear your sweet voice.

Your death has been a mysterious doorway with so much painful grieving for me.  Heartache that I never knew was possible and mysterious because I never know how or when that door is going to open and pull me in.

It’s been a full year and one month since your death you are still opening that door comforting me.  Sometimes it is gut wrenching pain, like the other day when Josh Groban’s “Your Raise Me Up” came on in the store and I felt a faint brush on my cheek.  I KNEW it was you and started sobbing in the middle of Stop and Shop.  Or when I’m driving to work in the morning and I can smell you, and for a moment I can feel you sitting next to me in the car.  Or when a beautiful fluffy white feather crosses my path, and I smile because I know it’s you sending me love from above.  Since you have passed I have found enough feathers to build my own angel wings and visit you in heaven.

I miss you. 

I miss you even more today than one year and one month ago because it’s been 13 months since I heard your voice, heard your laugh, told you I love you and held your hand.

There is so much of you in me that I think I frighten Mom sometimes.  I have your sense of humor and share your love for life.  Mom is always telling me I have your eyes and heart. You loved people and a good party.  Since you have gone I have received endless photos, emails and texts telling me what a great man you were. I established a fund in your name where all monies go to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders.  I desperately want to help the countless individuals living with a swallowing disorder, people like you and families like us who felt so isolated.  Last weekend I hosted my first fundraiser.  Dad, 52 people, some whom you never met came out to celebrate YOU and to help raise awareness.  Your passing has created another level of a new beautiful community.

Dad, you taught me what heroes are made of.   

You taught me how to love life even when it’s terrifying and difficult and you know it’s going to be painful.  As I sat and held your hand throughout my life and the past seven years of your pain and suffering, I saw an incredible person, my hero.

I learned how precious life is.

As I remember you one year and one month after your passing, the painful image of my very sick frail father is fading.  I will always carry your pain and suffering in my heart, but I can also see my father, my superhero, the strongest man in the world.  The man who raised me, the man who was my first love and my best friend.  The man who gave me butterfly kisses, taught me how to drive, how to dance while standing on top of his feet and how to appreciate Doo-Wop music.

These days I count how long you have been gone in milestones, and most recently I am engaged.  I now wonder how I can possibly survive my wedding day without you by my side, smiling and laughing.  Even though I can no longer hear your voice, I still see your face and I can feel your love.  You’re still with me, in my laughter, my smile, my tears and in my writing.

Love never dies, it simply evolves.

Love Always,

Lisa

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