The new Star Wars film is coming out on the 18th December. This will be the first time I will watch a Star Wars film from start to finish without my Dad. Most of you will think I’m being childish, but a handful will understand why this is scary. The moment the release date was published I rushed to my phone to call my Dad, forgetting that he had died 2 years ago.
In December 2011 my Dad was diagnosed with terminal melanoma cancer and died 6 months later. I was 19 years old. 3 years later, this is something I wish someone had told me.
Dear sweet darling
I am so very sorry for the loss of your parent at such a crucial point in your life. A piece of your world was stolen from you that can never be replaced, which I know personally cuts deep like a blunt knife. As you continue to grow and as the years go by you will find that many things are ‘expected’ of you by people who have not experienced this pain or loss and I’m afraid I cannot tell you what to do here. You cannot be told when you will be ready to talk about your pain and you mustn’t allow people to force you to ‘heal’. This can only be done in your own time. Personally, 3 years down the line and I can sometimes still be a broken child inside.
We’re fast approaching Christmas now and as everyone is rushing around getting everything ready, you’re sitting, watching and wishing they were with you. If this is your first Christmas without them, it is going to be hard, but you will be surrounded by family and friends who love and care about you.
I want to address the major things that I have learned on my own that are not the easiest to conquer; that in most cases, people do not understand.
It is good to cry: Forget those people who tell you crying is for the weak. You will be amazed at how much a good cry can help you in that moment.
Watching your other parent heal is the most painful of all: Knowing you can’t do anything to help them as you watch them try to stay strong for you will never be easy. Just know that you being there is helping them. You lost your parent, but they lost their partner. You have to stick together now more than ever.
The first time you fall in love, get a ‘proper’ job and move out will be as painful as it is exciting: The moment will be exciting and you’ll feel like any other person going through the same excitement. But something amazing has just happened and the first person you want to tell isn’t there. They’re not there to offer their opinion about the person you’re falling for, to give you advice on your new career path or help you carry the heavy boxes to your new home. You’ll have chills when you think about how different your life could be with them around.
It hurts every time you see close family: Your family will laugh about memories from the past when everyone was all together, reminiscing about your parent. With a smile plastered across your face, you’ll nod as family members tell you stories all the while thinking what you would give to have them here with you now.
It’s amazing every time you see close family: Your aunt tells you about the time she barricaded herself and your dad in the bathroom because he didn’t want to go to cubs. These stories will warm your heart, take the time to listen to them.
You will be jealous of those who still have both parents: You see a family having a wonderful time in a restaurant and something inside you starts to stir; a sense of resentment. That used to be you. The world wasn’t perfect, but your world was in their presents.
You will be angry at those who complain about their parents to you: At least they still have one.
Family traditions will never be the same: Saturday afternoons spent watching crap telly and evenings spent catching up on the formula 1 will just be a memory that you hold close to your heart.
You question everything: You question everything you know and what you believe in, if anything. You will replay moments in your head questioning your actions and ask yourself “what if?” every day.
The word ‘sorry’ becomes numb: People don’t always know the story, so all they can say is ‘sorry’. You smile at them and say ‘thanks’. The word sorry no longer has meaning after you have heard it a million times.
You dread every Father’s Day/Mother’s Day: You cannot avoid it. My first year, every time a father’s day advert came on the telly I would cry. I refused to leave the house with the fear of seeing a happy father and daughter combo. You prepare yourself and ignore it all you can – it does get easier.
Photos and old family videos are worth 10 times more than gold: You’ll stumble across a shoe box full of old family photos and you’ll stop everything and spend hours looking through them, you’ll start to cry. Your mind will take you back to that exact moment and you encounter a special moment of what it was like back then.
You wonder if you make them proud: When no one was looking but you did the right thing or you finally learnt how to change the oil in your car by yourself, you stop and think ‘I wonder…”.
Death will change you and your outlook on life: Things you used to panic about no longer matter, you stop complaining and you get on with life. Will worrying change it? No? Then don’t waste your energy worrying about it.
Eventually, you’ll be walking through a busy town center and you’ll see a father/mother and daughter/son walking arm in arm, laughing and joking with each other. It will warm your heart and make you smile: You are remembering the good times. You are healing.
You will grow in ways you never thought: There will be a moment when you’re surrounded by your family and you’ll notice that everyone has a shared characteristic with your parent. Then looking at your own heart, you’ll realise how much of them is in you too.
People say that the pain never goes away and that you just get used to it. I would like to say this isn’t true, but know this, it does get easier and the pain will eventually turn into beautiful memories. Your parent may have been taken from you, but no one can ever take away your memories of them.