This was written by a friend of mine who lost her father to lung cancer two months ago. It is very emotional, so please be aware of this vulnerability before reading. She was unable to talk about how she was feeling for a long time. She feels ready now.
When it all started, we fully expected for dad to be going back to work. We thought it would be the following week after diagnosis, then we thought maybe after treatment and before long it was very clear he was likely never going back. Up until the day he died we still hoped and clung to the good days and thought that those days would become more frequent; if only we got the medication right.
My dad died. Dad died. He died.
It’s like a little mantra I say over and over. As if it will eventually sink in. He’s dead. Gone. Not coming back. And I’m really fucking pissed off.
Apparently 2015 was meant to be my ‘year’. For the last couple of years I’ve really struggled with my mental health. I only just started coming to terms with it after many years of relatively good health. When I say ‘coming to terms with it’ what I mean is, that I acknowledged it was an issue and I had to do something about it. I was mostly ready. I’ve made a lot of progress this year and feel better but it’s still a journey and by far not an easy fix. A good friend of mine tried to reassure me, he really ‘felt’ like this year it was going to happen for me.
Turns out 2015 was not my year. A month ago today, my dad died. Literally in my arms. He rested his head on my chest and stopped breathing.
My dad died. Dad died. He died.
Dad died on the 21st of August. We farewelled him on the 26th of August. I ‘celebrated’ my 33rd birthday on the 27th August. On the second of September it was my dad’s birthday. On the sixth, Fathers day. On the seventh, I forgot my mum’s birthday. And coming up will be the first Christmas without dad. I mean, we didn’t always spend Christmas together but it will be the first that I don’t have that option.
When you lose a parent or loved one, everyone gets those feels – first birthday, first fathers/mothers days, first Christmas without them. It sucks. I’m not sure if having a loved one die and then the first of everything happening within such a short time frame is worse than waiting months. But it still sucks and regardless of timing every event is a big sucker-punch in the gut every time.
It has been pretty constant for the past few months since dad’s diagnosis, late nights, constant hospital visits, ambulance trips, learning how to jab someone with a needle, navigating terminal illness, making difficult decisions and trying to keep some normalcy in your life with work or something that has resembled a social life.
We had ongoing issues with WINZ – slow responses, losing paperwork we had submitted. – in total it took almost 2 months for them to process. In fact, he got his backpay on the day he died. So basically it was up to the family to cover all the costs until that finally came through.
There hasn’t been a day since he died that I haven’t thought about him. You’re probably thinking that’s normal but if you haven’t lost someone close to you before you won’t understand the pain and immense sorrow that comes with thinking about that person when they’ve gone. It’s the type of pain that is accompanied with disbelief, tears, anger, bittersweet memories, thinking back to the last good, no GREAT memories. It is filled with loneliness and fear. There is physical numbness, the aching heart, the debilitating feeling that it will never be okay. The feelings you have, when someone is absent for a little while or has left you, or when friendships fizzle out, or relationships end are real but in my experience do not come with the intensity that they do in death. In most cases it can be remedied. In death, it cannot.
Dad is gone. He died. Dad died.
In saying all this, I’m not even sure what grief is meant to look like. What I do know is it doesn’t go easy on you when it’s your birthday or an important date, it sticks around for an indeterminate amount of time, at times gently and at times aggressively but always painfully.
There is but one comfort. My dad is at rest. He is no longer in pain.
I have no idea what it was like for dad. I know he was frightened. Scared is what he would say, but he was really frightened. What’s the difference? I don’t know. Frightened sounds scarier.
Dad was in pain and not just in physical pain, but really immense psychological pain. He worried about us, he worried he wouldn’t be there to look after us. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to die. He really. Didn’t. Want. To. Die.
He was determined. A day before he passed away, he wanted to go back to work. He loved his work. But he was fighting a losing battle. He was exhausted and even though he didn’t want to die, he wanted the pain to be over. He started calling out for his sister, Maota. He called out for ‘mum’. He was ready to go ‘home’.
The last few days were pretty chaotic, and we were all in denial. Doctors telling us they believe and ‘feel like he doesn’t have long;. My response: FEEL? Where’s your SCIENCE? We were hanging on for the good days. The good days that never came.
He got there in the end. He’s found his place of rest.
My dad died.