Five things I have learned about grief after the death of my father

My dad would have turned 80 today, the 20th of July. Sadly, he passed away 7 years ago. He was an amazing man, one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, and a supportive and loving father. In the seven years of mourning him, I have learned some lessons from this process we call grief.

#1 – You cannot go back

Only when you experience the death of a loved one do you realize how final death is.

You can no longer go back, fix the hurtful things you said to each other, the slights and misunderstandings. You can no longer share anything. Our dead ones have gone on, to a place we cannot reach while we remain on this earth. No matter how hard we try.

It is final, this goodbye.

#2 – Grief and mourning is not a smooth curve

You are devastated when you are told he has passed away, when you bury him, in the first year’s important days – birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, wedding anniversary. At each milestone you think this is the worst. Until you realize, even seven years on – the path is never smooth, never easy.

Then something happens, and you miss him like the news is fresh. That trigger can be anything – a joke you knew he would have enjoyed, a book you wanted his opinion on, a life situation you need his advice for. And the missing is deep, fresh, hard to move past.

Even seven years later. The only thing you get used to is the loss.

Over time, you accept living around the hole in your heart.

#3 – When you remember, share it

One of the saddest moments, approximately 5 years after his death, was when my mom told me: “No-one speaks about him anymore. It is as if he never lived, was never here.” We both understood why this happens. Friends do not want to make you sad again by remembering him, do not want to trigger sad memories. They end up by not speaking of him at all.

While I was visiting my mother, earlier this year, we spoke at length about him. Told memories, shared some special moments of and with him. Yes, it made us both sad, but it also keeps him alive.

In our hearts and memories, where we keep him alive.

#4 – He lives on, in the intangibles

My father was a highly intelligent and unique man. He started programming in the sixties in machine language, and programming remained his love and passion.  He delivered his last system three months before he died. His database designs and systems lives on with his clients, even seven years after his death.

His physical characteristics and quirks lives on in his children and grandchildren. We all inherited his love of specific authors, his passion for programming and computers. Three (and counting!) of his six grandchildren are working in the IT field.

I have his hands. My one sister has his hair. My other sister inherited his musical talent. My nephew looks uncannily like him at 18 years of age.

He lives on, in the intangible things he has left us.

#5 – What is left, is love

When we remember him, we remember his love, his life, his interests, his passions. His quirks and idiosyncrasies, his sense of humor, the great advice he gave. His hugs.

We remember him, in how he loved. Not in how much time we had together, the physical things he left us, what he gave us during his life. We remember him, we remember his love.

In the words of Ralph W Emerson – he has lived, because he loved and was loved.

And that, in itself, is solace.


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