It was a Monday afternoon when my husband’s phone rang. The number was not saved in his phone so confusion showed on both of our faces, but when he answered, I heard a familiar voice and I just knew. He hung up the phone and looked at me in fear and all I asked was if it was an accident. He said nothing. Suddenly, time stood still and I instantly thought of my next move. At the time, I lived halfway across the country from my dad. I needed to make plans on how I was going to get to him. The next day I loaded up my toddler and we drove two days and a total of 25 hours to Texas. The next month was chaotic. I was exhausted. Not only was I a single mother during this time since my husband was stuck in North Carolina, I was also a new Graduate student, and an only child trying to figure all of this estate stuff out.
After a month of being there, I couldn’t take anymore. I couldn’t handle the pettiness that was surrounding me. I needed out. I called my husband and asked him to fly down and drive back with me, and he did. During my month in Texas, I really didn’t have a chance to grieve. It wasn’t until I was back to my “normal” life that it all hit me like a giant boulder continuously rolling over me. It was when I would least expect it. When the house was quiet and I needed to focus on school- I would instantly start crying. In these moments, I so badly wanted to call my dad and yell at him. How could he leave me? He wasn’t just a father to me. He was the man that came into my life when I was a child and chose to love me when he didn’t have to. He was the man that backed every crazy decision I made even when he shouldn’t have. He was the one I always called when I needed to be lifted up. He made me feel like I could conquer the world with just one conversation. How was I supposed to exist in a world where he no longer did?
At the time, I was already seeing an amazing therapist. I needed “life help.” When I started back at my regularly scheduled visits I explained that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. There were so many emotions that I couldn’t begin to sort through and I needed something to help me! I needed a tool out of her valuable toolbox to work through this so I could start enjoying life again. My husband and daughter were suffering because I couldn’t figure out how to breathe. My friends were seeing less of me since I just wanted to be a hermit. That’s when she suggested writing to my dad.
Sounds crazy, right? How can I write to someone that isn’t physically here to read it? Well, the letters weren’t for him, they were for me. I started a journal for the first time in my life. Each page started with “Dear Dad.” It wasn’t until the words just started pouring out on the page that I realized what I was really feeling, anger. Before this, I had fallen into the habit of what everyone else was doing, making excuses for what my dad chose to do. When I started writing, it freed me from that habit.
The journal gave me an outlet. Any time I felt unable to focus, I would pull it out, look at my dad’s funeral program and my eulogy, and just write. I wrote often in the beginning. Then, the journal entries became less frequent. I started to feel human again after a while and I could finally breathe again. I no longer hated him or was angry with him. I was no longer consumed with guilt over his decision. It took almost 2 years, but I finally felt like I could be a wife and mom again. I saw myself living my life instead of just trying to make it through each day. I still have days where I find myself in tears. Everything reminds me of him and I wish he was here to enjoy life with us. I wish he could have met my daughter and could be here to celebrate our son being born later this year, but he made a choice that the rest of us have to figure out how to live with. That part is never easy, but eventually you find a way to finally breathe.