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My life since Christmas Eve of 2019...I miss you dad


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Around 11pm on Christmas Eve, my dad, mom, sister, and I were at my aunt/uncle's house with my two cousins when my dad started feeling sick. We thought it was a stomach bug. I have EMT training and recorded all of the vitals I could, I even performed a stroke test (which he showed no signs for at the time) just in case, but his condition went downhill fast. Just after midnight, my aunt, uncle, and I had my dad in the car on the way to the emergency room. Being the only one with any form of medical knowledge, I went with my dad into the emergency room. His blood pressure was higher than I have ever personally witnessed. We learned that he had run out of his blood pressure medications. There was serious concern for a stroke and they quickly wheeled him away to get a CT scan. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was the last family member to hear him talk because when he came back, he was sedated for intubation. He needed help breathing. At this point, my grandparents had arrived, and the paramedics were preparing him to be transported to a different hospital. It was 1am. Merry Christmas.

By 2:30am, the only update we had had was that he made it to the hospital, but he experienced some small seizures. But he made it. He survived to the hospital where the neurosurgeon was supposed to be to help fix my dad's brain. Eventually, the neuro ICU doctor came out and told us the neurosurgeon wouldn't be coming in until around 8am, but she had reviewed his scans. I remember thinking that that meant everything was going to be okay. It was not crucial that she arrived immediately. We stayed the whole morning until there was an hour for shift change and I was finally able to change out of my Christmas Eve outfit. I was dubbed as the liaison between the medical staff and my family. My dad was not conscious. The neurosurgeon was late. She came, basically told us that surgery would probably not work, but she would perform it if we wanted to. Of course we did. We were desperate. The surgery went smoothly, but my dad did come out of the coma. I prayed for a Christmas miracle. We started to contact family and friends from all over the world. My uncle flew in from the Philippines and our family friends from Florida hopped on a plane. All of the family in the area came. We took over the waiting room. The little attached side room even became my bedroom. My dad's friends who stopped by were endless. My dad was the life of evert party. He was loud and obnoxious and told the corniest jokes, but every eye roll I gave him came with a smile. He always seemed to know someone wherever we went, regardless of what state we were in. He was just the friendliest and most social guy I knew. I don't think anyone I will ever meet could top his personality. The number of people that visited him in the hospital those next few days were uncountable. But every single friend that came in, I had to explain everything that happened from 11pm on Christmas Eve to the results of the the new CT scan. I had to explain to every friend and family member that he was in a coma and it wasn't looking good. Every. Single. Person. I repeated the situation so my sister or my grandparents or my aunt didn't have to. And, like I had said, there were A LOT of people. I watched as each person he touched lost most of their hope by the words that poured out of my mouth, watched as tears fell down their faces.

I will never forget every moment of those days. Every attempt of playing him our favorite car jams and filling his room with pictures and memories to try and bring him good vibes so he would wake up. I remember begging him with every inch of my being to wake up and survive. I wanted him to tell me he wouldn't miss my college graduation in the spring. I wanted to hear him say nothing could stop him from walking me down the aisle when the time came. I wanted to hug him one last time and hear all of the same jokes that I've heard a million times. I wanted what had become my only Christmas wish to come true. On December 27th, it was mainly my decision since I was next of kin, but we made the decision as a family to unplug my dad. He was joy. He was excitement. He was laughter. He was life. And the doctors said if he even ever woke up, he would never be able to breath on his own or live the life they soon realized he had lived ever again. So we made the call. On December 28th, he passed.

The next week was easy. I was so busy with planning and making photo boards and a video and I was never left alone. It was after the funeral, after everyone returned home, that I realized that the hardest part was yet to come. I was still consumed by the grief that everyone had been overwhelmed by too, but now I felt more alone than ever. People started to go back to their daily lives, changed their profile pictures to pictures that didn't have my dad in them, and I just felt alone. My final semester of college started and then coronavirus turned into a pandemic and I began having more downtime and I couldn't visit my family. The grief hasn't gotten any better. I feel it so strongly. I think of my dad every single day and I have this emptiness inside me. I can't help thinking that it was my fault. I should have gotten him to a hospital sooner. I am angry at him for not refilling his medications. I'm upset that I only got 21 years with my dad and that he hadn't even reached his 50th birthday. He was only 48. I wasn't ready. I'm still not ready to live my life without him. I get angry so quickly at everyone. I feel sad all of the time. I want to heal and find my new normal, but I'm worried I'm going to forget. I don't want to forget the limited number of memories I have with my dad. I'm scared for the day when his presence, his voice, his face will all feel like a distant memory. I miss him so much and I haven't felt any better. Is there any light at the end of this indefinite tunnel that is now my life?

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Dear Sidney,

Please know everything you are feeling and thinking is a normal part of grief. It is a long journey. They say our deep grief is a reflection our love. Be kind and gentle with yourself and know there is no fixed timeline. When I talked to my counselor she said the average time was 18 months for the intense feelings to lessen. Four years later I am adjusting but there are moments I still feel raw that my dad is not around to see so many things especially his grandchildren.

For additional supports, I strongly recommend these websites:

What's Your Grief

Grief in Common

Grief Healing Blog.

They will affirm there is a light end at the of the tunnel but that journey will be different for all of us.

Thinking of you.

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Hi Catarina, 

Thank you for sharing your story too. I remember being only two months out from the day everything happened and I remember wanting to find someone who was a few more months into trying to navigate what this new life would be like. I wanted to know that if in another month, what might my feelings look like because the book I had read was correct that once everyone started moving on was when it was going to get difficult. I still want to know what it might be like a year from then, or 5  years from then. I'm not sure if you have these same thoughts, but for me, it got better and worse. Worse because I still felt the memories and moments slipping away, worse because I had less people reaching out. But also better because I did start to journal in a way that I felt like I was having a conversation with him and tell him about my days. I was too nervous to speak at his wake, and I allowed his best friend to give the eulogy and I never had the opportunity to speak about one of the greatest people I'll ever know. So I wrote what I would have said. I write as if he can hear me because maybe he can. I do get 'triggered' frequently. Every time I hear the word stroke I tense up. I found a voicemail from him from 3 years ago and I listen to it on repeat sometimes. I found something that smelled like him once and there went my afternoon. Sometimes on the 25th of the month (the last day I heard him say my name or speak a word) or the 28th (the day he passed), I find my body feels heavy even before I know what the date is. Taking it day by day helps, but it's still impossible to wrap my head around that he is gone.

I also ended up finding many people that still check in with me about once a month. I never answer them and say that I still sometimes feel dead inside, but them just sending a text saying I'm thinking about you still helps so much. So, Catarina, I just wanted to say that I am thinking of you, and I should definitely try yoga.

Thank you,

Sidney :)


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