The Day My Whole Life Changed
Disclaimer: This post may be triggering for anyone who suffered loss
It was 5 years ago, but still feels as raw as the day it happened.
Snippets of memories pass through my mind. The telephone call from my big brother. Flying across continents to get to my dad in time. The 4 days in the hospital as relatives trickled in to say their goodbyes. The sleepless nights. The pain and heartache. The denial.
At 5:30am on March 31st. I watched my dad; my idol and mentor, take his last breath.
As I write these words, I’m holding back tears. My body is tense and my heart aches. Taking deep belly breaths to come back to the present moment.
This is my personal journey of living with grief. Thank you for being here.
He was 58 years old.
No one was ready for this kind of insurmountable loss. How does one prepare for this?
I lost my idol and mentor; my father, in March 2017.
The last time I saw my dad was just a few months before he passed during the Christmas holidays. We’d spent that Christmas in the Caribbean in St. Martin all together with my two brothers, sister in law and mum.
My dad passed away in Calgary, Alberta from liver failure. His health was diminishing in that last year, but we had no idea it would lead to this kind of outcome. He was visiting doctors, staying active, and improving his overall diet and health. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least we thought.
I was studying in Toulouse, France when I received the phone call from my big brother. I still remember the phone call. I’d just come back from vacation in Barcelona with friends. Having a relaxing Sunday evening watching Across the Universe – a movie I can no longer watch. My brother called. He said my mum was still in total shock and couldn’t bare to make the phone calls to the family.
“Dad’s in the hospital. He’s been here since Saturday morning. The doctors said he won’t be leaving. You need to get on the next flight to come see him Chloe. It’s not good.”
I was in complete denial. During the 9h flight to Calgary, I felt hopeful. This was my dad we were talking about.
He’s invincible. It’s going to be OK.
It’s funny how the mind works sometimes. This was the only way I could cope with the news that had just been shared with me.
My dad passed after 4 days in the hospital, fighting those last few days until his last breath; the warrior that he was. He was in and out of consciousness. But he had moments of clarity. We had the chance to speak to him and say our goodbyes. Through all the pain, confusion, denial, sadness, and grief – I did my best to focus on my dad during those 4 days. I knew I’d have time to grieve once he passed. I had to switch gears.
My focus was to make sure my dad was OK. I couldn’t bare to imagine what was going through his mind. He wasn’t ready for this. At times he was overwhelmed and confused. Other times, it was crystal clear in those beautiful blue eyes of his, he knew what was happening.
“We’re going to be OK dad. I promise” – I kept repeating to him.
I wanted to make sure he knew we’d be OK. He’d taken care of us his whole life. And we were going to be OK. He could go peacefully knowing that.
That last week of March 2017 and the months ahead were a complete and total blur.
It still feels raw. The pain doesn’t go away. I feel a pit in my stomach when I think of it. I choke up with tears in my eyes.
I still reach for the phone to call him. I can still feel his loving hugs and hear his voice in the back of my mind.
My dad was larger than life. He lit up any room he entered. His charisma, generosity and executive presence made him stand out from the crowd. It was a loss that touched so many; a loss that cut deep.
The stories and connections that came from my dad’s passing was beautiful. Over the next few weeks, I got to learn how truly generous and caring my father was. He touched so many lives. He dedicated his life taking care of his friends and family.
A life changing event like this turns your whole world upside down.
... Your whole perspective changes ...
....Life loses its color ...
... Every living moment turns precious ...
I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions in the last 5 years. You often hear about the 5 stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. My experience was less about sequential stages and more of a violent tornado. Some days, I’d feel strong and able to continue on with daily life. Other days felt unbearable. Frozen in pain. Hiding from the world.
The biggest emotion I’ve carried is anger. This angry shadow hovering over me. Anger towards my father. Why did he leave us? Why didn’t he try harder? Anger towards my mum. How could she move on so fast? Anger towards the world. How can life go on? Why does everyone look so happy?
I felt angry with everyone for living, when I had no desire to go on. I felt angry that I had to hold onto this suffering and knowing others could never relate.
Their lives so seemingly perfect at a distance.
The truth is. I haven’t found the perfect formula of coping with bereavement.
Every day is triggering for me.
Each day I fight my battles.
I lost my dad. I was his baby girl.
Deep down I’m screaming. Deep down I’m crying. Deep down my world has been torn apart.
When I feel like this. I sit with the pain. I accept the sadness and invite love and compassion in for myself.
I remind myself of the beautiful mess that life is. And I find comfort in this and continue on.
I’m sharing my story to help heal these deep wounds. But I’m also sharing my story in case this can help you.
If you’ve lost a parent and are reading this. I’m with you. I see you. Keep going.
I miss you dad. every damn day. I will always be your baby girl and I’m beyond grateful to have had the best 25 years with you.
As the weepies so beautifully sing, and the world spins madly on.
"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count; it's the life in your years."
Kurt Clifford Jacobs
July 10th 1958 - March 31st 2017