Since losing my dad a little over two years ago, I’ve learned quite a bit about loss, life, parents, and the importance of sharing one’s story. That sounds like I have a lot of answers to life’s questions, which I obviously don’t. What I do have is an experience to share and the ability to write and share about that experience.
Last year, I wrote a post on losing a parent specifically for those in their 20s, but the reality is that the process of recovering from losing a parent is very similar whether you’re 25 or 75. I shared the experience of that first year hoping to help one other person out there who was looking for answers, who was wondering if they were mourning properly, who was hoping to connect with anyone with a similar experience (which is incredibly difficult in your 20s and 30s). The response has been wonderful. I continue to receive replies mostly from people in their 20s who recently lost a parent (sometimes within 24 hours). They thank me for sharing my story and they ask questions, seeking advice. I reply to every single email and message because I know how important it is. I offer the best advice I can and tell them I’m happy to talk more. Some people reply, wanting to continue the conversation, some don’t.
What I learned through all this is that 1) I needed to share my experience so that all those who needed an answer or validation could read it, and 2) sometimes just having someone who’s been there helps more than anything in the world, and 3) having a person to tell your story to (who isn’t biased or even familiar) is so important. I’ve often felt that sometimes people just needed to spill their guts about everything they’re going through and I’m more than happy to provide a place for people to do that…
Now that it’s been two years since my dad passed away, my experience has continued to evolve. My bursts of emotion are far fewer and many of those feelings of insecurity and doubt have faded. One of the tricky parts about that post one-year, however, is that you sometimes start to feel that you aren’t missing them enough, that you’ve moved on when you shouldn’t. Moving on with your life, however, doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten and it doesn’t mean they aren’t still there with you! With all this in mind, I wanted to share a few things that I do to help maintain that closeness with my dad – especially with Father’s Day this weekend.
First, this necklace was a gift from my parents. They visited Australia for their 25th wedding anniversary and brought back this black opal stone for me. I love this necklace because opal is my mom’s birth stone; it was a gift from both of my parents; and it matches EVERYTHING (you know how much I love versatility)! But in the last year, I’ve been wearing it more often than not, feeling like it’s a way of keeping my dad close. Every morning when I put it on, I think of him. Every night when I take it off, I think of him again. And every time I receive a compliment on it, I get to tell people it was from my mom and dad. While it wasn’t originally my intention, the act of wearing this necklace has served as my daily reminder of my dad’s love and that he’s still with me. So if you have something from your lost loved one, try to incorporate it into your life more regularly. Maybe it’s a photo you keep in your wallet. Maybe it’s a trinket on your nightstand. It doesn’t matter what it is or how you bring it more prevalently into your life, it just matters that you do it!
Second, I love talking about my dad. I don’t bring him up randomly, but if there’s ever something that reminds me of him or I think of how he would reply, I say something about it. It’s not to make me sad or to bring down the conversation, but it’s an active way to keep his words and spirit in my conversations. This is obviously easier with my family since it requires no explanation – they knew him as well as I did. But I do it with new friends too. I share a short anecdote or I point out how like my dad I am in one way or another. While he isn’t physically on this earth with me anymore, his “ness” will continue to live on with me.
Third, I like to think I’m still making new memories with him. On the anniversary of his death in April, my sister, husband, and I went to his absolute favorite restaurant in LA – a Jewish deli. The three of us just hung out, like my dad always encouraged our family to do. It wasn’t a big undertaking, but I knew he was smiling down and telling me to get more chocolate chip rugelach at the bakery to go. Next, our trip to Scotland was inspired by him. Though we’d been to the country before, we’d never visited Shetland which had been on his bucket list. So with his memory in our hearts, we schlepped up there to see what he wanted to see. We told everyone how we ended up visiting these northern islands. Though he wasn’t with us on the trip, we did it with him in a way. I think you have to adopt a mentality that you can still make new memories with your parent – they don’t have to be huge trips; they don’t have to be planned out; they just have to be something that makes you think of them!
The process of mourning is still new to me and with each month and year that passes I’m learning more about grief, more about my dad (crazy, right?), and more about myself. I will continue to share my story, however, since I now know how important it is to have this conversation so openly.