I was 11-years-old when my dad passed away. My parents went through a divorce when I was around nine, which meant I went from seeing my dad daily, to maybe once a month. I never wanted to go. I was being a typical, selfish child and didn’t want to be in the car for four hours to go see my dad for three days. I would cry, I would fight, I just didn’t want to go.
My dad was the silent type, he wasn’t the type to wear his feelings on his sleeve. He loved to watch sports and documentaries. Every time we went to the zoo or a museum, he was always two exhibits behind because he wanted to read every wall plaque and informational poster. He loved history and sports and probably invented fantasy football before it was even a thing.
I was always annoyed at this . . . a selfish annoyance that he didn’t want to watch what I wanted, or that he was being slow at the zoo and reading everything.
Time went on . . . then I became an 11-year-old middle schooler with attitude and opinions to boot. I really wanted to stay home on the weekends I was supposed to visit my dad. I didn’t want to leave my friends, and I thought it was stupid I had to go when I didn’t want to.
The day my mom came into the room to tell my brother and me my dad had passed away, she was crying so hard I initially thought she was laughing about something.
The words, “Your Daddy went to Heaven. He’s not with us anymore,” instantly started the stages of grief.
I was so angry I was sad.
I was so angry for the times I begged not to go see him for my own selfish reasons.
I was angry he would never take me to the zoo again, and I wouldn’t be able to look behind me and see him still reading the plaque about why flamingos are pink.
I went into denial a couple of days before the funeral. I didn’t go to family night. I never wanted to see my dad in a coffin. I didn’t want to believe it was real.
I bargained with God. I prayed that night before the funeral that maybe God could bring my dad back and this was all just a bad dream. If He did then I promised I would go every weekend to see him.
I’ve gone through depression in and out throughout my life. A lot of emotions I try to suppress in order to seem better or to appear that I feel fine.
One emotion I have yet to achieve is acceptance.
Each passing life event still reminds me of the grief I’ve never learned to accept. The loss of my dad, the loss of the relationship I’ll never know as a teenager, a young adult, and now as a mom with her father.
My dad never got to walk me out on the field during the homecoming ceremony.
He never saw me walk across the stage at my high school graduation.
I never got to see him hold his first grandchild, my nephew.
He never got the chance to meet the man I married or walk me down the aisle.
I never got to dance with him for the one dance as a young girl you dream about dancing with your daddy.
My sons will never get to know the quiet, caring, and loving man my dad was.
There are a lot of “nevers” involved in death.
A lot of life changes and events your loved one has not physically been a part of and never will be.
According to experts, we are supposed to experience all five stages of grief in order to grieve properly. That if these stages are not met, then the process of grief will never go away.
Anger. Denial. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
We experience them in cycles. One stage more than another at times, and then it can just loop back around and start all over again in a different order.
Eighteen years after my dad’s death, I still can’t make myself agree with acceptance.
They say time heals all wounds, but I’m going to go against that cliche phrase.
I don’t think it does.
I think we can learn to love again, to remember better memories that don’t make us as sad.
To learn not to cry every time we think of the loved one we have lost when we have to speak about them.
My favorite Bible verse I refer to often is this, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
We live, we die.
Whatever grief you encounter does not have a timeline, there’s no proper way to grieve. There is no pamphlet that lets you know what emotions to experience and when. That explains that other emotions fail to come out due to trying to cope and adapt to your grief in other areas of your life.
Take in the memories, good or bad. You may not be able to accept the loss, but you will always remember what you have lost.