This post was written by our daughter Genevieve. She is the oldest of our blended family, and Ray’s only natural daughter. Genevieve has been brave enough to share the story of losing her father with all of us in order to shed some light on how this impacts a child her age. I am incredibly proud of her, as I know her father would be too. Our hope is that her words would bring you new knowledge, insight and peace in knowing a little bit of what might be going on for someone who is experiencing this.
I’ve written this more times than I can count and every draft has been left unfinished because I struggle so much with the reality that my dad is gone, forever. I could tell you about what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now, however I genuinely feel that instead of painting a picture of the events of finding out my dad was sick, having an ill parent, and then losing a parent, I would prefer to write about my experience of the situation, and how my life and my perception has been forever altered.
It didn’t hit me that my dad was very sick until a long time after he was diagnosed. I could say he was sick, but I didn’t truly believe it, and I certainly didn’t believe that his life was at stake in this battle. Cancer was just going to be one of those things that my family would overcome, much like they overcame all the havoc I had brought to our family. I was in denial about the severity of the situation. My parents had me quite young and I always joked that we would be in the same old folks’ home one day, so the idea that I would lose one of them at eighteen was completely unfathomable. Somewhere along the line, close to the end, something clicked for me, realizing the seriousness of this situation. Right away I was engulfed in the guilt and shame around how much time I had wasted and how I treated my dad and just how I behaved as a daughter. Just as I was amidst these realizations and the complete shame and remorse that accompanied them, I had another realization that I could not change the past and I only had now to step up and be the daughter my dad truly deserved. So, that’s what I decided to do.
I was often told how brave I was for doing the best I could to show up for him in his last months but I genuinely see no bravery. I was just doing what I had to do to give my dad the daughter he deserved all along in his last month or so here with us. I have a lot of pride when I talk or think about my father because he was an incredible man. He was so goofy, loving, kind, humble, patient, understanding, strong, and honestly the best dad a girl could ask for. In between all the chaos that I caused in our relationship, I have many, many happy memories of him and I. I know how much my dad loved me and it still really sucks to think about just how awful I was to him.
After my dad passed I felt completely numb and in a fog which was not what I was expecting, I knew that the time was coming so this feeling of numb and fogginess seemed like a weird reaction. I had done so much crying and pleading with God in the months prior that I felt cried out. I just felt nothing. My family, especially Donna’Lee, my Mom, my good friend Kesia, the Ashdowns, and the Halls were all so incredible during this time. It seems that a societal norm for dealing with death is to be surrounded by your loved ones which was the opposite of what I wanted. I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to be around people because being around them made it all more real.
The first few weeks were a blur, all that sticks out was the funeral which was an absolutely beautiful celebration. I cried for the first time that day, but continued to have desert eyes afterwards. Life kept happening and I was angry because the more time passed the more real it became. There’s a constant tape playing in my head reminding me that he’s gone. Beforehand, I did a lot of reading about grieving and it seemed reasonable, and somewhat clean cut. You would handle the seven stages and then you were done. What I seemed to miss in all the reading, was that grieving is not simple or clean cut. Sometimes I might handle stage 7, 1, 3, and 6, all before noon. Some days, I can’t get out of bed and some days the littles things turn me into an angry dragon.
I don’t cry a lot; I just get angry. Things set me off that seem weird to others but make sense to me. Like petite vanilla scones, or a certain song, or seeing fathers and daughters out together, or just the fact that life is continuing to happen. I don’t know who or what I’m angry at necessarily, but I know that I’m angry that my dad won’t walk me down the aisle, or see my brother grow from a little boy to a man, or watch my sister grow into the incredible young woman that she is becoming. I hate that my brother is four years old and prays to have his daddy back from heaven and that my sister is among the hardest years while having to grieve a parent. This all makes my blood boil. And then, whenever I talk about my dad and having to deal with these struggles, people always throw clichés out there like “He’s watching over me” and, “He’s there in spirit” or “He’s in a better place”. Maybe to some they are words that comfort, and because this is such a sucky situation people feel the need to be fixers and comfort me. I know that before I experienced this I said the same clichés with all the right intentions but now being on the receiving end, I dread them.
Yes, he is watching, and yes, he is here in spirit, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is gone forever. I can never ever hug him or call him, or have him give me words of encouragement. Yes, he is in a better place, I wouldn’t ask for him to be back here or in the state that he left in, but that doesn’t change the reality of him being gone. He won’t meet my children, he didn’t get to see me get clean, he didn’t get to see me move into my first apartment, he won’t meet my first boyfriend or see me go to university. I can’t call him and tell him about how hard it is being an adult and how I just want to be his little princess again, dancing in the kitchen making crepes. I can’t even eat crepes anymore. I feel guilty about how good my life is getting because I think I should be suffering for wasting so much time and just being so awful to my own father who loved me SO much.
I dread holidays because it is a clear reminder that life is continuing and my dad isn’t here for it. I know in my heart that he wouldn’t want me to be living my life with so much anger, and shame; so, every day I just try and do the next right thing- if not for me then for him. I know there isn’t anything anyone could say to change my feelings, and that this is something I need to work through myself. I know that I won’t live like this forever, and that just because my grieving process is different than others doesn’t make it wrong.
By no means am I writing this in hopes of a perfect response, sympathy, or an answer to make me feel 100% better- those are the last things I’m looking for. I am writing this to share my experience of the hardest time of my life, in case someone out there is struggling with a similar situation. That they might come across this and have their heart say, “me too.”