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Thoughts/reflections/mulling on the passing of my dad

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I know it looks like an extremely long post, but this is just a collection of thoughts I had on my dad's passing, or a sort of story about it, if you will. Not necessarily meant to be read in totality. Just posting for the sake of it, to have it online, and in case some find they may relate to some parts in some ways. It's kind of just a way of organizing my thoughts on it and putting them into words, really. I was gonna just keep it in a personal notepad but what the heck, I might as well post it.


It feels weird thinking about my dad's death about four months ago. It's still kind of surreal but as time goes on, things are actually becoming more real and I'm less numb to it. Contrary to what many expect, instead of the immediate days or weeks after it being the worst and then getting better as time goes on, for me, it seems to be the opposite, and it's getting harder as more time passes. I'm actually starting to truly realize what happened; it's sinking in slowly. It's not a dream anymore. I'm never going to see him again. Little things throughout the day may act as a reminder. Sounds of power tools and hammering off in the distance while I relax or attempt to nap during the day, which used to remind me of him working tirelessly outside on one of his countless projects... although at the time I may have found them a nuisance, in reality, in the back of my mind it meant that everything was okay and in its rightful place. Now it just reminds me of the drastic change that is unfolding in my life, and the gap left behind by my dad.

He always used to be an anchor of stability and strength in my life. If things would ever go wrong in other parts of my life or I'd have trouble with friends, I knew he and my mom would always be there to support me; it was always a constant I could count on. I find myself sometimes looking at mundane objects and thinking of when I first started using them, comparing that to a post-dad world. He was always strong; unfortunately, my mom sometimes lacks that (apparent) strength. I feel bad for her more than anything, and hope she has the strength to continue through this tough time. I have to step up to the plate and be the man now, even if it is a difficult period of transition in my life with my career, relationship-building, and other things.

I was different in that I seemed to get all my initial grief out of the way in the days before he finally passed. Even though he had been battling cancer for over two years, the end all happened so fast that it was difficult to truly process. I had two other friends who, in some weird twist of fate, were going through the same thing with their dads over the last year and a half. At the beginning of June I heard that my friend's dad had less than a week left as it spread to his liver, and she had to fly back home the day that she had to move to a new apartment. This was shocking to me, and I tried to comfort her as much as I could as I helped her move throughout most of the day, but she was in a numb state as well. I felt bad for her but at the time still thought my own dad was lucky and had at least half a year if not a year or more left, or had a chance to still beat it somehow, and in a way was privately a bit relieved that his situation wasn't as dire as hers; I felt thankful, in a relative sense. The next week I went back home to help drive my parents to get an alternative, experimental treatment for my dad in Philadelphia. Although in pain, he seemed to still be okay and able to manage getting around. We had a good dinner and bottle of wine and shared some good stories; little did I know this would be one of the last more in-depth exchanges with my dad. Despite a few hiccups, it seemed like things were on track to continue with the treatment, even if it was logistically difficult to do every two weeks. I was willing to stay at home with them or drive up to Pennsylvania to help them do it. I then went back to my place in DC for a bit and continued my life for the next week and a half, distracting myself with what I had to do. Then I got a call saying it spread to his liver as well, and that if the tests were accurate, it meant he may have as little as a week. This was a big blow to me, and very shocking. In order to deal with it, I hardened myself and pushed myself to make it through the next weeks whatever it took. I still thought I had a chance to do some things with him for the next week before it ended. Coming home and realizing that I wouldn't have the opportunity to do that since the liver damage meant he got progressively worse mentally by the day was truly shocking and when the grief hit me hardest. It's not like in the movies where a large family is all gathered around a bedside and there's some really meaningful last exchange. He wasn't quite fully there... it may have been mostly a result of the disease, but perhaps also in part the fact that people who realize they are dying tend to withdraw and resign themselves from the goings-on of the outside world, and seem more concerned with mundane, trivial little things.

One of the harder things was the fact that, until maybe five or so days before it happened, he still thought he had a chance to pull through and make it. He explained on the phone a couple of days before I got home how whenever he had difficult circumstances or challenges in his life in the past, at some point at the last minute, things had a way of working out and he made it through (including the fact that he beat hepatitis after a rough battle just four years earlier); he thought it may happen this time. He still had so much to see of my life (as his only child), wanting to see me get married, have a good career established... I was (and am) on the verge of moving forward with my career, but still at a pivotal point in life where things were uncertain. I wanted to assure him things would be okay, since he and my mom were worried about me and my future for years. Anyway, we weren't able to have very deep or meaningful conversations about my future in those last days, although at times we touched upon them. As the next days passed, he started to have full-on hallucinations, although not scary. Just manifestations of inner thoughts, I guess. I actually felt better in the two days before he passed, as I had sort of made some peace with it or come to terms in some way, and was trying to help my mom. I had basically accepted what was going to happen, and in some ways, almost wanted it to be over sooner (as he did too) so as to not see the suffering prolonged.

It just feels weird when someone you love dies in a long slow way due to illness as opposed to something else. It was such a change from the strong active dad I used to know, seeing him like that toward the end, and seeing how the illness negatively affected his personality (I'll admit he made things difficult for my mom the last two years, although probably mostly not intentionally). In some strange way, I almost think it would be better (or make more sense) to go out in some violent blaze of glory, fighting, or even an accident (not knowing what was coming) as opposed to slowly succumbing to something you have no control over, and at last throwing in the towel when it's too much. Although the fight against cancer is no less a fight, of course; just a different kind.

Not only is the one of the more challenging times of my life, his passing just compounds things and makes it harder. I'm not exactly in a good place in life, but I gotta get through it. But I know I will be okay, and I'm dealing with it rather well, I think. It'll be weird for a while...

The ups and downs of the last two years, and the times when we thought things were looking okay during the illness and on the way to a resolution makes it all feel strange now, as if all that fighting was for nothing in the end, and just... It came crashing down so fast, even in the face of hope. The knowledge that the doctors may have screwed up some things, like the order they went about their approach to treating the cancer, is also disturbing. They could have done some intense radiation when they first detected a small initial tumor in the lung, thus maybe nipping it in the bud, instead of doing that overly invasive surgery which, instead of getting all of it may have caused the remainder to spread more, and notably had a lot of unintended “collateral” damage to nerves in the chest (like the vagus nerve, causing him to be constantly and cripplingly nauseous for the next year or more, with labored breathing), as well as affecting his larynx and ability to speak clearly. Later, when they were doing chemo, it was going well for a while but it was having a bit of an effect on his white blood cell count, leading to some anemia/weakness; they decided to give it a six week or more break at that point since it seemed to be in remission or undetectable... but this break let it come back stronger during that time and made it more resistant to further treatment. They should have just kept going with it. Later, we could have tried the experimental method in Philadelphia earlier than we did instead of sticking with a chemo regimen that was clearly ineffectual but debilitating at the same time. My mom, being a former doctor herself, told me all this, and sometimes I wish she hadn't, since it makes me think of all the what-ifs. I was angry at his doctor, who in addition to all this, left for vacation for a few weeks before he passed, and thought about a lawsuit but then realized we didn't have a real case or proof of any of this. I thought if my parents could have moved away from that backwater town into a bigger metro area in DC where I am, before this all happened, he would've had access to much better care and had a better chance. But I had previously discouraged them from the idea of moving down where I am two years ago, before they knew about the disease, out of some immature desire to want to live my own life without their interference :(

Anyway, at first after he passed, I was oddly okay and just had the mentality of, “well it's over now and there's nothing we can do about it; no point in having regrets or looking back and thinking about what ifs; let's just move on forward and keep truckin'”. Now as time passes and it sinks in more as reality, I find myself thinking more about some of the things and activities and interactions I could have had with him that I didn't. Things that I planned and thought I'd have enough time for, even if he was going to go at some point... Even during the last year or two, I thought if it really came down to it and we knew it was terminal, I'd do certain things like learn more about his work, hear more of his stories, learn handy/technical skills and absorb all his seemingly effortless financial savviness. But for the most part, none of those things really happened. I also think about how there was this expectation on his part regarding me for much of my life, and that I let him down in some ways. There were entire years that I feel I may have been disappointing more than anything, although I guess I don't really think that's how he saw it. If I knew what was coming and knew we didn't have all the time in the world to resolve things, I wouldn't have been like that and tried harder.

I felt bad about snapping at my mom a few times for taking what I saw as an overly religious or superstitious approach to his death, especially as she was a doctor, like worrying about his preference for cremation; I knew that this was just a way of dealing with it and establishing some kind of comfort in the hope that we will see each other again, so I later apologized. I was raised Christian but now have become something between agnostic or deist, not putting much faith in man-made religion. Belief in an afterlife was once comforting (and at the same time potentially a little worrying), but I have to find new ways of accepting death in both others and eventually myself. In the end, I guess we just don't know. But I digress...

For the first month or so after it, most people I met seemed surprised at how easy I was taking it, some remarking that I didn't even seem affected. I honestly thought that I wasn't too affected and was somehow making it through easily, thinking I was done processing it. Now I realize that even when some of the sorrow comes back, it doesn't necessarily mean it's over and you've moved past. Talking to my one friend, he said that you really have to reflect, dare I say dwell, on things like this until you're able to take something from it; you realize what you could and could not have done, and try to truly grow out of it, rather than just burying it under the surface or ignoring it. My friend H who also lost her dad a month before mine seems to have been distracting herself with a thousand different things since then; it may actually prove harder for her in the end.

* I have another good friend, V, who was also going through the same thing, with the doctor telling them that her father would have a week left around the same time as mine; following this they opted for last-minute alternative treatments in Mexico and also used cannabinoid oils which amazingly seem to have shrunk his brain tumor, and to this day, four months later, he's still alive and doing significantly better. This has had a weird effect on me in some ways: not that I wish her father to have succumbed like mine of course, but I had actually considered trying a similar treatment on my dad, which he refused because he thought it was BS... I considered just insisting since I researched this a lot, but then in the end thought that he was right and it would have no effect, so never tried it. Now my friend tells me that I should have tried that since it's supposedly working so well on hers. Well, no use talking about it now, since it's over. Oh well. What bugs me is how lightly she seems to be taking it all now, as if taking it for granted that her dad will be okay and everything is supposedly back to normal now; at one point back when it was looking grim for her dad she was so concerned and told me I was the only one who could help her through the experience and share it with her, which I was willing to do, and now she's just acting like a silly happy go lucky spoiled immature brat again, as if nothing happened; I, on the other hand, have changed in some ways and take things more seriously. She can't really relate to me anymore. <_<

I noticed however, that many of my friends, though initially seeking to be comforting and consoling, moved back to a business as usual kind of interaction quite soon. Some of the people I was talking to for the first time about this actually changed the subject after a few minutes of discussing it, before I was done telling them everything even. I'm not sure if this is out of some desire to move on to a more positive subject, or because they felt uncomfortable talking about it and found they couldn't really relate in an effective way, or just plain didn't care that much aside from expressing an initial token “oh I'm so sorry dude, that sucks” kind of remark. I guess many don't realize that in some ways, after the initial shock and numbness has worn off, it actually becomes a bit tougher to deal with before it eventually gets easier, but people expect you to have mostly “gotten over” it after about a month or so; in fact some people even joke about it or make light of it nowadays. But most of my good friends did discuss it quite in depth on several occasions in a way that was useful, and this has helped me realize who they are.

I will say that this experience did serve to bring me closer to some family members that live far away, like my cousin overseas. It caused my mom to develop more friendships with people in her hometown, since she didn't have many before, although she's still pretty alone in a lot of ways; want to get her to move closer next year. Now she's stressed out because of a variety of legal issues relating to handling the estate, as well as home improvement and a potential move, but I think she will find the inner strength she needs to get through this. However, some people have already begun to take advantage of her lack of technical knowledge, probably charging her for services she doesn't need, and she got scammed/hacked once; thankfully we managed to recover our data. My dad's looked out for us too much, to the point where we weren't able to become as savvy in certain things on our own, but now we have to, out of necessity… I've also taken more of an interest in our traditional culture in eastern Europe, and find delving into it oddly comforting in a way, as it is sort of a link to my father and the earlier part of this life, especially as it seemed that was one of the more exciting parts of it, traveling and interacting with all kinds of people. A few days before he passed, he did tell me that he had a good life overall, although as with anyone there were occasional times of hardship and bad people in it, but that's to be expected. It seemed the good outweighed the bad though. That statement made me feel better about the whole thing. He lived his life and definitely experienced a lot, even if I wasn't around for most of it, and even if the last few years weren't the best. I can only hope for so much myself.

I know my situation isn't nearly as bad as some others by comparison. My dad was at least in his early 70s and I'm in my late 20s (though I always imagined I'd see him make it to at least 90). I didn't lose a child or both parents. On paper, that doesn't look too bad. But at the same time, it's still a very personal grief for me; it's hard to explain. Maybe it's cause I'm in a weird kind of limbo situation in my life now, on the cusp of potential for something better, and I regret my dad not seeing the fruition of my life and dreams.. or because we didn't really resolve all the ups and downs in our past, and because it's the first truly major loss in my life to be honest. My grandparents all passed but I didn't know them well personally.

Again, apologies for the super long post. I don't expect people to actually look at all or most of it, but I just felt this would be as good a place as any to anonymously vent how I feel and get all this off my chest. I might refine and make it into a blog post though. Although I've talked about it with many friends, this is the most in depth I've gotten in spelling out my thoughts. Maybe I got a little too detailed with it, haha.

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I cannot say I understand what it is like to lose a father. I didn't have one growing up. I had uncles and a step-grandfather till I was 12. But the words you have used to describe parts of how you feel I can identify with. 
I know how it feels to be hit by "I am never going to see him again". I get that with my mom at times. Never gets any easier.
It's the opposite for me too. As time goes by it seems to get worse, not better. 
My mom was battling renal failure. She had that battle for about 7 years. The last week of her life also went by so fast. Monday she was looking not so great. Saturday evening she passed.

Yeah I also went through what ifs. What if they had found that her kidneys were failing earlier. What if I could have found some way to get her onto dialysis. 

Same. I find myself wishing she was here so that I could take her to lunch. Go out with her more. Even though she lived with me, I don't know if I spent enough time with her. 

I think that when a person doesn't realise what loss really feels like, they seem to take it for granted. But when a person loses someone, they change. They notice things that others don't. They feel the regret. They feel the sadness and the hole inside that can't be explained to anyone who hasn't lost someone close. 

About a week after my mom passed, a person who I am no longer friendly with made a comment saying get over it. She is gone. You got to move on. 

I found the house that my mom grew up in as a way to get closer to her somehow. 

Thank you for sharing here. It helped me to realise that I am not alone in my grief journey. 

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Dear A_Person,

Iam so sorry for your loss.  I read your whole post.  Loss does get worse over time.  At first it doesn't seem that real even though it is so the first few weeks and months you haven't completely absorbed the loss.  You don't realise it at the time because you think you have.  For me at 6 months I thought I turned a corner with grief.  Then at 8 months things got a lot worse as the reality of never ever speaking to my mom again really sunk in.  Reliving the past 2 yrs over and over in my head on a daily basis.  Flash backs.  My mothers illness.  How she changed.  People don't say the right things.  People around you don't do the right things.  its very hard.  yes people expect you to move on quickly but what they don't realise its not the first month that is hard its the many many months that follow that get worse.  Unless someone has been through it they have no idea.  Also it depends on the relationship they had with their parent.  I knew someone who was changed by her loss.  I am too.  I feel changed forever.  Yet another friend her world improved in every way.  Loss can be different for everyone.  Some of us are devastated and depressed.  Some suppress their pain for years.  Others are ok.  Those of us who are here on a regular basis are looking to understand grief more.  To share and learn from each others experiences.  Sorry for your loss.

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Dear A_Person , 

I also read the whole post to understand your feelings better .

Your feelings and regrets are all valid . We think of how things could be different or better if we had only done this or that . What I’ve learned from the loss of both my parents is that each individual makes personal choices in regards to health care . It literally pains us to see our loved ones suffer and sometimes suffer at the hands of professionals . For this I am truly sorry because it appears as though the treatments you described only hastened his passing . 

As a young person too , you have new challenges . You can’t draw upon the experience and advice of your Father . As you mentioned, there will be things in your life that he will not get to see first hand . 

Even though you have no religious preference, I make an effort to share a Bible based brochure that provides grieving strategies that are practical .Like when my own Father died, people told my mom to get rid of all his things . The brochure explains not to be hasty in making decisions. It also has advice for others in how to offer comfort . I would love to send the link for you to have the brochure at no cost or obligation . 

I am also sorry that your friends and acquaintances made you feel like your loss was not important . I have found that talking about my parents helps me tremendously . So what if I end up crying ? I’ve learned that crying is so vital to maintaining my physical and mental well being . 

Feel free to contact me about the brochure .




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