Stacy published this in the KC Star shortly after David’s funeral. Since it is no longer linked on their website, she has allowed me to host it here.
A 16 year old relative who’d just lost her father a few days before posted a note on Facebook at 2:30 in the morning. It was heartbreaking. By the next day there were comments by a great number of friends and family telling her how beautiful her words were and how proud her father would be – all true.
But I knew that the comments, while well-meaning, and supportive, and just what one is supposed to say in situations like these… well, they just wouldn’t cut it. No words, no amount of love and support is going to make it better this time.
I wanted to tell her that not only is the loss of her dad completely unfair, but that it just… that I could look up all the synonyms for “awful” and still never find a way to say how terrible it is that her father won’t see her graduate, or walk her down the aisle, or hold her child.
That the gaping hole in her life will never entirely go away.
I do want to tell her that the hole will start to get smaller, eventually. So here goes…
Right now, each day you wake up and have to remember all over again, and your grief hits you anew like a tidal wave. I’m so sorry you have to go through that. There will come a time when it’s not the first thing you think of. And the first time that happens, you may feel guilty, but try not to: it is part of healing.
When you think of your dad now you smile and then start to cry; one day – I promise – you will just smile. Most of the time. The tears will never entirely go away, but they won’t be your constant companion the way they are now.
One day you will see your brother or sister – or one of your children – do something that is just “so dad,” and you will laugh! Out loud. I know right now you think you will never, ever laugh again, but you will. And you should.
Special occasions will be hard for a while. His birthday, the holidays, Fathers’ Day will all be rough. But one Thursday in some distant November you’ll remember that you do have things to be thankful for. Wonderful things. And that while there will always be a piece missing, your life is pretty great. And that’s exactly how your dad would want it to be.
I hope you search out people who know where you are. There are a lot of people out there who’ve lost a parent at a young age, people who have a very good idea of what you’re going through. In Kansas City, we have Solace House, which in addition to helping adults, has support groups specifically for children and teens.
Please, please remember that no matter how awful you are feeling, it is better to work through your feelings than to try to numb them. While it is tempting to try and submerge your grief in self-destructive ways, it will surface eventually, bringing down everything in its path. Take advantage of your large and loving family and friends to lean on; do not be stoic: let it out.
Everyone’s trip through the grieving process is individual. While there are generally observed “steps” that you will probably go through, there is no set timetable. This process is yours, and while you own your grief, try not to let it define you.
Yes, you will always be “the girl whose father died when she was 16,” but you will also be “the girl who graduated high school and went to college and found a career that she loves.” Or “the girl who married the love of her life and raised a beautiful family.” Or “the girl who changed the world.” Or all of them.