October 16th, 2014 changed my life.
The day that i heard the news that my dad had been diagnosed with cancer was without a doubt one of the most difficult days of my entire life. The day that he passed away, a mere month later, wasn’t any easier. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to lose a parent at 19 years old to people who haven’t had to experience a tragedy like that before, but if you don’t know, be thankful for not knowing what it feels like. You are more blessed than you realize.
I was in my first semester of college ever, i was away from my hometown of Broken Arrow for the first time in my life, and i was struggling to find my place at OSU. But i was excited to start a new chapter in my life. I was eager to be at a college that i already loved in a town that i would soon adore. Then life hit me like a brick wall. After i received the news, my world changed. I went from worrying about upcoming tests to worrying about how my dad was doing in the hospital. I went from spending my weekends with new friends to spending my weekends in a hospital waiting room. I went from an A student to a C student. Little everyday annoyances that might have bothered me before didn’t phase me anymore.
When the inevitable happened, it broke me. I didn’t know how to cope with so much pain, nor did i understand why it had to happen in the first place. I sank into a depression. The rest of the first semester of my freshman year is a blur. I still couldn’t tell you how i managed to get through it without giving up, quitting college, quitting my faith, quitting everything. I felt like i was hanging on by strings. But i made it through. And since then, i’ve learned quite a few things about grief.
I’m a junior in college now, and still not a day goes by that i don’t think about my dad. The pain of not having him with me is still just as present in my life as the very first day he was gone. Today is October 13th, and in 3 short days will mark the 2nd anniversary of my father’s passing. I still can’t believe its been so long. But i’ve come a long way. Here are some things that i’ve learned in the past two years:
- Grief never goes away. Before experiencing it firsthand, i thought it was something that would eventually fade, or go away completely. I thought it was just a stepping stone in the healing process. But i’ve learned that once grief comes into your life for whatever reason, it never wants to leave. It sets up camp in your heart and stays there indefinitely. The only things that changes is you. You become strong enough to deal with it, because you have to. you have no other choice, which leads me to my next point…
- You are stronger than you think you are. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they don’t know how i did it. That they would have never been strong enough to go the pain of losing a parent young, but the thing is, i would’ve said the exact same thing had the situation been reversed. When it happens to you, you don’t have a choice. There’s no rewind button. You would be amazed at how much you can handle when you have no other choice but to be strong.
- People won’t be able to relate to you sometimes, but that’s okay. Sometimes it can be hard to be going through such a difficult time in your life and knowing that nobody really understands, because not very many people have had to experience this at such a young age. There are times when people won’t know what to say to you, because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. But it’s okay that other people don’t understand. I wish i didn’t know how it feels. I wish more than anything that i could take their place. And honestly, even if people wont be able to relate, or truly understand, i appreciate the fact that they care enough to try.
- Positivity really does matter. For the entire short time that my dad was in the hospital, he always had a positive attitude. He never gave up, or accepted his fate. Not once did i ever see him be negative, or falter. He was asking the doctors when he could go back to work up until the very end. He was strong even his body was weak, and that still affects me to this very day. My dad could have given up. He could’ve accepted his fate as soon as he heard the bad news. But he didn’t. I have looked up to my dad for my entire life, but in those last few weeks, he showed me what it meant to be strong despite everything that life throws at you, and i will always carry that with me.
- You have to choose to be happy. It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to let that grief take over and give up. But i don’t. And its not easy, but it’s a choice that i make daily. When you deal with a tragedy in your life, there will never be a moment where it will just go away. Where the pain will subside enough for you to be happy again. It’s got to be a choice. You need to find a reason to keep going. When i think about my dad, i always think about this: if he were here, on this Earth right now, or if he could say anything to me at this very moment, he would want me to be happy. He would tell me that it’s okay. He would want me to live life without being sad, and he wouldn’t want what happened to him hold me back from this entire world full of endless possibilities. So i don’t. You have to choose to be happy, you have to choose to turn on the light for yourself, and keep it on.