You Were Here…And Now You’re Gone

pexels-photo-105857.jpegYou were here, there and everywhere with me.

We shared private family jokes. We were friends, enemies, teammates and competitors.

You were here to take silly selfies, laugh and cry with me.

You were here to send text messages and discuss our day.

You were here to offer advice on clothing, makeup and hair.

Your laughter was infectious, your smile stunning.  Your presence glorious as you entered the room.

You were here to hold, to touch and then just like that you became a memory.

I miss you every single day.

I think about our last conversation and wonder…will you remember how much I love you, how I valued our relationship?

If my love could have saved you, you would be here.

We never really thought you wouldn’t be here, with us where you belong.

You were here for the small, uneventful moments as well as the significant life events.

My grief was thrust upon me without warning.

My grief is dark, tragic, messy and painful.  There are moments my grief completely knocks me off course leaving me feeling vulnerable, lonely and confused.

You were here and now you’re gone.

The pain is brutal and debilitating at times. This thing called grief can be incredibly isolating and empty at times. Despite the people surrounding me no one really knows the constant ache in my heart.

Things unfinished, words unspoken, a young life unlived.

You were here, there and everywhere and now you’re gone.

We were a dynamic duo, except I wasn’t your equal. You were the brains, the beauty and the laughter. I was the assistant, your accomplice.

We had an unwritten agreement to enter old age together, sipping hot cocoa by the fire reminiscing about the good ole days.  And now you’re gone, and I’m here alone awkwardly wandering through life without you.

But I am still here.

I am still here to be your living, breathing legacy.

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The Lies They Tell Us about Grief

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Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Grief is a natural reaction when we suffer the loss of a loved one.  Unfortunately our society has no idea on how to handle grief and how to treat someone who has just suffered the loss of a great love.

For starters when someone dies we say passed, transitioned or whatever else comes to mind.  When my father died I had an older relative (bless her soul) reprimand me for saying my father died.  What is wrong with the word dead?  Last time I checked that’s what he was dead.  But for some death forces us to think about our own mortality, our own failures in life and that’s just too much to handle.  So instead we fluff our words, walk on eggshells and avoid saying trigger words.

Something happens when someone you love dies.  If you are like me and you are forced to watch your real life super hero suffer it changes you.  You feel helpless as you watch someone you love slowly fade away.  When your person dies so does a piece of you.  You are left with a tremendous hole in your heart.  Your soul weeps and no matter what you do there is no way to comfort it.

As you begin to walk your grief journey well meaning friends repeat the myths they have heard or the lies that were told to them when they suffered a loss.  They know no other way because our society knows no other way.  Society wants us to get over it and move on, and if we can’t get over it they want us to put on a pretty grief mask when we are out in public.  Grief is the elephant in the room wearing a pink tutu that no one wants to acknowledge.  But the truth is where there is great love there is great grief that lasts a lifetime and us grievers desperately want to acknowledge it.

Below are some of the lies we encounter throughout our grief journey:

  1.  You must stop living in the past and move on

This is something we love to tell our widowed community.  As a grieving daughter I cringe when I hear people tell my newly widowed mother to “move on.”  People who tell someone grieving to move on do not know loss.   They say ignorance is bliss and in this situation it sure is.  It’s easy to tell a heart broken widow to move on when you’re going home to your significant other.  Think about the irony of that and how hurtful it is.  Instead of telling Peggy to move on try saying, “I have no idea how you’re feeling but I’m here for you.”

Remembering our loved ones keeps their presence with us and is a way of honoring them and a way of honoring our feelings.  It keeps the love alive.

2.  You need to get over it

No one has the right to tell you how you feel.  There is no time stamp on grief.  There is no normal way to grieve.  Our grief is as unique as a snowflake.  You do not have to get over it.

3.  You really shouldn’t talk about him or her so much

As long as I have breath in me I will be my father’s living breathing legacy.  I write to keep my father’s memory alive.  The only people who cannot bear to hear you speak of your beloved are those who are unable to accept their own mortality.  What better way to honor a beautiful life than to extend all the love we can no longer give our loved ones to others?  Talking about our loved ones creates legacy for our loved ones in a world that would rather bury its emotions and move on.

These are just some of the myths that we are told while grieving a great loss.  The truth is no one can understand what you lost.  No one can understand the searing pain you are feeling in your heart.  No one can understand that there are times you want to die as well; no not because you are suicidal but because you yearn to hear your loved ones voice one more time, to hug them one more time or to tell them you love them one last time.  Death is final, grief lasts a lifetime.

It is true, where there is great love there is great grief.  And what a privilege it is to love that deeply.

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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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