Recently, I moved to a town where I knew no one. I moved after graduating college to start my very first “big girl” job. After a few weeks of learning my way around, I started hanging out with new found friends and exploring my new environment. Although many of the new people in my life knew I was unfamiliar with the area and ultimately came here for the job, I didn’t reveal that along with these changes, I was trying to come to terms with the loss of my father.
One day, while talking with a girlfriend on a nature walk, the topic of my father came about and I felt comfortable telling her this part of my story. Like many, she expressed her condolences, but asked a question I had never been asked before, “what is it like”? Her question threw me off, not because I found it rude or nosy, it threw me off because I had never been asked to explain something that is so unexplainable – what it’s like losing your father in your twenties. I answered her question to my best ability, but now, a month later my answer has changed.
For many people who are struggling with any loss, your “what is it like?” answer will differ from mine and that’s one of the few silver-linings of loss – no one comes out the same. Here are the 5 stages of grief & loss as told by a 22-year-old girl:
Denial. When I first learned of my father’s death, I was a junior at a university in Wisconsin, walking to my 8 AM biology class – just another day. I will never forget the phone call from my mom, I was told my father was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack at work earlier that morning. As the lifeless words settled in my ears, denial instantly kicked in. I denied the severity of a heart attack, I denied what being on life support meant, I denied that this phone conversation I was having was even real at all.
Over a year later, some days I still swim in a pool of denial. Although it has gotten easier to see past, I use the excuse that he is on a long vacation and he will be home shortly. Even after visiting his grave for the first time, I expected he would be back, I just didn’t know when.
Anger. A few months after beginning to see past my denial, I began to feel angry. I wasn’t angry at my family or friends, I wasn’t angry at anyone but myself and God. I found myself questioning my faith and even the existence of any sort of religious hierarchy. In my mind, how could one exist when my prayers for help were not answered? Due to these questions, I was angry at myself for even having these thoughts. With anger comes frustration, impatience, isolation… the stage of anger felt as if I were in a funnel with no water rushing through it. I was stuck on the ledge, trying to fully leap, but unable to flush through because my anger wouldn’t allow myself to.
Bargaining. Everyone always says the “what if’s” will kill you. Well, they aren’t wrong.
“What if I would have never left home, would this healing be as hard”? “What if he never went to work that day, would it still have happened”? “What if someone would have gotten there sooner, would he still be here today”?
Every day, for a long time, I told myself that there was something that could have been done to alter the result. Through all of the time I spent silently throwing punches at the inevitable, the result never changed and I wasn’t getting any closer to facing acceptance.
Depression. I have never been the type to admit of depression. I believe I am successful and always willing to put my best foot forward in any given situation. However, I won’t deny I often felt down and isolated myself from friends and family. I still cry for no reason, lashing out because of hurt, and ignoring people around me because that’s what I feel is necessary. Depression from my loss occurs when it wants and without choice. Grieving is natural and supposed to happen, so let it. I tried to fight my feelings, which left me feeling worse. The word depression is depressing itself, but let it happen and let it happen fully when you finally come out of it you’re stronger than ever.
Acceptance. Today, I wonder what this will feel like. Will it be a happy moment, sad, will it be visible or something I just feel? I don’t know if I have fully come to terms with the death of my father, therefore I don’t believe I can say I have accepted this event in my life. I do know that I look forward to the day I do, and only hope it calms the unsettled sea of grievances.
So, what is it like?
Everyone has experienced the wicked wrath the passing of someone brings. Through all of these feelings, emotions and sleepless nights, I no longer find myself wishing change upon something I can’t. Death is real, raw and gouging and more times than not, out of our control. It’s more than a word, it’s more than a goodbye, it’s more than a funeral. It’s the most beautiful scar I have ever carried;
but, damn, it isn’t easy.
Featured Image via We Heart It