10 Lessons I’ve Learned from My Father’s Death

August 14th, would have been my father’s 61st birthday. It’s been a little over a year since he died in a motorcycle accident… I wrote about it a bit in the Huff Post.

This year has been nothing short of a whirlwind for me. Aside from the standard grieving process, I also had to fully step into my father’s shoes… running his real estate business, and handling the loose ends of what was left of his life. As a result, I’ve learned a great deal about life, death and myself.

  1. I learned that it’s important to really feel my feelings. There’s a natural tendency that we humans seem to have, to want to avoid feeling any kind of sadness or any kind of negative emotion. The second it starts to creep in, we want it to go away. But grieving taught me that if we don’t allow it to pass through fully and completely… it will always come back. The universe has a way of sending us similar situations, circumstances, and even people until we’ve learned to deal with them and learned the lessons we’re meant to learn. So throughout this year, I’ve learned to feel what I’m feeling… whenever I’m feeling it… It might be a sudden outburst of tears, or a long-lasting quiet sob. But whatever it was, I tried my best to let it come and go.
  2. I learned to be more curious about my spirituality. I’ve always been a pretty spiritual person, but losing my dad made me want to connect with “the other side” more than ever before. It’s almost as if I felt like I had no choice…. Because if I didn’t “believe” in another “realm” then my relationship with him would be completely over. His death taught me to expand my awareness around what it means to be human… to think more deeply about the difference between our physical body and the soul, and look for new opportunities to connect with my dad. I’ve found myself on several occasions standing in his backyard, just staring at the trees, the wind, the birds, and the butterflies, wondering if it was him. I found myself in more moments of stillness, silence and observance… just trying to be present to a “sign.” And whether a “sign” came or not, I learned that these “pauses” in and of themselves… were a gift.
  3. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for life and the people in it. Without death, how could we remember how fragile life is? My father’s death created new bonds, new conversations, and a new dynamic to my family. A death brings a whole community of people together, and helps you realize who the most important people in your life are and that life, in itself must not be taken for granted.
  4. I’ve learned about the importance of having the tough convos now. No one really wants to talk about death… any of it. I recently told my mom that I want to donate my organs and be cremated and she was a bit taken-aback by my comments. But having conversations about death has a few benefits. There’s a bit of a relief to say these things out loud, and to take the significance out of death. I think part of the reason why we fear death so much is because we never talk about it. And when the time comes to handle the affairs of a deceased loved one, it’s easier to KNOW what that person wanted rather than assume. Often families get into fights shortly after a death because of the various logistics that must be dealt with. And during a time of such hardship, nothing is more important than family. So dealing with logistics now makes the process much smoother when then time comes.
  5. It feels better to talk about him. Sometimes people don’t know if they should ask me about my dad. They think that it might make me sad. And I totally understand because I’ve felt the same way in the past. But talking about the fun times, the stories, the experiences, helps a TON. It has always made me feel like I’m creating his legacy by being able to share more about who my dad was, what he taught me, and how much I loved him.
  6. It’s nice not to give a sh*^. So much is always going on in life, and there was a huge relief in knowing that when my dad died, I didn’t have to do anything, be anywhere, or prove anything. Death creates a “mega-pause” in life. It causes us to re-evaluate everything and to think about WHY we are doing what we’re doing. By not giving a sh*^, I found myself able to think more clearly (after some months had past) about what I REALLY needed to focus on. It enabled me to say NO more. To filter out everything that wasn’t serving me. Because when you’re grieving you literally can’t handle anything that doesn’t make you feel better. So I truly believe it helped re-center my intentions and life ambitions.

7. You can still have a relationship with them when they’re gone. I’ve learned to have a new kind of relationship with my dad. Real sadness lasts only when I forget this. Of course, nothing can replace a hug, but I find peace in having conversations with him in a new way. I truly believe he’s around me, and when I pray to him, or I ask him for things I somehow know that he’s listening. My relationship with him lies in the writing I do about him, in the deep reflections I have, in the conversations that I engage in about him… in all of those moments, he’s there. Death is physical. But the relationship never dies.

8. It helps to assume he is always watching. I’ve learned that whether I KNOW-SO or not, it’s best to assume my dad’s always watching. Because if I walk around thinking this… it helps me behave better. I find myself naturally achieving more, treating people better, and thinking more clearly. I find myself thinking about what he’d say if he were still here and how he’d feel about my choices.

9. He might be better off in the other realm. I’ve learned that some spirits don’t belong here. My dad struggled a lot on this earth. He was sad a great deal of the time. And I get a sense, deep in my heart, that he’s happier “there”. That he truly is at peace, and that he enjoys looking over my sisters and I. It’s hard, as a human being, not to get attached to the physical nature of our relationships. But I think that if we can get un-attached, there’s a great sense of relief in knowing that they’re doing just fine, and maybe… even better.

10. I can handle anything. My greatest fear has always been to lose a member of my family. And having this behind me makes me realize just how strong we are as human beings to handle almost anything. I’ve seen the strength of my mother and sisters. I’ve seen how we’ve dealt with our challenges and our sadness. So after going through this, there really isn’t anything I feel like I can’t handle. And even though I wish, more than anything, that I could have my father back… I’m grateful that he has given me this new strength and all of these lessons.

I hope that if you are currently grieving a loved one, that this gives you some comfort in knowing that the hard times DO pass, and that there is always something to learn in every experience that the universe sends your way.