This coming April marks three years of my father gone from this Earth. The purpose of me putting my story out there, for the whole world to read, is to give other young adults hope that life goes on after the death of a parent. I hope readers who are grieving in their lives can find comfort in my story and know that there’s nothing wrong with sharing your experience. I still feel sad around holidays and anniversaries (click here for my post on Depression), but I feel that my perspective has changed so much recently. I can finally offer a post full of meaning and insight into what it was like to be a teenager, still in high school, when my parent passed away.
The Day my Dad Died
The last normal day I had as a teenager was on April 4th, 2014. It was my best friend’s birthday, and I was thinking about the present I was going to give her. I remember sitting in my high school English class thinking about the weekend and how I was going to spend the next day, a Saturday, hanging out with my boyfriend. I went to bed that night thinking I’d have a great day to look forward to. Boy, I was wrong.
My Dad Had a Heart Attack
The next time I saw my dad, he was in the hospital’s intensive care unit on life support. My mom and I had both left the house that Saturday, and we did not find out my dad was in the hospital until much later. When I asked the nurse on duty what happened to him, she told me she didn’t know. The next few days my family and I slowly put the pieces together.
My dad had been found outside the house, collapsed in our front yard. He was barely breathing when they found him. He had a heart attack. After a few days of trying to get in touch with a neurologist, we finally received the dreaded news: my father was brain dead.
As a family, we decided to let my father pass away peacefully. Letting go was not an easy choice. While we were meeting with the neurologist I remember holding a plastic bag to my face. I felt so sure I was going to vomit. Our Priest came to the hospital to give my father his Last Rites, and that helped me feel a bit better. I chose to leave the room while the ventilator was taken out and I came back in right after. Two hours later my father took his last breath among his family.
How the Loss of My Dad Affected me as a Young Teen
I Developed an Anxiety Disorder
Going to school was so hard for me. I had panic attacks all the time in school. At the time I didn’t have a strong support system. Every time I spoke with a therapist or counselor, my feelings were brushed aside, and I was repeatedly told: “You’ll start feeling better in a couple of months.” I reached out to doctors many times because I felt intense, physical pain that accompanied panic attacks. Panic attacks weren’t just a once in a while occurrence. I had panic attacks multiple times a day. Anxiety almost destroyed my life, and I could not keep up with school any longer.
I decided to get my high school diploma through Penn Foster, an online high school program, and I started working full time the year I was supposed to be a junior. Surprisingly work was the only place I felt relaxed and like myself again. Working helped get me back out in the open and interacting with others. Even though I devoted six days of the week to my job, it truly was a blessing in disguise. Working helped me gain the confidence I needed to be independent. Also, my Spanish improved so much since most of my customers were Spanish Speaking!
I know what you may be thinking. Where in the world was my mom during this time?
My mom was very dependent on my father for almost the entirety of their marriage. She didn’t speak very good English and she was mostly isolated where we lived. Even though my mom worked outside of the house my dad handled many errands and responsibilities. My mom never handled a credit card or handed in a rent check during her marriage to my dad.
None of us were prepared for my father to die; his death was a sudden thrust into real life. Because we didn’t have much money we had to move in with my sister. My mom worked really hard to support us after that and get us our own place. I have so much respect for my mom. I am the woman I am today because of her.
The Lessons I Learned From Loss
- I learned that I didn’t want to work a minimum wage job for the rest of my life. I decided to go to college and get my degree. I’ll graduate next year.
- I learned to forgive the people I love quickly. Life is too short for holding grudges.
- I grew a thick skin and learned how to speak up for myself.
- I learned that the worst thing imaginable can happen and that I’ll still come out of it okay.
- I learned that time is a better healer than any yoga video or therapy session, but a long run is just as good in the meantime.
- Being related to someone doesn’t always mean family. There are always people who will try to take advantage of you. I’m cautious of who I let into my life, and it’s not always a good thing. I guard my heart too much.
- I learned to give myself a break when I need it.
Sometimes I think back on this time of my life, which wasn’t all that long ago, and I wonder how I got through it all. I owe a lot of credit to my mom and my older sister. Having them by my side was comforting even if I had to do a lot of the scary parts of growing up on my own.
I miss my dad every day. I miss getting pizza with my dad on Fridays and our long walks to church on Sundays. I miss the conversations I had with him and the simple advice he gave me. Like the time he shut me down when I was complaining about a clique at school. He told me not to care what others think about me unless they pay my bills. I didn’t know what else to say to that, but I remember those words to this day. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I follow that advice every day, but it is an incredibly freeing experience living life the way I want to.
My dad will always live on in my heart as the kind, compassionate and intelligent man I knew him to be. He instilled in me a love for computers: HTML, CSS, Photoshop, and Illustrator wouldn’t be a part of my life without him. He helped me make my first blog and train for my first race in the same day. He loved animals; my dad even helped me nurse a rabbit back to health one summer.
To all my young adults out there that have lost a parent,
Life is never the same after a loved one dies, but I’ll say this to everyone who has been affected by a loss: it is possible to find happiness in your life with time. You have to endure the hard times, but most of all you have to be patient with yourself. It is okay to grieve for however long you need to. Life will get easier. You WILL be able to find joy again.
School and work also kept me busy but it was through journaling, prayer, and exercise I found solace. These activities helped me cope and I was better equipped to deal with grieving the loss of a father.
I hope that you all enjoyed this post about my dad. I realized a couple days ago that I don’t have a lot of posts on here that help you, the reader, get to know me better. I’ll be doing a lot more of these in the future! If you enjoyed my post ‘Grieving the Loss of a Father’ consider sharing this post with your friends on FaceBook. Your support means so much to me!
Note: This is a really raw piece and unlike any other blog posts I’ve written, so I apologize if there are many mistakes or if the sentences are a bit choppy. I have edited this more than a few dozen times and I can’t stare at this screen anymore.