Embracing 2018 – 10 Grief Resolutions

Image-1The New Year often symbolizes a new beginning, but for those of us who are grieving the new year can represent yet another long year without our loved one.

New Years Eve was never really a big deal to me.  I would go out with friends but at midnight for as far back as I can remember, regardless of how old I was, I would receive at text from my Dad that said, “Happy New Year honey, we love you.”           

2017 was different, my father died January 17, 2016.  At midnight the following New Year there was no text from Dad.  The text I took for granted for so long was now just a fond memory.  The last day of that year meant entering a year that my father would never see.  A heartbreaking year of watching my mother learn how to live without her soulmate.  A year of being fatherless, wondering if this new gaping hole in my heart would ever stop hurting.  A year of so many tears that I was positive my eyes would dry out.

2017 was a beautiful, messy, chaotic year combined with overwhelming sadness and extreme happiness. 

I married the last love of my life without the first love of my life there.  I survived the trials and tribulations life so often throws into our paths without my father, the man I went to for everything.  I’m learning that if I can survive my wedding day without my father by my side I don’t really care who does or doesn’t like me.  I can’t be everyone’s cup of coffee and that’s okay.

I am not a big fan of new year resolutions.  It’s my opinion that they can be a tremendous disappointment if and when we fail to stick to them.  If you can be a better version of yourself right now why wait until the first of the year to do it?  Who doesn’t want to be a healthier, happier, more efficient version of themselves?

But what if we made a grief resolution?  What if we give a voice to our grief journey so that we may begin to heal?

We all grieve, but we all grieve differently.  It doesn’t matter if you lost your loved one this year or years ago, it is essential to remember that where there is great love, there is great grief.

Below are some grief resolutions I came up with and I hope they will help you as we embark on this new year together.

  • Say their name, scream their name from the rooftops if you must.  But never stop saying their name.
  • Be open to happiness – finding joy in life does not mean you are forgetting your loved one, it means you are honoring the life they lived and the role they played in your life.
  • Be honest about how your feel with yourself and others – if you are upset or something triggers your grief let friends know.
  • Practice self care daily – even if this is just a ten minute walk around the block, self care is the key to healing.
  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • Create new traditions honoring your loved one.
  • Keep your distance from toxic mean spirited people, they only steal your sunshine and hinder your healing.
  • Stop saying “I’m fine” if it’s not true.
  • Volunteer with an organization or cause that your loved one believed in.
  • Seek grief counseling if needed.


We all yearn for what we have lost. But sometimes, we forget what we have.”  Mitch Albom

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What Grieving Friends Really Need


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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Love Is Stronger Than Death


Photo Credit:  Pinterest

My father’s cancer journey and death instantly opened my eyes to the countless sacrafices both my parents continuously made for my sister and I our entire lives, even when my Dad was dying.

My Dad was the one who taught me how to throw a baseball, taught me how to dance while standing on top of his feet, took me out for chocolate ice cream on a hot summer day, and always made sure I had fresh parmesan cheese on my pasta…I’m Italian so that’s important!  My Dad held my hand my entire life and always had his white handkerchief available to wipe my tears.  My Dad was my real life super hero.

During my teen years my Dad spent many nights on the couch pretending to watch TV while waiting for me to come home from a “late night” out. I still remember the look of relief on his face when I would walk through the front door. During my college years, he tolerated my obnoxious need to challenge everything and my independent behavior. When I came home one afternoon and declared my desire to smoke cigarettes he smiled and said “Ok, but we smoke the first cigarette together.”  I tried one cigarette and quickly decided that wasn’t for me.

I can still hear my Dad laughing in disbelief at some of the boyfriends I would bring home. I had a strict curfew, and he made sure every single date that stepped foot into our home knew it.  He proudly informed my dates, “She has to be home at 12:00, NOT 12:01, 12:00, I’m a nice guy so don’t make me angry.  Have fun, but not too much fun. Remember 12:00 on the dot.”  

During my college years, he built a strong foundation of encouragement, love and support. When I spread my wings and went into the “real world” looking for my first real job he was always available for advice or to just listen, regardless of how trite my issues were.  I remained his baby while growing up into a woman that quickly realized I would always need my father by my side.

Throughout my entire adult life my father was my confidant and best friend.  Despite the fact that my father’s cancer eradicated his body, cancer was never, ever able to rob the magnificent father daughter relationship we shared. Despite how sick and frail his body became, in my eyes, my father always remained a larger than life, super hero.

Like many fathers, my Dad lived for his wife and children.  Lately I am beginning to think that there was a greater reason for his cancer journey and his death. My mother was my father’s caregiver for seven years.  They would have been married 43 years this past May. My father’s dying wish was for the world knew how fortunate he was to have a wife like my mother.  Family was everything to my father and he was eternally grateful for the selfless acts of caregiving my mother provided for him throughout their marriage and his sickness.  Even now, in his death I have vivid dreams of my Dad asking me to tell my mother how much he loves her, and even now in his death, we are finding love notes my father left behind for my mother.

Two days before my father died, he held my hand looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Always remember I’m alive because of your mother. She has dedicated her life to take care of me.  Now I need you and your sister to look out for her.  I will always love you and I will always be with you.”   The love my parents shared was a once in a lifetime kind of love.  I believe my mother was able to provide the type of care she did for so long because my parents had a marriage that fostered true altruism and unconditional love.  Throughout my entire life, including my father’s cancer I was given front row seats to see what true, unconditional love is.  Now in my father’s death, I am seeing, every single day that love never dies.

As I walk my grief journey I am evolving into a stronger person, a more patient person, a more compassionate person.  My father’s death has taught me that the simple things in life — a cup of coffee with a loved one, a daily phone call just to say hello, a walk on the beach, a sunset, a sunrise, even a rainstorm — all deserve tremendous gratitude.

Life is too short to waste time on the trivial matters.

As we expereince the ebb and flow of our grief, despite how much we are drowning in our sorrow, we should not hinder the legacy of our loved one.

My father is forever a part of me and lives on through my actions.

Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.
– Author Unknown



Your First Birthday In Heaven


Dear Dad,

August 21st was your first birthday in heaven.  Unlike the other special days that have gone by since you passed, this one hurt like hell. I woke up the morning of your birthday positive my heart was shattered in a million pieces.

This was your first birthday not here, your first birthday in my ENTIRE LIFE I didn’t spend watching you blow out candles. Even when you were at your worst, suffering, unable to eat you ALWAYS blew out your candles and made a wish.  This year there were no candles to blow out.  No clapping after they were blown out.  No searching for the perfect cards and gift.  This year there were only the sounds of my heart breaking into a million pieces.

We used to honor and celebrate you on this day and last week I couldn’t even bring myself to go to the cemetery.  The thought of going to the cemetery on your birthday made me physically ill.   I didn’t want to look at your headstone glistening in the sun.  I didn’t want to talk to the dirt and leave you flowers and balloons.

I searched high and low for the appropriate present for you, now that you are you know, dead.  But I was at a loss.  Lord & Taylor was having a sale on Men’s shirts.  Linens & Things had an extra 20% off for back to school.  Even Macy’s was having a sale.  But nothing for the Dad up in heaven.  I never brought you flowers while you were alive and now here we are seven months later and it’s flowers galore and whatever else I can leave at your grave to not to get destroyed from the elements.

I spent the day mourning your absence, really missing you.  Nothing is the same now that you gone.

I hope that you had an awesome birthday up in heaven.  I hope you were finally able to eat that piece of cake and wash it down with that big cup of coffee.  I hope God had a camera  on your birthday and He took a photo of you so we can see you eating again.  My rational mind knows that you are at peace, but my heart aches that you died unable to eat.

Seven months since you have passed and I miss you more now than the day we lost you.  I find myself looking for your magnetic qualities in people.  I look for your warmth, radiance and compassion.  I search for your sense of humor, and your unbelievable strength of character.  I look for your face in the crowd, I listen for your voice in the middle of the night.  So many things will never be the same.  You were a one of a kind father and you are irreplaceable.

I miss you Dad.

Your absence was magnified on your birthday.  I know you can hear me, and I’m trying my best not to be sad.  But some days are tough. Whenever I ask you for a sign that you are okay you always send me a beautiful white feather. On your birthday you made sure to send me a fluffy white feather. That’s so like you to give me a gift on your special day.

I want to thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me.  You taught me to be strong, to have courage and to have faith.  Dad, you taught me to love with all my heart, no matter what and to always be truthful.  You taught me to be passionate and fearless regardless of what others thought. During one of our last conversations you told me to be kind and trust in the Lord.

Although you are no longer here  in physical form, you live forever in my heart.  You are constantly showing me that love never dies.

On your birthday and each day I honor you.  I honor your faith and strength.  I honor your love and commitment.   Together, with Mom, you both taught me the meaning of true love and what it is to be a parent.  On your birthday I lit a candle and thanked you for always being my hero and showing me what true unconditional love is.

Happy Belated Birthday Daddy!  I love and miss you!

Love You Forever,

Lisa Mia XO






After the Storm Passes

Anyone that has lost a loved one knows all too well that the grieving begins after the funeral is over.  The immediate family returns home to significant void.  The night my father passed we walked into the house to find his coat hanging in the closet and his slippers next to the couch glaring at us.  Golf clubs still in the garage waiting for my Dad to get better for just one more round of golf.  We still awkwardly make our way around my father’s chair.  Many times we think, do we sit there or not?  Constant reminders of my father are scattered throughout the house.  If I close my eyes and concentrate sometimes I can still hear his laugh.

Good intentions of well wishers vanish into thin air.  The immediate family is left with a broken heart, a massive void in the family and a few hefty bags of the deceased loved ones belongings.

Every single relationship in your life is reevaluated.  Friendships 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.  Did they read between the lines today and “get it?”  Do they know that today is the day your grief is so overwhelming that you feel like Rose on the Titanic desperately searching for Jack or some sort of life support?  Is their crystal ball working today????  

Since my Dad passed my entire life has evolved into a combination of countdowns and firsts.  It’s been 3 and a half months since my Dad passed.  Meaning it’s been three and a half months since I heard my father’s voice, held his hand, kissed and hugged him.  It’s been countless phone calls without hearing my father’s voice say, “It’s my Lisa Mia!” Other than my grandfather who is also passed, no one calls me Lisa Mia.  It’s been my first Valentines Day, first Easter, now my first Mother’s Day the first of many dreaded firsts in 2016.  Saturday was the first time I saw my father’s name etched in stone at his grave.  After some gut wrenching sobs I blew kisses to his name, looked up at the sky and whispered, “I love you Dad.”  



Slowly, you begin to rank relationships based on who reached out to you on those firsts because you begin to realize this is your life support when the tidal waves of grief come crashing down.

One thing grief does is it opens your eyes to one’s true colors.  You quickly learn the meaning of actions speak louder than words.  You find yourself silently observing what a person does because it tells you who they really are.

I’m sure there are some that find this blog too sobering and are one click away from the block button.  I’m ok with that!  But before you do, I urge you to take a peek.  Lately I find myself saying, “If only I knew then what I know now.”  

Often times I find myself thinking of my friends who lost loved ones prior to my Dad’s passing.   I hope that I was as supportive to them as they have been to me.  Did I send a card, basket or express condolences like countless others have done for me.  Or did I just pretend that their loved one never died like some have done to me?  Did I pass someone by shortly after the death of their beloved loved one and not offer condolences?  Gosh, I hope not because I now know how agonizing this pain is, and I now understand that as time passes you WANT to remember your loved one.

Losing someone you love is painful.  Grieving is a personal and individual experience.  But sadly, we will all grieve at one point in life.  Why not be that person that picks up the phone or sends a text?

Why not be the person who is there after the storm passes? 

Mom, the First Person I call in Times of Need & Times of Triumph

 Dear Mom:

Happy Mother’s Day!

I know you are not in the mood to celebrate today.  Your heart is shattered and you are feeling lost without Dad.   My heart aches watching you mourn Dad.  I wish I could ease some of your pain, but I know mourning a love story like yours and Dad’s requires time.

I want to start this letter by telling you how much I love you.  I want you to know how much I treasure our relationship how much I need you in my life, now more than ever.

You are the most important woman in my life.  Growing up I did not realize all that you did for me.  Like the time I came home crying that all the kids next door were having a picnic and I wasn’t invited.  You set up all my stuffed animals on a blanket outside and we had our own picnic.  You always cut the ends off the bread on my sandwiches and catered to all my picky eater requests, and we both know those requests were endless!  As I grew into a rebellious teenager with a smart mouth you always had my back, despite how much I tried to push you away.  I wish I gave you more hugs back then rather than grief.   Thank you for loving me when I was unloveable and believing in me when I was an unbelievable little witch.

I watched you with complete admiration as you selflessly cared for Dad during his illness.  Your angelic caregiving abilities are a reflection of your beautiful soul.

You made me the woman I am today.

You are the strongest person I know, you are brave and courageous.  You inspire me to be a better person.

There is no one that I trust, and appreciate more than you.  You are always the first person I call in times of need and in times of triumph.  You are my very own cheering squad.

You have made tremendous scrafices to raise your family and most recently take care of Dad the past 7 years.  I am incredibly blessed to be your daughter.

Thank you for loving me unconditionally.   Thank you for all the lessons, laughter love.

I love you!



Prader Willi Awareness Month

I don’t have children of my own, but I’m a proud Auntie.  I brag at every opportunity and share their photos excessively.  I’m fortunate that two of these magnificent little girls are my sister’s children. I absolutely adore each of these babies.  My oldest niece is 4 years old and my youngest is 3 years old.  I’m blessed that my sister has made me an integral part of their lives.  I remember putting a flashlight on her belly during pregnancy to feel “my babies” move and eagerly counting down to their arrival.  I started spoiling them pre-birth.

My younger niece, Ciara has a rare disorder called “Prader Willi Syndrome.”  When you ask my sister what PWS is below is her response:

PWS is a rare, life threatening disorder with an unknown cause. There is no cure. There are no words to explain how it has changed every aspect of our lives. Aside from developmental delay there are multiple medical complications. Many kids don’t make it to adulthood.

It’s very difficult for my sister to discuss her daughter’s diagnosis.  Both my sister and her husband are amazing parents.  I watch them in awe as they balance full time careers, a 4 year old daughter,  a 3 year old daughter with a rare disorder and now two foster dogs.

Parents with a special needs child are our silent heroes. Their only goal is for the comfort and well being of their child. They quickly learn how to seize the day because they know the value of life. They take nothing for granted.

Our entire family celebrates when Ciara reaches a milestone that most parents take for granted.

Our entire family loves someone with a rare disorder now.

My sister’s family lives a lifestyle that is rare.  Frequent doctor visits, therapy since birth. Diet modifications. Nightly growth hormone injections. They live a routine, one that is uncommon to most families.

My niece illuminates pure, unconditional love. She loves me for who I am.  She can teach the entire world a thing or two about love at just 3 years old.

My niece is the definition of strength, hope and courage.  She is brave, she is my niece and I’m proud to be her Aunt and share her DNA.

May is Prader Willi Awareness month.  This is for my beautiful niece Ciara Elise who defines bravey and courage.  She is my little hero.

Click here for information on Prader Willi Syndrome.

The below photos are a collection of her mother’s favorite pictures.

A letter to Myself

FullSizeRender  Dear Lisa:

This is your 40 year old self writing to you. I’m writing to you 3 months after Dad’s passing.  In your 40 years of existence these are the darkest moments of your life.  The pain can be so agonizing that you will feel it in your bones.

I’m writing to you to make sure you understand just how important family is and hope that you understand the moments that you think are the end of the world are really just stepping stones in your life.

Mom and Dad will not have their health forever.  Treasure them.  Appreciate your time with your family.  Go to Disney with them, take the family car ride to North Carolina and spend more lazy Sunday afternoons in the pool with them.  In the end these moments are what matters.

You’re going to go through an awkward preteen stage.  You will hide your face with your hair, crimp your hair and “Sun In” your hair.  Thanks for the damage to our hair, but I’ll write about that another time!  Most of all you will be reluctant to take family photos because you think you look less than perfect.  Dad’s health will deteriorate and when he dies those photos are your lifeline.  Take the photos regardless of how you look!  You will be embarrassed to hold Mom and Dad’s hands in public.  STOP THAT.  Hold their hands as tight as you can and never let go.  Stop worrying what other’s think.  Make tons of beautiful memories.

You will get your heart broken, but it’s not the end of the world and it’s certainly not worth all that sulking.  Your first marriage will be a colossal mistake.  He will kick you when you are down and his lies will cut you like a knife.  Dad will tell you endlessly, “You can always come home.”  Eventually you will go home. But you are going to waste time being angry, sad and disappointed.  Throughout your divorce Dad will become your anchor, cherish these moments. 

Eventually you will meet your soul mate, and you will get butterflies every time you see him not because you are fearful but because he shows you unconditional love and pushes you to be a better person.  In the end you will realize your happiness is not the result of any man, your happiness is the result of YOU.  Read these words clearly…..both Mom and Dad were right.

Dad is going to get cancer.  Your entire world will stop spinning the day you find out. 

During Dad’s journey try to remember that Mom is human too.  Mom is going to be Dad’s caregiver, and you know her caregiving abilities are similar to Mother Theresa.  She’s not going to say she’s exhausted until she’s ready to fall over.  Hug her often, tell her you love her daily.  During Dad’s illness your relationship with Mom will form an even stronger bond. As you watch her care for Dad you will admire her for her strength and courage.  She’s not just your mother, she’s the definition of bravery and selfless love.

Dad’s cancer journey becomes your own personal crusade to restore his ability to eat.  You are going to torture yourself trying to find “the one” that can help.  Your will watch cancer rip him apart bit by bit.  He will die unable to eat or drink.  Please cherish all the family meals you have with him.  By the way, try the calamari, it’s nice that Dad pays you $20 to try new foods, but stop being so picky and eat the damn food!  You’re going to like it when you’re older anyway!  Trust me.

Accept what is happening is God’s will and cherish the limited time you have with Dad.  You will have a very difficult time with this.  Being angry at God only makes this road more difficult.

Some will gossip and burn the candlestick at both ends.  Be wary of the wolf in sheep clothing.  It’s ok to respectfully put them in their place if they over step.  No one should have free range to bash your mother.  Her strict curfews, no riding in cars with boys and other rules are all out of love. She’s not being mean, she’s being a parent. Remember, you and your sister are the only people who know the sounds of Mom’s heartbeat from the inside.  There is no bond greater than that of a mother and a daughter.  It will take watching Dad die for you to cut this person off.  Don’t waste time agonizing over the details.  Like Dad always says, “Gossip is for small minded people.” 

When Dad dies you will have no regrets because you listen to yourself and tell him tirelessly how much you adore him, and he will tell you with his last breath that he adores you.  Accepting Dad’s mortality will be one of most difficult moments in your life.  Holding his hand as he takes his last breath will shatter your heart and it will be at that moment that you will realize Dad was right all along.

Hold your head high and be proud of who you are today.  You have the fairy tale father daughter relationship.  You have a family who loves you.  You have your health.  You are strong.  You are blessed.


Lisa xoxo


A Grandmother’s Love

It is a magnificent blessing to really get to know your Grandmother throughout your adulthood. I am blessed to have a healthy, accomplished 85 year old Grandmother.  She is the last of my Grandparents and I value her wisdom, love and friendship.

I have always known the true value of family; now with my father gone I’m feeling it in my soul.

Grandma, Dad always valued his relationship with you. He said you never made him feel like an in law – he felt like a son.  This is something he told me up until days before his death.

As my father’s health deteriorated, I began to lean on you for guidance. During the darkest moments of my life you have offered encouragement, advice and honestly.

As I reflect on my father’s illness and my mother’s angelic caregiving abilities, I am realizing these qualities were inherited from you. I watched my mother transform into a hero as she was Dad’s caregiver.  She selflessly cared for Dad for 7 years.  Many times I would look at my mother in awe and wonder where her courage, kindness and resilience came from.  How could I not realize these characteristics are an inherited quality from you?

You the strongest woman I know, you are living proof that life goes on despite the detours life throws in our path.

You beat cancer, heart issues, survived World War II and so much more.  You are one of the most vivacious, optimistic, and resilient people I have ever known.

After my father died I counted down the minutes for you to arrive. Your hug instantly brought me back to my childhood.  During one of the saddest times of my life you made me feel safe and warm.  I didn’t want to let go and return to reality.

As we grieve the traumatic loss of my father I watch you selflessly hold us up. You are the light in the darkness guiding as we find our way in this new life without Dad. You are the definition of bravery and wisdom.  You are my Grandmother and I am proud to be your oldest granddaughter.
Photo Credit:  www.puzzlemobi.con

Grief, Kindness & Love

 Grief comes in waves. When the waves come crashing you grab for the closest form of life support.

When my Dad took his last breath a part of my heart left with him. Years of watching my father suffer, years of begging God to be merciful were now done. Just like that my life changed. And just like that my heart felt something it never felt before, excruciating pain. Pain so deep I thought I was going to die myself.

I developed my own little force field where I quickly realized I was unable to leave. My house, my parents house and my sister’s house.  Anything beyond that was disastrous.

Of course I had to leave the force field to visit the dreaded funeral home. My sister and I assisted our grief stricken mother as we prepared my fathers final goodbyes. We were already so tired, the thought of a wake was paralyzing me with fear. I worried my father’s wake was too overwhelming for my Mom after years of caregiving.  The thought of people commenting on my father’s appearance made me cringe.  Commenting on how sick he looked, how skinny he was, the color of his suit.   The image of him laying peacefully in his casket with his hands gently folded holding his rosary while guests were staring at him began to enrage me.  Rage quickly consumed my body. I didn’t want anyone to see or touch my father.  This wasn’t a special screening to an exclusive movie, this was my father.  I mean why do they call it a “viewing” anyway?   Why did we need to have a “viewing time” for a bunch of people to stand over my father’s body and make small talk?  Who thought of this form of torture for the surviving family member?

I began to question everyone, and think thoughts I’m now ashamed of.  I was angry, my father was dead and NOW people wanted to come see him?  It seemed so backwards to me. I was totally consumed with anger.  Knowing what I was thinking, my sister held my hand, smiled, looked into my eyes and said, “But it’s Dad.”  Ugh!  She was right.  At that moment my sister convinced my mom and I we had to do a wake. Between tears and heartache we made the arrangements complete with a proper military burial.

The dreaded day of the wake arrived.  The thought of walking into a room and seeing my sweet father in a casket was paralyzing me with fear. My mom and I slowly walked in for our private family viewing. Although I am the adult child comforting my mother, at that moment I felt myself regress to a child, grasping my mother’s hand for comfort and safety.  The funeral director greeted us with his programmed sad face and began babbling about how my father looked “fantastic.” telling us we are going to be very pleased.  To his defense we expressed concern about my Dad’s appearance because the cancer ravaged his body, but I wasn’t in the mood to discuss how “fantastic” my dead father looked.  I’m not sure what came over me but I looked at him and said, “He’s in THE box! No one looks fantastic in THE BOX.”  Well, that shut him up and thank goodness because I wasn’t in the mood to chit chat with the Grim Reaper for the rest of my father’s wake.

When we saw my father we cried enough tears to fill the Hoover Dam. Family viewing time ended and the room began to fill with countless guests.  As I sat next to my mother I felt like a Jack in the box getting up and down to hug people. People with tears brimming in their eyes. Grown men weeping over the loss of a great friend.  I began to feel silly for the rage I was feeling the other day.  I began to see the massive impact my father had on so many people, some people I never even met.

Slowly my anger was morphing into agonizing pain and a great sense of pride.  I scanned the room again and realized these people drove from near and far to pay respects to my father.  A four hour car ride to say your final goodbyes to a friend is nothing short of magnificent.  These people loved my father and were taking time out of their busy lives to pay their respects and offer condolences to Al’s girls.

What happened next was truly amazing.  I was making my way to the ladies room and I saw a group of uniformed police officers.  Please understand I felt like a Clydesdale horse walking around with blinders on.  I walked directly into the officer and he proceeded to hug me and offer me his condolences.  Wait what?  I rubbed my eyes and realized  this officer was one of my boyfriend’s officers.  These men all took time out of their busy schedules to drive to headquarters, put their uniforms on and then drive another hour to my fathers wake.  One by one each officer walked to my mother then my father’s casket and paid their respects.  I was overcome with gratitude and pride, I watched the entire room grow silent and observe a single file of uniformed police officers pay their final respects to my Dad.  I was moved to tears of pride.

It was at that time I was positive I felt my father touch my shoulder.  I know he was proud.

The outpouring of love and grief was apparent throughout the evening and into the burial the next day.  My father had an amazing send off, complete with The NJ State Police guiding our procession to the cemetery (special thanks to my brother in law) and the United States Army playing Taps at my father’s grave commemorating his service.

These are days that I will never forget.  They were the saddest days of my life, but they also opened my eyes to the kindness of others.  Kindness that was given to us during a time when we had nothing to offer.

You never forget the people who pay their respects to a deceased loved one.  I hope their behavior will help me to display the same acts of kindness towards others.