Tis’ the Season for the holiday blues… WhaWhaWha! Yes, the holidays can be bitter-sweet for those of us who have lost a dear person or even a pet. As a survivor by many beloved (including pets) I can vouch that time does heal wounds, but it doesn’t change how we love or miss our most cherished. The truth is that “time” simply allows for acceptance so we can learn to cope and live without. However obtaining acceptance isn’t an easy process, as it requires peace, balance, honesty, forgiveness, reflection, love, heart and courage. Death may seem like an odd topic to touch on at this time of the year, but the reality is that many of us struggle most during the holidays because we are confronted with the voids and changes in our lives… we are forced to realize that life will never be as it once was. Coming to terms with those truths is difficult and painful, and can be life altering. In the wake of the recent tragic events and the abundance of mourning, I wanted to share my personal struggles, defeats and accomplishments, in hopes of helping those overwhelmed with grief and to prove that there is a light at the end of even the darkest of tunnels.
In March of 2000, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his pancreas and liver. By the time my dad had been diagnosed, the cancer was too aggressive and there wasn’t much that could be done to help him. All of a sudden we were not only faced with having to care for our terminally ill dad, but we also had to come to terms with knowing that he was going to die sooner than later. I had refused to believe that my dad was going to die… I had faith that God would spare him because God is merciful and isn’t supposed to destroy lives and families, but my dad wasn’t spared and that’s when my nightmare, my downward spiral begin. My dad ended up dying a month and a half after his diagnosis on April 30th. It was the worst experience of my life. I just couldn’t make sense of it all… he was only 45 years old. How could God take him from us so soon?? My family needed him, I needed him, what was going to happen to us (my mom, 2 sisters, and I)? The loss was so devastating that I felt the pain not only emotionally and mentally, but physically as well. As the days passed, my sadness turned into anger and bitterness, and I became mad at the world, mad at everything including God for taking by beautiful dad. After all, I was fairly young at the time (22 years old) and really unprepared for such a grand loss. He was the glue to our family, the backbone… and the moment he died, every aspect of my life changed forever and there was nothing I could do to change it back. I had no control of anything, time kept passing and I hated the feeling of being forced to move forward against my will. I didn’t want to, nor was I ready to. Any attempt to accept his death felt like torture to my heart and soul. I just couldn’t bring myself to let go and make peace. I eventually became stuck, self-destructive, callused, full of hate, and selfishly, I often contemplated suicide – because at times it just seemed like the easiest solution. I am not proud of who I was, or what I did, during the darkest times of my life, but that was me and I did the best I could dealing with everything all by myself.
It’s been over 12 ½ years since he’s been gone and I still miss him like crazy! There isn’t a day that goes by, that I don’t miss him, think about him, or utter the words “my dad.” However, after 6 long painful years, I had finally accepted his death. Although I still believe his life was cut short, I realize his “death” wasn’t something that happened to me; it wasn’t punishment by God; his death was simply death… the one peculiar certainty in life, that doesn’t discriminate and we are all destined for. The moment I came to terms with this logic, I realized what a “gift” life is; how precious it is; and that tomorrow is never promised. At last… I had finally been able to see a faint light at the end of the very dark tunnel I had been stuck in. Instantly I knew there was a way out, I just needed to keep working my way to it. Little by little I started taking steps to mend my shattered life… I no longer wanted to be a victim; I wanted to be the survivor my parents raised me to be. I began reflecting on everything in my life… every relationship, decision, mistake, etc… When I realized how selfish I’d been, I instantly felt guilt and hatred for what I had become and the way I had treated my peeps, so I worked extra hard on forgiveness and wouldn’t you know… forgiveness gave me the power and strength to take back control of my life. For the first time in years, I felt peace and balance and it was all such a euphoric feeling! The lighter my heart became the better I wanted to be. I was finally able to feel happiness and love without guilt… AMAZING!
Tips for coping:
- Life can change in absolute minute without warning.
- Find peace and love
- Don’t live with anger, grudges, or hate;
- Do not harbor guilt – forgive yourself, forgive others
- Find solace in knowing that those who have passed on, no longer feel pain and suffering
- Be open to learning and growing from sadness and hurt.
- Life is too short
- Enjoy the present
- Take the time to call or go see the people you love and care about most
- Life is a precious gift that we are unable to recreate once it’s gone
- Tomorrow can change everything
- Grieve the way you need to, for there is no right and wrong way… Feel pain, cry, scream, do what you need to do (within reason) to deal
- Give your mind and heart a break – go dancing, read a book, see a movie
- Avoid prolonged anger, sadness, depression,
Escaping my funk hasn’t been easy. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster ride and remains a work in progress. As I continue to learn and grow from the darkest moments of my life, I hope that you too can find comfort and draw strength and realize that we have the power to change and overcome. Feel free to write something in memory of anyone who you miss the most during the Holidays. Wishing you a peaceful and a lovely holiday!
Written in memory of my father Rudy G. ♥… Thank you for the lessons Dad. I love you always. R.I.P.