Grieving the Loss of a Parent as a Parent


A woman grieving. It was 6 a.m. on January 3rd, and I finally mustered the energy to wake up early and dust off my Peloton to start my year off “right.” Just moments into my ride, my husband interrupted, and I immediately knew; my dad had crossed over the bridge.

He had been diagnosed with two forms of blood cancer in 2018 and had found a treatment plan with very little interruption to his day-to-day life. We would see some flare-ups, which always gave me a pit in my stomach, but then he’d go back into remission, and it would be “fine” again. This time, he had gotten COVID along with a flare-up, and his body couldn’t fight any longer.

I watched through FaceTime as he quickly faded. He was so alive and happy, but he quickly became a shell of himself as he faded away.

When I heard the news, I had little emotion other than confusion and thoughts of what would happen now? I was supposed to be feeling, but I felt nothing. I was in shock; I didn’t know what to do, so I laid down and slept for another eight hours. I knew this day would come but had hoped it would have been much longer before we faced it.

My dad and I were always close, we had a great relationship, and I joined our family business ten years ago. We worked side by side, enjoyed business trips, grabbed lunch, and often commuted together, which strengthened our bond.

Grief, like parenthood, is nothing anyone can ever prepare or describe until you experience it firsthand. The deep pain that comes with grief is a feeling you can never imagine, just like your love for your child.

I didn’t know what to do with my emotions or lack of them, so I went into autopilot. I threw myself back into work, provided for my family, and continued as I thought my dad would have wanted me to.

Three months later, I realized for the first time that grief is not linear. I have been told there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but again, until you experience it, it’s nearly possible to understand. Having attended funerals like most of us, from the outside, you rush to the side of your friends or family who lost loved ones as soon as the news hits, prepare for the services, and then life moves on.

Seeing others move on when their world is still crashing down is hard. The pain and sorrow don’t just disappear once the services are over. We are stuck trying to return to ‘normal’ when life will never be the same.

There are days when I remember his voice, look at videos, and find myself so deep in my sorrow that it’s hard to breathe. Then, my daughter will wake up or call me from the other room. I take a deep breath, wipe my tears to pull myself together, and compartmentalize that emotion for another time.

Being a parent and dealing with grief is challenging. Most (if any) don’t have the resources to completely take over parenting responsibilities so that you can take that time to grieve. Because of that, in my opinion, it extends that grief as we have to continuously hit pause and restart when we have the time to be with those emotions.

It reminds me of the part in Love Actually where Emma Thompson finds herself emotional (for very different reasons) behind her bedroom door. Her kids call her, and she tidies the bed and puts on a happy face for everyone.

At that moment, I realize the sacrifices parents make to provide for their children, even at the expense of their own pain.

I try to be happy and grateful I had my dad as long as I did and had such a wonderful, loving parent. However, it makes me sad and sometimes angry to think he was robbed of his golden years, memories with his family that meant so much to him, and, more importantly, that people will begin to forget him.

It pains me to know the time my daughter and I had with him will eventually surpass the time we didn’t. As I scroll through my phone of pictures and videos, mainly of my daughter, husband, and dogs, the pictures of him continue to fall further in my timeline. I sometimes redirect conversations when people offer their condolences, fearing that I will sob uncontrollably. Still, the fact of the matter is I don’t want to stop talking about him and the memories we had together.

He was one of my favorite people, and I want those to remember him for the great husband, father, grandfather, and friend that he was. It’s a way to keep him alive in my heart, even for a little longer.

So many wonderful resources have helped many I know, whether it be books, podcasts, or online or in-person communities. Right now, I’m not in a place where I am ready for that. And that is ok too. Know that there is no timeline if you are grieving or anticipating grief. There is no right or wrong, but make sure you find time for yourself.

What has helped you cope with grief?


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