Friday, June 10, 2011

What do you do when your dad dies?

My dad passed away last week. It was both sudden and expected. It was sudden because he had just been diagnosed with lung cancer that spread to his brain about a month ago. But things were already looking grim and progressed rapidly, before long he was in hospice care at home. So now what do I do? The day he died, a very good friend told me to do whatever felt right, what ever I needed to do for me. Not what I thought was normal (cry in bed all day? wear black?) or what someone else told me would help. And that has been invaluable advice. I did a lot of my crying while he was still alive, adjusting to the idea that this was happening. I am thankful for the days when he was still coherent and said what he needed to say and was reassured that he had done his best and that we would be ok. Now that his journey has ended and things have quieted down, what have I been doing?

Whistling-I remember my dad whistling every day. When he was getting ready for work, when he was working in the garage or walking to get the mail. So I'll always whistle and think of Pop.

Eating-Not the best way to cope but I'll admit it, for a few days I ate as a comfort. Dougnuts, pizza, mac and cheese, ice cream. But since then I've been eating more rounded meals. A dear friend brought us a complete summery picnic meal that really brightened up the day!

Eating rhubarb jam-My dad loved rhubarb. Rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb jam. So I'll always grow rhubarb.

Gardening-I remember my dad seemed to be able to take sweltering temperatures, maybe because he was skinnier than my mom and I it was easier on him. He greatly preferred to be outside even when it seemed FAR too hot to me. So I've been gardening, despite the high temps, not only to stay busy but to experience the heat and remember. The heat and humidity outside is like a comforting blanket. Generally, I'd be sitting in the shade but working up a sweat seems to be what feels best right now. My vegetable garden looks better than it has in years with all the weeding I've been doing. I'll take some pictures to post sometime.

Working-My dad was a hard worker, at home and at his job. I didn't want to take days off from work because I knew I wouldn't know what to do with myself at home. Dad liked to stay busy and so do I. I'm sure to some people it seemed odd to come back so soon but those who know me were not surprised, they knew I would want to keep active and engaged.

Working out-I took a couple of days off from exercise because I got a tetanus shot that made lifting my arm nearly impossible but after that I got back into my routine. I've been known to spontaneously burst into tears during a workout when otherwise my life is peachy. (Endorphins? Stress?) So it wasn't odd for me when in the middle of challenging set of Front Planks With Alternate Reach I burst out into tears. And it felt good.

Sharing corny jokes on Facebook-Some of you might have seen Monday's tribute posts, full of hilarious bad jokes! And lots of my friends shared their own terrible jokes as well. Dad was funny, he had a quirky sense of humor and recited limericks and funny little songs.

Being silent-I've been finding comfort in quiet, mainly outside in the yard or at a park. I can't say I've really been doing any deep thinking, just enjoying scenery and resting my mind. The past few weeks we had SO much to think about, it's nice to just NOT think.

Talking to others about their experiences-I felt so lonely at first because I couldn't think of any of my friends who had lost a parent. One thing that really comforted me early on was when people would share their own experience loosing a parent or just mention that they had. It's terrible to think about but everyone has parents and goes through this at some point. Keeping that in mind (I know, though, what a horrid thought.) really helped me.


  1. Hi Jenna - I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. It's so difficult to lose someone you love. I know what you mean about doing what feels right - when my dad lost his older brother unexpectedly we spent that first afternoon at the zoo. He said Reg had loved it, and it felt good to be near something he loved. Take care of yourself.

  2. So sorry about your dad. I completely understand how your feeling. I love this post though...I really like how you are remembering him, the whisteling, the rhubarb, the garden. Keep your head up. It does get easier eventually, just give yourself time...and keep working out. That was a life saver for me!

  3. I understand what it's like to lose a dad, my dad passed last night in a motorcycle accident. I just want you to know, I'm thinking of you. I know it's really tough.