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Coping With The Loss Of A Loved One
Written by | Darren Zygadlo.
What I learnt when I lost my father
It was a Sunday morning, on January 11th 2015. While I was minding my two-year-old son as my wife attended church, I received a phone call from a family member in Australia who broke the news: my dad had suffered a heart attack and that the paramedics were ‘working’ on him.
He was quickly rushed to the hospital and I nervously sat by the phone, frantically trying to call my wife who, predictably, had her cellphone switched off. I had even sent my father-in-law in search for her, desperately seeking shelter from the storm.
Waiting for the news, any news, as my dad received medical attention was the longest wait of my life.
His life was hanging in the balance all the while guilt consumed me as I hadn’t been home to see my family for some time and tried to recall the last time my dad and I really spoke.
As my wife arrived home, unaware of the events that had transpired, the phone rang. My mother was crying on the other end of the phone: “He’s gone, I think he’s gone.” As I listened to the flutter of sounds as the phone was passed around, I was greeted by a nurse at the hospital who told me that they were unable to revive my dad.
The next day, I booked a flight home to Australia, struggling with the notion of how to console my mother, sister, and grandmother as we buried a man, my father, who died at 57.
I have thought a lot about that moment over the past year. It will at times keep me up at night, like a dark shadow over my psyche. The weeks leading to my father being put to rest were tumultuous and taught me a lot about who I thought were my family and friends, and even showed me a side of myself I had never seen before. One year on, I thought I would share what death taught me:
- People deal with death differently. It is ok if that is different to how you are processing your feelings – emotions will sway on a knife’s edge, at times, even tip to anger. Breathe, stay calm and try to take one day at a time.
- People will want to pay their respects, even if you have no idea who they are – it is a testament to your loved one’s character.
- The ones who you thought would be your rock and come through for you, wont! Whereas, the person(s) you least expected to make you feel better, will.
- Organizing a funeral, especially one that is emotionally charged, sucks! Decisions have to be made about what your loved one would have wanted and at times you will have no idea and will resort to just simply guessing.
- The aftermath of laying one to rest can be just as tough as the funeral itself – there is never an easy answer when it comes to what to do with the stuff one accumulates in their lifetime. Be kind, donate what you can and keep those things that will remind you of the person they were.
- Those closest to the one that passed need your love – it can be hard to know what to say or do when someone that loved this person so dearly is uncontrollably upset or angry or both. Sometimes just being there, even if it is in silence, does help.
- Life eventually must go on, and while those persons closest to them may not be able to understand what their life will be like when the person they cared about more than anything in the world is gone, always have faith that they will find their feet again.
A year on, the void left from the passing of my father is still felt by all of those that loved him dearly. As the days go by, I often catch myself remembering something that he said or did and I quickly forget the tragedy and unpleasantness that death brings. This past year has made me appreciate those people that are close to me in life and I have come to the realization that our time here on Earth is truly to be valued.