Every waking morning after my dad’s death was a struggle for my family. However, the first few months did not really feel like that for me. Unlike people who become shattered and lost, I was more driven than ever to make my life as normal as before. I took my philosophy oral exam a day after the funeral just to prove that I was okay. Then again, the results revealed otherwise. I went out for movies, engaged in many extracurricular activities, auditioned for plays, and still had energy to train with the pep squad.
But in the end, I realized I was merely escaping from the painful truth. I was in denial, and I had to go through the worst Christmas of my life just to accept the fact that nothing would ever be the same again.
For people who have experienced a similar loss, let me share some things I realized:
- Grieving is a choice but moving on is never easy.
As cliché as it may sound, this is quite true. I found myself going through Dad’s dental kit, sniffing the faint scent of his perfume on his handkerchief, and hugging every garment that hung from his closet. I was wallowing in sadness while saying that I had no choice. Yet the truth was, I did have a choice. But I chose to grieve because I knew it would help, and that it was the first step to acceptance.
- Talking about it helps.
My mom was the most affected because she was there when it happened. I won’t deny the fact that at some point, I grew tired of hearing her cry and recount the accident. But one thing I learned is that sometimes, just letting the person talk is helpful enough.
- It is not a matter of getting over it but getting used to it.
Whoever said that time heals all wounds overlooked one huge fact when coping with death—as time goes by, it does not heal right away. It becomes even more painful. Every moment is like a very hard “first.” I remember the first Sunday we went out together, just the four of us. We heard mass and had lunch out, but it was so hard, we went home right away. I remember experiencing the first Simbang Gabi without Dad, the first New Year countdown, and my first birthday without him. Mending takes time. Only when you have experienced every aspect of your life with that loss can you start getting used to it and eventually, feel comfortable with it.
- Seek professional help if necessary.
Sometimes talking to friends or to family can be tiring. Aside from the burden of putting them in the uncomfortable spot of not knowing what to do, they may be too emotionally affected as well. Seeking help from psychologists also helps. My mom once took us to her psychologist, and the visit truly helped us in releasing whatever we found hard to express to one another.
- Pray and still be thankful.
Despite the unfortunate incident, praying opened my eyes to so many things I should be thankful for. Mom could have been in a worse condition, but thank God she was not seriously injured. Sometimes, when we get too caught up in whatever preoccupation in life, we forget to talk to Him and to thank Him for each waking moment. Pray, even if you are not in serious need of something.
More than a year later, though not quite healed from pain, I have gathered strength—along with painful recollections and hopefully wise realizations—to share with you that loss of a loved one is clearly not a deadend. Perhaps moving on is not really about obliterating wounds of the past, but about accepting these wounds and learning to live once again.
This first appeared in the September 2005 issue of Candy.