I’m sorry, but no you don’t….you have absolutely no idea how I feel, or what I’m going through. I’m pissed off, I’m sad, I’m depressed, I’m scared, I’m fortunate and I’m grateful all at the same time, just in different proportions.

Five months ago my dad passed away. It was very sudden and very unexpected. There was no warning, no diagnosis, no time to say goodbye. He woke up, went to the gym just like every morning, and never came home. He lost consciousness in a whirlpool, slipped under the water and floated into Heaven that day.

Per protocol he was put into a medically induced coma so he could be cooled and the doctors could run the proper tests to see if there was any hope. That’s when I got the call that would change my life. I drove home from work, blinded with terror and tears, crawled into my bed and sobbed, “I love you, daddy,” over and over and over again. I knew he could hear me because I knew he was gone. I prepared myself mentally to make the five hour drive to Pennsylvania. (Read:  I completely compartmentalized my brain into denial. I was completely in shock.) 

When I got to the hospital, it was confirmed: there was no brain activity, no more pain, no more suffering. The machines were struggling to keep him alive so that I could whisper goodbye. He was the same ruddy color he always was, he smelled exactly like himself and there were tubes and machines everywhere. I started asking a million questions. I got so loud that they politely shuffled me into a private room. “Are you sure?”  “How do you know?” “There’s no chance?”  “Have you done everything?”

I kept willing myself to just wake up and find out it was all a horrible nightmare, so I could just call him and tell him I loved him and hear him say it back. It didn’t happen. This was real and this was it. “Goodbye, Daddy,” I whimpered. I’m so proud of you and who you made me to be.”

My dad and I butted heads a lot and had different views on almost everything. He was hard to please, didn’t think women were all that smart (except for me, because I was a part of him), and was not an open-minded thinker. But he loved the Lord and he loved his family. He was my protector, my advocate and my DADDY. 

So I did what I do when I’m over-feeling anything and I wrote about it. I wrote Facebook posts, texts and messages. I even wrote his obituary. (Talk about HARD WRITING….whew.)

And along came the condolences. Friends and acquaintances sent lots of prayers and sorrys and love. I expected these because I am truly blessed by the people in my life.

But what I didn’t expect to read was, “I know exactly how you feel.”  Now, I know this came from empathy – from someone who lost a parent, too. And I know it’s really hard to know what to say and do when a friend loses a loved one. But in my heightened state of grief, I felt defensive, even angry. “No you don’t!” I thought. “You have no f**king idea how I feel!”

You don’t know how devastated I am that I will never hear his voice again. That I’m so angry that he wasn’t paying attention to his body signals and just slipped under water! That I had to say goodbye to him when he was already gone! That I thought I would have at least ten more years with him! You don’t know how much I regret not spending more time with him when we were visiting and calling him more. And so, much, more…..

A friend of mine recently lost her dad, also very suddenly. I wrote, “Prayers, love and empathy for you, my friend.”  I immediately deleted it, remembering that even though I just went through it, I cannot truly empathize and I don’t want to try. We process grief differently; our relationships with our “losses” are as unique as our DNA.

Tell your people you love them. Show them how you really feel. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Today is a gift.

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Juli Schafer

A native of Lancaster, PA, Juli has lived in the Fredericksburg, VA area for 11 years. She and her husband of 15 years own a restaurant and a cupcake shop. (How did that happen, she jokes all the time since she doesn’t bake or cook, so don’t ask for any recipes or tips.) Her true loves are writing, marketing and event planning, Jesus and her 14-year old daughter. She proudly accepts her crazy and invites you to join her....crazy is NOT a bad word: 'Crazy' –“Full of cracks or flaws. Unusual. Distracted with desire or excitement. Absurdly fond; passionately preoccupied.” She is working on building a stronger faith, finding her true path, and being a brighter light. You can find her at http://sincerelyjuli.com/

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