subject line: the dead dad's club.

 

Boise, Idaho

Nothing can prepare you for losing your dad. You know a few people your age who have lost a parent. You think about how sad that would be, but you don’t dwell on it long because your dad is still living. Then your dad is diagnosed with leukemia and your world falls apart.

You’re hopeful that it can be treated, but the future is suddenly unclear and unsure. Did we just celebrate his last birthday on earth? But he’s just turned 75. He’s so young! Was that his last Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years? Time is going too fast and he’s too sick. What will the world be like if he isn’t here? You’re still single. If you get married and have kids...he won’t be there, will he? He can’t die. He’d miss too much. You’d miss him too much.

Before you know it, barely 4 months after being diagnosed, the doctors are telling you treatment isn’t working. You hear words like ‘hospice’ and ‘quality of life.’ The ambulance takes him home from the hospital and paramedics put him into a bed that he will never leave. You experience what hospice calls ‘anticipatory grief’ as he becomes unresponsive. You care for him, sing to him, pray over him, share memories with him and give him permission to leave you, even though it’s not what you want. Then, the moment you hoped would never come, your dad takes his last breath. It’s excruciating. The man who was your dad is no longer in the body that failed him. You’re relieved that he’s no longer in pain and crushed because he’s gone. He’s gone.

You’re swept into a weird dimension with funeral planning and a wall of grief that separates you from the rest of the world. Everything is a haze. You’re numb and broken. People blow your mind with how they show up for you. They will clean your apartment, feed you and bring you wine. They’re a small shimmering light in the overwhelming darkness.

Then you go to your dad’s funeral.
You.
Go.
To.
Your.
Dad’s.
Funeral.
And your heart breaks again.

It’ll be the most beautiful tribute and service you could imagine. You’ll talk to too many people you don’t know and thank them for coming. It’ll feel simultaneously significant and stupid. Because your dad shouldn’t be dead.

The days will turn into weeks and before you know it, it’s been 6 weeks since he passed. It’ll be what would have been your parents 35th wedding anniversary. You’re dreading the other momentous dates to follow.

People will start forgetting and you’ll get better at hiding your grief. When people do remember to ask how you are, you’ll say something lame like, “I’m doing as well as can be expected.” As if that means something. You’ll still feel that wall of grief that separates you from everyone else. If you’re lucky you have a few people that won’t mind how much you talk about death and your dead dad. You might even have some people in your life with the unfortunate wisdom that comes with losing someone, to remind you how death is THE worst and show you how to keep living.

Death is stupid.
Grief is weird.
I miss my dad.