lessons from grief

a shot of the surf coming into a beach
the beach near my dad’s old house

(cw: death of a parent, grief, major life changes)

whenever I’ve spoken to anyone in person about my dad’s death recently, I’ve always turned it into some “here is what I have learned from this” kind of situation, so I figured I would share those three lessons with y’all to start off this week since I’m taking a moment to remember them and recenter myself.

  1. listen to your damn doctor(s). my dad was 51, healthy as far as we knew, active—not exactly a top candidate for a heart attack, but he still had one. we later realized that he had some underlying health issues that, if treated, might have led to a different outcome (or maybe not… heart attacks are unpredictable). with that in mind, I came back from Puerto Rico and called literally every conceivable doctor to make an appointment. going back to old doctors, getting new ones, running new tests, looking into prescriptions… and I doubled-down on this year’s goal to make better health choices so I can maximize my time and the quality of whatever time I have.
  2. say what you need to say while you still have time. a recurring theme during my dad’s funeral was the, “I never got to say ______________.” a lot of us hadn’t spoken to him in a while or, if we had, it had been about something inconsequential—we’d been dancing around big things that are now forever unsaid. so, if there’s someone in your life you need to make amends with, or someone you really have things to say to? do it now, while you can. especially since we’re social distancing—write the email, make the phone call, schedule the video chat. show people that you care… they need it now more than ever.
  3. life is too damn short to be miserable. as we recapped my father’s life in our attempt to write our own eulogy, my siblings and I realized that life isn’t a series of achievements/ accomplishments/purchases/travels—it’s about the connections and the way we touch each other’s lives and what we do with those achievements/accomplishments/purchases/travels. so we sat there and thought about our own lives. if we were to watch the montage of our lives flash before our eyes like some overwrought death scene in a film, would we like what we see? would we feel satisfied? would we feel like we did all we could and lived as well as possible? the answer for several of us—definitely for me—was a resounding no… and that answer has haunted me for the past couple of months as I tried to figure out what needs to change.

my dad’s death changed my life—not just because I lost him, but because his death forced me to confront and accept a lot of things that I had been talking myself in circles around for weeks and months and years. and now, in the midst of a global pandemic, these lessons seem to me more important than ever.

I guess that, in his own way, my dad’s still trying to guide me on to a better path. ♥

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