My Dad died: Memories at Thanksgiving

My Dad Died: A Daughter’s Reflections Nearly Two Years Later

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since my Dad died.

Just those words, “My dad died,” still sound — and feel — foreign to me.

My Dad had just made it to his 61st birthday a couple of months before he died. It makes me sad just thinking about it. This Valentine’s Day (exactly one week ago) he would’ve turned 63. I find it difficult to even talk about him as dead. Because he really isn’t dead to me. His body is gone, his voice is gone, his phone calls are gone, but the man who was my Dad remains very much alive in my heart and in my mind.

Still, nearly two years later, the reality that my Dad died — and the weight of that reality — hasn’t fully made its impact on my consciousness and spirit. Maybe it never will. Over these last 22 months, the initial shock and emotional fog of my Dad’s death have subsided, but grieving is a process and a journey that I’m continually working my way through — and there is no finish line. 

My Dad was on life support the last few days of his life here on earth. His body completely stopped functioning on April 30, 2018. As I type these factual details about my Dad’s life (or rather, his death) here now on my computer … I have to stop for a moment. Those burning, acrid tears are back, and that hard, disruptive lump in my throat has returned. This is how grief barrels its way through my body and bursts through the surface every time I allow myself to pause and reflect on the fact that my Dad died. And now I cannot continue typing without wiping my eyes or trying to swallow that lump every few seconds.

This is what loss is like. At least, this is what loss has been like for me. Death has forced me to confront the question: What’s the meaning of life?

I ask myself what positive significance, purpose, or direction can I take from this loss? Surely something positive must come from something so negative. If not, I would feel as though my Dad’s death was for nothing. And I know that’s not true.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a husband, a mom, brothers, family, and friends who have been sharing this painful experience with me, so I don’t ever feel alone. But really, when you strip away all the comfort that you get from other people or even your faith, loss — and the subsequent grieving — is quite a solitary experience. You never know what it’s like until it happens to you. 

While I don’t feel the same intense distress that overtook me in the immediate months after my Dad died, I do feel the loss of his presence every day. And I do feel as though the pain of it all is always just beneath the surface. Just waiting there …

… waiting for a moment where I’ll come across his smiling face in one of our photos, or hear a song that reminds me of him, or see a man whose hair or clothes or mustache or shoes remind me of him. And in those moments, a rushing, crushing wave of heartbreak crashes through my system and I realize that grief is not a one-time deal.

The pain often shows up when I’m having a quiet moment at night when all the responsibilities and distractions of the day have faded and I am left only with my thoughts. Other times it’ll happen when I’m telling my husband or a friend about a funny or happy memory of my Dad. Grief strikes whenever it wants, and that aching sense of emptiness and missing-ness is relentless.

If I’m being brutally honest with myself, the only real comfort I have found so far has been in knowing that my Dad is no longer suffering. He is in no physical pain, no emotional anguish, no psychological torment, no hell on earth. I wish I could say for sure that I knew where he’s gone or where he is (aside from his ashes in the urn that my Mom keeps), but I don’t have the answers.

My family believes he is in heaven, a spiritual realm of perfect peace. Even though I believe in God, I am not arrogant enough (or faith-filled enough) to declare I have the spiritual answers and can tell you for certain I know where my Dad is — and I’m not talking about his body. I mean his essence, his spirit, his truest self. Questions remain, but because I accept what is — life is not fair and death is part of life — I am growing through the pain.

I also remind myself that I’m not the only one who has lost a father, and my Dad is not the only one who has left a grieving daughter. It seems a little cold to find comfort in other people’s pain, but admittedly I find comfort knowing that there are countless others who are going through the grief of losing a parent or loved one. Still, the personal experience of grief is as unique as every person who goes through it.

The bottom line is that none of us are guaranteed any set time here on earth. You can have all the faith in the world and wholeheartedly believe in God’s goodness, but we are all just passing through and nobody gets to know all the secrets of the universe — including when and why we die. 

So, choose to make the most of your precious gift of life and spend time with those you love. More than anything, that’s the message that was embedded in my heart after my Dad died.

Grief is a burden that knows no bounds, but through this experience, I have grown emotionally and spiritually. Instead of dwelling on the “what ifs” of the past, I acknowledge the “what is” of the present.

By talking about my Dad and sharing my story, I hope that I can help you and others who are grieving if only to remind you that you are not alone. In this way, I’m not only honoring my Dad’s memory, but I feel as though I’m honoring life itself.

Have you lost someone you love? How have you been getting through it? I recently came across the book called “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” written by David Kessler, who co-wrote the famous book about the five stages of grief. He wrote this book after losing his 21-year-old son, and it’s the one book that has helped me more than any other. It’s beautifully written, easy to read and offers real-life ways to grow and heal through this painful experience. 

There are 18 comments for this article
  1. Heather Warren at 10:03 am

    I randomly found your story by putting in Google my Dad died. I am glad I did. Even though he passed away 3 years ago now, there are still times just like you described where a song, person, picture, or any memory will trigger an emotional poignancy of grief and I will have to stop just to collect myself. Eventhough I believe his spirit has moved on to Heaven, I just as strongly believe a part of him lives on inside my heart. Thank you for sharing your story

  2. Randi cahill at 8:54 am

    I want to thank you what you wrote. I lost my dad one month ago. I was also his caregiver. He was the most amazing dad. He had dementia. I wake up every morning and think it was just a nightmare. I have all his clothes I don’t want to let anything go. I even cut his hair four days before he passed so I have his hair. It makes me feel yes he was here and this is from him . Thank you for writing what you said is so true it will happen to everyone and I’m glad he didn’t pass from COVID and he was home with his loved ones . God bless Randi

    • Mar Yvette at 10:01 pm

      Hi Randi –
      I am so sorry that you lost your dad. It’s wonderful that you took care of him even in his final moments. I’m sure he knew just how much you loved him. I know the first months are incredibly painful and feel overwhelming, but you will get through day by day. I TOTALLY understand wanting to have a physical part of your dad with you — I’m happy you were able to cut some of his hair. I actually have a single, solitary strand of hair from my dad. I have it saved and will always keep it safe because it is the only physical piece of him I have left. I found it one day after coming home from the hospital where he was staying and I immediately knew it was something to keep. Thank you for sharing your story and for your kind words. Sending you comforting and loving thoughts.

  3. Monica Martinez at 5:45 pm

    Isn’t it strange/great I found this by randomly googling “My dad died almost 2 years ago.” This year I’ve tried to ignore it, and avoid the pain of it all. The first year I drowned in it. This month, THE month, I can’t ignore it and I’m glad I read your reflection. Is it weird I wonder if it’s supposed to hurt this much?? The year my dad died, before my first Father’s Day without him, a counselor told me I was too devoted to my dad and Father’s Day was just another day. I was so confused and protective of my grief after that (I also stopped going to see her). Anyway, reading things like this helps me to feel ok with it all. I’m glad I love my dad as much as I do, and I’m so grateful to be his daughter. Thanks again 🙂

    • Monica Martinez at 5:48 pm

      Also, thank you for sharing about your love for your dad, and his love for you. I love the picture of you two! Sharing the love between you and your father with me has been a true gift. I’m sure it is one of the many gifts that will come from that love. 🙂

    • Mar Yvette at 9:55 pm

      Hi Monica,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story and reaching out with your kind words. I am so very sorry for your loss. It is a horrible, sinking feeling to lose your dad. There really is no “right” way to grieve — it is not something you will ever know how to handle until it happens to you. I am grateful that sharing my experience has helped you in some small way. It is clear there was so much love between you two and that will never leave you. You are definitely not alone and I am sending you love and comfort.

  4. Pamela Smith at 7:53 pm

    It will be two years tomorrow since I lost my Dad. Your words echo my feelings to a T. I miss him so much. If there is a hidden blessing I guess I would have to say that I would not want him to be going through these Covid times – he had Parkinson Disease for over 25 years and never once complained. If he were alive today, it would break his heart not to be able to have his 3 girls come visit him. At least he never had to face this pandemic…Thank you for sharing your story. It does help to know that I’m not the only one who still feels that saying he has passed sounds foreign and that it is a continuous process working my way through each passing day with no finish line in sight. I kiss his urn each morning and night and return it to the memorial frame on my dresser as I see his smiling face looking back at me. The photo we chose to put on his memorial card has him wearing a T-shirt that reads: Every once in awhile someone Amazing comes along…and Here I am! He truly was an amazing man, a wonderful Dad, a devoted Husband, a loving Grandpa and so much more. August 14, 2018 a day that will be etched in my heart forever. A date that God took him home .

    • Mar Yvette at 8:12 pm

      Hi Pamela –
      I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking the time to share your Dad’s story — he sounds like such a wonderful person and I can feel how much love and pain you feel for him. It is notes like yours that also help me as I continue to process this new reality. Yes, it has been two years, but that is not very long at all. It still feels very new. Like you, I have also said that I am glad my Dad is not here during this horrible pandemic. He was in and out of hospitals the last year of his life and this would’ve been the worst experience, especially not being able to have visitors. I suppose we must be grateful for the little things and look for the light even in our darkest moments. Thank you so much for sharing. Sending you love and comfort.

  5. Tanya at 2:23 am

    I lost my dad almost a month now and I haven’t seen him for 18yrs. I am sitting you trying to piece a tribute and I cannot even find the words to cover that length of pain and I came across you page and it’s like you’re talking about my father. Thank you for giving me words in my grief. I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart and I am so sorry for your loss too. Take heart and may God comfort you and your family.

    • San at 4:30 pm

      I have lost my dad 9 months ago.It seems like i am in a same room where he passed away!!! Tears flow from my eyes without any warning!! He was the most loving person and he gave me unconditional and true love which i miss everyday! For instance he would ask me to wear shoes if i am bare foot at home that i can catch cold!! This was probably the smallest level of care he showed for me!! He was worried if i studied too much or even when i did not study as I am a doctor! He supported me, protected me and raised me like a princess but never asked for a return!Now when it was my turn to do something he left ! I had made plans to take him to europe as we moved here but life had other plans!! I believe in God .He loves us the most and now my father is no longer in pain! When i think this it gives me peace.Otherwise, i miss him like hell!!

      • Mar Yvette at 10:47 am

        Hi San,
        I feel your words and I’m so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like he was a wonderfully caring and loving man. Those memories will be with you for the rest of your life and you can carry them forward to help others the way he helped you. And yes, thank God he is no longer in pain!

    • Mar Yvette at 10:37 am

      Hi Tanya,
      I am so deeply sorry for your loss. The pain of losing your dad feels impossible to describe, but the feelings are no less real. Thank you for leaving your kind words. I wish you and your family peace as well. One place that has helped me is grief.com — it’s a very helpful resource and the author’s book “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” really helped me. But it took me a while before I could read it. All my best to you.

  6. PW at 5:15 pm

    Wow I really feel as though you are talking about me, I have the exact same feelings, I will keep your message and read it over and over. I’m sorry for your loss, my father passed away 2years ago now – it was only 3months after I had my first baby and was an extremely traumatising time, i try not to think about it but sometimes you cant help it, your words have helped a lot thank you x

    • Mar Yvette at 11:50 am

      PW, I am so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how painful it was, especially after you just had your baby. Thank you for your kind words. Even though the grief is always there, knowing that we are not alone helps bring a bit of comfort. I wish you peace and love.

    • Ij at 4:45 am

      Tomorrow 3rd of May will be exactly 8years my dad died, the grief, the pain, everything feels as though it just happened, it life altering, I’ve not been able to grasp it, I remember and I’m hurt all over, don’t know if I would ever get through this, didn’t cry initially but occasionally now, the tears come, everything you’ve written, I hope I can heal, thank you for sharing

      • Mar Yvette at 12:45 pm

        LJ,
        I’m so sorry for your loss. Allowing yourself to feel the pain is part of the healing process even though I don’t think the grief ever goes away. Thank you for your words.

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