I’ve never felt so many emotions rushing through my mind and feelings rippling through my body as I did the night my father passed away. Though his battle with leukemia had been a long one and I’d seen the life fading out of him gradually over the years, there was no way that I, an 11-year-old who hadn’t even lost all of her baby teeth yet and was still learning fractions, could have mentally prepared myself for what I’d feel after my dad’s death.
And did I feel. I felt nothing and I felt everything. But I couldn’t write my feelings out on paper in a journal entry or a letter; nor could I describe my feelings in words to my doting friends who worried about me, but whom I knew would never be able to understand me. I still can’t. How does one even begin to express their feelings in the first place? They’re your own; no one understands them as well as you do. They’re like ghosts: other people can’t see them, but they still haunt you and your memories to remind you that they are indeed, very real.
Though it’s taken years of practice, I’ve tried my best to be able to communicate to others what I felt then and feel now within me; those feelings that I can only describe as ones of confusion, anger and eventually acceptance. I’ve isolated myself from those who cared about me the most with these feelings for years, but now, I’m finding ways to express them.
My 9-year-old brother and I were just old enough to understand that my dad wouldn’t be home to drive us to school or make pancakes on Sunday mornings anymore, and that’s all we really knew. The night my mom and my extended family came home from the hospital and my mom took my brother and I aside and told us quietly, with tears streaming down her tired face, “Daddy went home to Heaven tonight,” I was confused. My head started pounding with the strain of trying to understand.
I had just seen my dad reclining peacefully in his hospital bed with eyes closed (he’d been in a coma for the past few weeks), like every day. I had sat at his bedside and took turns with my brother reading him books, like every day. I had chatted to him about my upcoming field trip while I colored pictures to tape up on the walls already plastered with dozens of hand-drawn creations, like every day. The idea of an empty bed and blank walls confused me. I thought this was a recovery process, not a waiting game.
The next few years — my teenage years — were the worst. My family and I had to deal with what we called “the mourning period” as well as my hormones and newfound self-consciousness. My dad had left behind a widow to take care of their two young, dependent children on her own. My mom had to put on a brave face every morning for us even though she was aching even more than we were. My brother never talked about my dad unless provoked. But I was the whirlwind; the force of nature. My dad’s death was what caused me to develop communication problems. I was never able to communicate with my family how I felt about my dad’s death, but it angered me.
I was angry at my dad for not fighting hard enough, at God for taking him away from the people who needed him the most and most importantly I was angry at myself — just because. This anger consumed me and I responded to everything in a passive-aggressive manner. My mom would ask me questions and I’d be silent, ignoring her sometimes until it got to the point where I’d be screaming at her, even though all she wanted was for me to help her understand. But as a teenager, I was selfish and I thought no one could understand; I didn’t want anyone to understand.
But now, I do want people to understand. The anger hasn’t completely left my body; nor have I gotten much better at communicating to others my feelings. Maybe it’s maturity or time that has helped, but I’ve accepted my dad’s passing and as a Christian, I trust that God must have had a reason for taking him so soon. I’ve accepted that. I’ve also accepted that I had to go through these years of confusion and anger completely on my own, and it’s partly my fault that I did. Though it’s nearly impossible to be able to relate to someone who hasn’t had a family member pass away, the fact that my friends were there to offer their love and support should have been enough. I know now that I don’t have to help my friends and family understand what I went through, but I want them to understand how grateful I am that they care.
I miss my dad excrutiatingly with every day that passes, but I don’t have to miss him on my own anymore. I don’t think my dad would want me to be on my own anymore. I have my family, I have my friends and I have faith that I will be OK and that one day, I will see him again.