My Dad Died

Dear Mom:

My dad died about six months ago. I am so lost. I miss him so much. But everything a so wrong now. My mom works all the time and never talks to us. We had to move and I lost all my friends. I get stuck looking after my brother. My grades are falling. And I just don’t want to do anything anymore. How do I fix this?

Orphaned Twice. 

Dear Orphaned:

Short answer: Ohh, Sweety. I’m so sorry. Nobody can fix this for you. But you can make it better. It won’t be easy, but you can do this.

Long answer: Death is something none of us are ever prepared for. In a way, we’ve made matters worse with tv and movies where people die all the time and we don’t give them a second thought. In fact, you’ll probably see that guy again in another movie next week. No big deal.

But real life is so much harder. And it’s cruel. As if losing your dad isn’t hard enough, now your whole life is different. And you didn’t ask for any of it!! No one ever said life was fair, but this goes beyond that.

I have a some suggestions that will smooth things out for you over time. And by time, I mean years. The bigger the hurt, the bigger the time. Try some or all of these when you feel ready. And know that I’m so glad you’re reading this – this is about the hardest thing you’ll ever go through. You can do this.

Give In. Not up. In. Yes, accept that, for now, this is your new life. And that you can’t change it right now. And it’s okay to hate it. Do what you can to make it work for you. Find a routine – work at getting you and your brother off to school in the morning so that it becomes automatic. Get your things ready the night before. Just focus on getting through the normal bathing, eating, dressing usual stuff. Go to school – do your best and stop worrying about your grades for now – you can only do so much. Come home. Help your bro get through homework and supper, get things ready for tomorrow. Let your mind drift and make your body do all the work. Tidy up. Do some laundry. Help little bro with his homework. Talk to him. Your life is far from perfect right now; but it doesn’t have to make matters worse. Take pride in just getting through a day.

Down the road, you’ll start to notice that if the basics are all in place, you’ll begin to feel stronger. Capable. And maybe there will be room for a little something extra. Like a new friend. A hobby. A sport. No rush. It’ll happen.

Write. If you’re reading this, you know how to work a computer well enough to start a blog. WordPress.com is a great platform. Go there. Start a blog. Set the privacy setting however you like – private so no one sees it, or leave it public so Google can find it and someone who’s going through what you’re going through can share. Just be sure to make it anonymous – or with fake names for you and your family so you stay safe. Then start writing. Write letters to your dad. Tell him how much you miss him. Tell him what’s going on in your life. Tell him you hate him for leaving. Whatever you like. Write letters to your mom. Tell her you’re worried about her. Tell her you need her. Yell at the Universe. Tell the world what a crap hand you’ve been dealt. Get angry. Complain. Be selfish. Whatever you’re feeling. It doesn’t have to be great writing – but you have to do it. It’ll help get your thoughts straight at a time when they’re just a big jumbled confusing mess.

Cry. This is important. Probably the most important thing I could tell you. Make time to cry. There is a huge difference in the chemical makeup of tears. Happy tears are a completely different recipe than sad tears. Whatever is in the sad tears is pure poison. And you need to get it out.

Think of it like taking a big poop. You eat and eat and eat. And then your stomach starts growling. And aching. And you know it’s coming. So you make a time when you can sit and relax and enjoy a good big poop. And afterward, you feel like a pro athlete! Like you just lost the weight of the world and, ah ha ha! I can do anything!!

Crying is the same thing. When you find that tears are leaking out a little (like little tear-farts!) – someone says something to you and your voice cracks, or you hear a song that you and dad used to sing together, or you just had the worst day ever. Make some private time to go have a really good cry, and go cry your heart out. It’s going to hurt. Your face will ache. Your eyes will burn. Your nose will run. It’s not fun. Do it in the shower – the water helps cover the noise and the rinse the tears. When you’re good and done, rinse your face with cold water, drink lots of water, and get to bed early – you’re going to sleep really well. When you wake up in the morning, you’re going to feel a heck of a lot better. Stronger. And you’ll be able to think better. Until it builds up again and you have to have another cry.

At first, it’ll be like every day. Then a couple times a week. Eventually, just once or twice a month.  And life in general usually needs a good cry every couple months anyway – it’s a good habit to get into. Trust me on this. Cry.

Laugh. Especially with your brother and mom. It’s okay to laugh. Talk to them about your dad. Remember good times, funny times. And laugh. Watch some tv – funny shows, and laugh. As much as sad tears wear us down, laughing tears build us up. If you can find ways to laugh til you cry, you’ll be healing better than you’ll ever expect. Don’t forget – it’s okay to laugh!!

Talk. The best person to talk to will be your mom. But don’t forget, she lost your dad, too. She’s hurting. She’s scared. And she’s tired and worried and just as lost as you are. But she’s a mom. So she’s strong and she loves you and you’ll both get through this.

Talk to your brother. But if he’s young, try to listen more than you talk. On one hand, he’ll be scared and sad, and on the other, he could be walking through his days like nothing happened. Everybody goes through loss in their own way on their own schedule – there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

If this isn’t working for you, you need to find an adult to talk to. A neighbour? A teacher? Someone whom you already respect and can be comfortable with. And don’t think you’re imposing – people really, really want to help, but most just don’t know what to do. Ask them if they can spare you an hour to chat – and if you like them, ask if they’d be willing to just hear you out once in a while. You’re looking for a listener, not a lecturer. You’ll know them when you find them; and then hang on to them.

Hope. People will say stupid things to you. Even grown-ups who should know better. But know this: nobody knows the right thing to say. They try. But most of the time they just end up saying something that’ll set off temper or tears. They mean well. They’re trying to help. The biggest cliche they’ll throw at you is that Time Heals. Things will get better. And you’ll likely look at them and want to punch them because you can’t imagine anything ever being any better ever again. Time won’t bring your dad back. Or put you back into your old life.

But time will bring you a different life. Something you’re not expecting. Something even better. You have to believe that. For you. For your family. They’ll heal, too. At their own pace, in their own way. As long as you hope.

And if you get really stuck, message me through the contact page. I’ll always make time to talk to you.

Hope that helps,

Love Mom.

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