Grief Diaries Life Lessons

What I’ve Learned In the Year After My Dad’s Death

Four hundred and six days ago I lost my father to chronic illness. This was my first time experiencing the grief of an immediate family member, only three months after losing my 21-year-old cousin.

Earlier that year (2021), I recall a conversation with a good friend of mine where I told her that I had never experienced grief before and that I was terrified of it. I thought it would drive me insane, being someone who has struggled profusely with mental health in the past. I feared it would make me lose myself to the point of no return. So as the months got closer and the intuitive feeling in my gut got stronger, I begged God not to let it happen. I begged, I cried, I screamed, shouted, threw tantrums – you name it. I was desperate. Then at 4am on the morning of November 19th 2021, I received the worst call of my entire life, marked by the resounding words that echo in my mind like a ghost until today, “He’s gone.”

In the past year following his death, I have learned and have grown from grief in ways totally unimaginable to myself. I’d like to share some of these things with you today, for those of you who have experienced grief and for those who fear it. And maybe also for those who just want to learn.

1. After a death, you will lose yourself as though the person took a part of you with them

It’s unavoidable, especially if it was somebody close to you. With the combination of shock, hurt, confusion, and the exhausting denial, you will lose a part of yourself for perhaps a long time.

When my dad died, I completely lost my personality for a long time. I also forgot how to be present. I remember being at a friend’s birthday a couple months after it happened, and realising I couldn’t enjoy myself because my mind kept telling me this may be the last time I see these people. I became over-conscious of death and its ability to take anybody at any time with little to no notice.

His death made me – once an extrovert that was constantly out the house – an extreme introvert who until today will do anything to stay at home. It made me lose my excitement about my life, and lose even some of my favourite interests, such as this blog. I used to love writing, but when he left, I stopped. Even writing this piece now feels foreign to me but I have told myself that I will try and try again until I rediscover my passions once again.

I used to fear that I would never find myself again, and the truth is… I didn’t find myself. My old self, that is. But I discovered a new version of me that in ways I like better. After an experience like grief, you are not supposed to stay the same, so going back to who you once were shouldn’t be your aim. The experience you go through is life-altering so of course you yourself will be altered in the process. I have learned to see the world in a new way and have become a more grateful human being. So, in ways, I am liking the person that I am learning to be.

2. Grief brings unity

Nobody likes death but, like birth, it is one of the strongest unifiers of mankind. I realised this shortly after the incident, when I realised the people I desired to see most were those who had also experienced the death of a family member. I wanted to be with people who I felt might understand.

When you go through something so traumatic such as a death, particularly at a young age, you find comfort in knowing that you are not the only person who has. It is a strange feeling, as nobody wants anybody else to experience the pain associated with loss. But the knowledge that somebody else outside of yourself already has can be quite comforting. It makes you feel less alone. It made me shake my fist less at God, as it made me realise that death is inevitable. It is the only thing guaranteed to us all, and everybody will experience it in one way or another at some point. I found that grief made me grow closer in friendships to those who have been through similar, and unite with others that I was never friends with at all. It brought a unity that made the entire experience of loss less intense than it is supposed to be.

It also made me understand that something the devil intended for evil, God still knows how to turn it around for good. God never intended for humans to die, as we know from Genesis chapter 2. He knew how horrible an event such as death is. So I actually find it rather beautiful how He can use unity to still bring something lovely to such a morbid event. In fact, I only became friends with one of my best friends today because we both had experienced the loss of a father and she was open to speaking to me about it. So in a strange way, while death separates human beings, it also unites us.

3. If you treat everybody like you will never see them again, you will live a more wholesome life

This may be one of the greatest lessons I learned following my dad’s passing. And it is the lesson I adopted most subconsciously. You see, after a few months, I realised that the consciousness that death is a real thing made me live in the present a lot more. It made me listen to people more attentively when they speak. It made me hug people more and smile at them even when I didn’t feel like it. It made me more expressive of my appreciation towards people. In truth, a lot of the behaviours I have adopted now are behaviours my heart longs to have shown towards my father. I heard a quote about death that says something along the lines of “grief is love with no place to go.”

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Jamie Anderson

It has made me realise now that the love I could not give to my dad, I am now choosing to pour the remnants of it to those around me. And it is certainly fulfilling. My life has become more wholesome and I have been able to see the hidden beauty of human beings in a way I never could before his death. In a strange way then, I am grateful. It makes me feel like I will have less regrets when the next person close to me dies (but we will see how that goes in actuality).

4. God is not evil

Death is what makes a lot of people lose their faith. I had an active fear that it would be what made me lose mine, and I think I will dedicate an entire blog post to this experience at a later time – as part of the Grief Diaries series. To be completely transparent with you all, I almost lost my faith. Not necessarily my faith that God is real, but moreso my faith that God is good. I started to question more things than I ever have before.

For a mini glimpse into my mind, here are some of the questions I had – taken directly from my journal at the time:

  • Why was he taken at the age of 60 when we believed he would live much longer, like his own dad?
  • Why me? And why at such a young age?
  • Is any of this even real?
  • Why did you take him so early?
  • What is the point in having faith in something that is destined to never happen?
  • When will I accept that he’s actually gone?
  • How will I ever heal from this?

There were many deeper and more painful questions that are too personal for me to share, but you get the gist. I had many questions and I was very angry at God. I didn’t speak to Him for a month, and avoided reading my bible or doing things that would require me to acknowledge Him. At the same time however, I actively sought answers without facing Him. I searched for youtube videos, podcasts, even conversations where I could get some sort of insight as to why what had to happen happened. I never really found the answers I was looking for.

But I remember one day in my room when I came to a realisation that completely changed the evil perspective I was looking at God with. I remembered that God lost His only Son too. Loss wasn’t an emotion exclusive to just me, or human beings as a whole. God had also taken part in the suffering of mankind by seeing His beloved Son die on a tree. Except His death was unjust, and He was totally undeserving of it. I stopped shaking my fist at God once I realised this and came to an understanding that God actually understood my pain. This extended further when I realised that Jesus also lost His earthly father while He was on earth. We only hear of Joseph, the husband of Mary, when Jesus is 12 years old and younger but no more mentions of him occur during Jesus’ ministry at 30. It made me understand that contrary to my preconceived ideas, God understood exactly what I was going through. And it helped me to appreciate God a lot more. It helped me to understand that God is not a Father that ostracises Himself from human pain but He takes part in it too, and He feels it with us. He is so full of compassion that as I was crying in my room wondering why the world had to take my dad from me, He was crying too.

“Jesus wept.”

John 11:35

I stopped shifting the blame onto God and instead concluded that though I don’t understand, I can choose to trust. And that is the stance I still take until today. The truth is many of us will never get the answers that we are looking for while we are here on earth. But instead of building up resentment and only being hurt more in the process, the more gracious thing for us to do for ourselves is to just trust. Trust that God knows better. Trust that our wisdom is finite. Trust that everything can still work out for our good, and trust that things will be okay.

There are many more lessons I learned following my dad’s death but I will write about these at a later time. I hope this post may have helped somebody who for one reason or another needed to hear this. I also have a youtube video where I speak extensively of my experience of his passing, which I encourage you to watch if something here resonated with you.

Thank you all for your lovely time and patience reading this. I hope to post more on this blog over the next year, and to be a lot more frequent with my uploads. Do let me know in the comments or via DM if you enjoyed this read, and perhaps share it with somebody you think may need to hear it. I’m wishing you all the most lovely New Years celebrations and I pray that 2023 is all that you desire and more. God bless.

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  1. Benedicta Alapini says:

    Loved this so much 🥺🥰

  2. Favour says:

    Thanks for sharing these lessons, really make one think!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story so eloquently. May God continue to guide you down the path of His love which He has designed just for you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful piece of writing and so insightful. Thank you for sharing ❤️

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