It has been almost 6 months since my father died and I’m having a challenging sort of day. A friend just lost his father and the news kind of took me back. I feel for him and the loss that his family is experiencing now, I have a deep understanding of some of the emotional pain that he may be living through. I kind of feel weird because back then he reached out to me and I didn’t accept or connect with him. Today would have been today regardless of what I did back then, I just wonder how he is doing.
A month after my dad died, I meet a new friend whose father is terminally ill – well, that isn’t a great way to phrase it because he has been given a terminal diagnosis but it’s well down the road – a few years vs. the “get your affairs in order” timeline a lot of people are given. I love talking with her about the entire thing because it helps me remember and feel useful, and significant in a way.
The struggle one has during these times is their own. Some may look at the news her family received and claim that it is no news at all given that all of us will die at some point in the future. The same may look at what my family was told and say that must have been tough on us. But it’s all the same news when you get down to it. Death is a future event, be it 6 weeks or 60 years, there will be a time in the future when it end.
But it’s in the future and there is no amount of thinking that is going to alter the eventuality about it. I have tried for months to think my dad back into existence – not constantly, but there are moments when I realize that I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that he is gone and forever is a pretty long time. Even now, as I type this, there’s a piece of me that wonders if maybe it’s all just a big misunderstanding, that he’s lost somewhere, or on an extended vacation.
Weird, I know, but the reality is slow to register some of the time.
I was asked how I dealt with the news that my dad was going to be dead in a few months and feel like I’m in a position to actual answer the question. I let go of the fact that he was going to be dead in a few months when I was around him and I made my time about him, me and the family. When I wasn’t with him, I let out whatever was building and was lucky enough to have someone to hear me. I talked to him about it, my feelings and what was going on and then we only talked about it when I needed to, which wasn’t very often or when he needed to, which was even less often. My dad was accepting of it, he had lived as long as he was going to and he was content with his journey.
There wasn’t an elephant in the room because I let my dad set the tone and he kind of didn’t care that much. He ask that Des and I look after our mom, gave some other advice and then got back to living life – having a few beers, a lot of great food and laughing as much as possible. It’s odd, but up until right there, I wasn’t as aware of the absence of the beer, great food and laughing in my life recently….
So if asked for a couple of pieces of advice on how to handle the news of a terminal diagnosis I say:
How you think you are going to feel will be different from how you feel. My fathers death impacted me in very different ways than Natalie’s death. Natalie’s ended up being a lot more destructive and I should have gotten therapy to help manage it. Their death is coming and you don’t know how it will impact you so don’t try to think your way through it. The grief process is will written into our DNA and will look after itself when the time comes.
Anticipatory grief is likely, but not necessary. I say this because EVERYTHING breaks down. The confirmation of this doesn’t alter the reality, it just heightens ones awareness of it. Take it as an opportunity to get out there and have a little fun with life, yourself, your family and your planet.
In the end, when the process has worked its way through, I’ll have the wisdom to be very useful about this topic. Right now, as I move forward I remain grateful for having had a great life with my father and for having those last 6 weeks together. I file them away under “how to live each moment to the fullest”.