What I Learned After Losing My Dad-O
I was on my way to coach ice skating lessons, standing on the corner of California and Civic in Walnut Creek on Monday, November 18th 2019 when I received the call I have been dreading for most of my life. My Mom was on the other end and told me to "come home right now, your Dad has taken a turn for the worse and I need you to come to Kaiser on Lawrence.”
I knew something was very wrong, my Dad was not a Kaiser Member and he always went to a hospital in Los Gatos, where his doctors were. Everything around me froze, and I remember moving in slow motion. The first thing I thought about was telling my skating students that I had to cancel lessons. My hands started to shake as I began texting the parents.
I quickly kicked myself in gear and ran home. I threw my skates down, grabbed my computer, and ran out to my car. I was shaking terribly and was afraid to drive, so I called a friend. Unfortunately, he did not answer his phone. I do not remember the 50-minute drive home.
I pulled into the emergency parking lot and walked out of my car. My brother came out to meet me. He told me, “he did not make it.” I stood there crying “no, no, no.”
My Dad had heart problems since before I was born. He had several heart attacks, heart procedures, and a stroke. He was a cool cat with 9+ lives and the absolute best doctors. His health history has influenced the person I am today. I am a people pleaser, worrier and have a tough time controlling my anxiety at times. On the other hand, I am a lover, I try to take in moments with those I love, I tell people how I feel about them, I’m a great friend and my favorite thing is to make others smile.
Before my Dad passed, I planned to move to Denver early 2020, he knew this and wasn’t a fan. I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life and it was time for me to branch out and try something new. I worked very hard in therapy to get to a place with my anxiety to make this happen, but would have still had a really difficult time leaving knowing how hard it would be to get home if something were to happen to my Dad.
Less than three months after he passed, I moved to Denver. I was in Denver for 5 weeks before shelter in place due to the Coronavirus. 3 of those weeks were filled with crazy snowstorms. I was in a new state, living alone with just a few friends nearby and managing the stormy weather of owning my own business.
People say how awful 2020 is, but my nightmare happened before. Here are a few things I’ve learned this year:
- When someone loses a loved one, it’s hard to know what to do. Many respond with “let me know if you need anything.” That is very nice and comes from a good place, the problem is they do not know what they need. They do not even know how to put one foot in front of the next, and probably aren’t going to think to reach out or impose on you. My advice is to just do something.. anything! One of my friends filled my fridge with easy to make foods so that when I came home, I had plenty to eat.
- When talking with someone who just lost a loved one, try not to compare. Our instinct is often to compare and relate. Everyone has their own story and its not helpful to compare unless they ask. Instead, really listen without feeling the need to fix anything. Let them talk, that is what they need.
- It was hard for me to be with friends or in public after my Dad passed. I went to a comedy show the weekend after and started tearing up in the middle of it. My friends got this and understood when I needed a hand, hug or just to get some fresh air.
- Many people tried to distract me by not talking about my Dad for fear it might make me sad. All I wanted to do was to talk about him, it kept him alive when he was in constant conversations.
- I reached out to a few friends who had also lost a parent. They helped me understand the immediate process and what I would have to go through right away. This allowed me to emotionally prepare for things such as going to the funeral home.
- On the other hand, some friends in my life who have also lost a parent were not there for me long-term as I hoped. At times I tried to force it, and looking back, I wish I saved my energy. It had nothing to do with their feelings for me, it had to do with where they were at. This is a really tough one to deal with… I’m still not there, but hopefully I will forgive someday.
- They say that people forget to check in after the initial shock. This is absolutely true, especially during a pandemic. I am so thankful for my friends and family who have constantly checked in and been patient with me.
- I am typically an extrovert and close to my family, but I’ve learned that at times I like to process and heal by myself. We all have had such different relationships with my Dad and I like to keep mine very protected.
- Someone told me, “it doesn’t get easier, you just learn to live with it.” I believe this whole heartedly. I never know when there will be a lump in my throat, or the tears will flow.
Most importantly, I am so proud of how I have handled this first very tough year and I credit that mostly to having two amazing parents who raised me to be resilient and brave, and great friends and family.
November 18th will be tough. I am heading on an adventure with my puppy to a lake in Colorado. I’ve got my Dad-O playlist ready and I know he will be there with me on the ride.
If you’d like to listen to the playlist I made, here’s the link: https://spoti.fi/3f7PBOS