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Lost my Dad 10/21/15


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New here.  Just found this site this today.  It has been one of my hard days and I started looking for a place to talk about it.  The hard days are getting fewer, but when they hit it seems like they get harder.  


So my Dad passed in October.  Very sudden and unexpectedly.  He was only 61.  A little background.  He had a leg amputated in 2002 as a result of a bone infection that ultimately stemmed from medical malpractice as part of a surgery when he was fifteen.  He made the best of life after that until it finally cost him the leg decades later.  After a tough adjustment and addiction to painkillers he came out the other side and was the same strong man I always knew.  The amputation led to continued doctors appointments and prosthetic fittings that became a part of life.  


October 20th was one such appointment.  He had minor outpatient surgery to remove a bone spur on the stump that was painfully interfering with the prosthesis.  Everything went fine.  He was up and eating and we took him home a few hours later.  I left him sitting in his favorite chair at home eating his ice cream treat we had gotten him.  We texted later that night, talking about baseball and other random things.  He thanked me for taking the day to be with him and helping.  That was the last message I will ever get from him.  


I still flashback to that next morning.  At work, my day just starting and my mom texted me.  I called her to see what she wanted and she told me.  My dad had died over night.  I don't remember much of the following minutes.  I don't remember dropping my phone, or how I ended up on the floor.  I don't remember my coworker (who is really more of the big sister I never had) running into the room.  I just remember screaming and her holding me.  It was the worst day of my life.  


I am still plagued by all the unanswerable questions.  There was no autopsy.  I am sad, and miss him terribly, and am also filled with anger that has no where or no one to be directed at.  I was very close to him.  Due to various circumstances involving college and job hunting I lived at home after school until just a few years ago, and at some times I felt like he was not just my dad, but my best friend.  I feel incredibly lucky to have an incredible fiance that has been my rock.  I also feel lucky that my Dad had told me that he loves her and already considered her a daughter.  At the same time it hurts so bad that he won't be at the wedding.  He was so excited for it (and to be a grandfather).  


My mom is devastated.  On top of the loss of my dad they were also in the process of selling/foreclosing their house.  My dad was handling all of that.  Now she has to try to figure it out.  We need to get her out of the house and find her a place to live.  They were both on disability and now she has only half the income.  And my brother is mentally handicapped and in a group home.  I now feel all this responsibility to them that I wasn't ready for.  


I am overwhelmed.  Grief, confusion, anger.  And the person I would always talk to when I needed help is gone.  When my grandpa died, I knew it hit my dad really hard.  And now I know how he felt.  I talk to my fiance, I talk to my coworker "sisters."  I have a psychologist I worked with in the past I've been going to again.  Everyone has been incredibly supportive and no one pressures me to feel certain ways or that it should only take a certain amount of time, but everyone always says that they can't know how I feel because they haven't lost a parent.  And all I can tell them is that I can't describe the pain I am in.  Maybe that's why I'm here, and why I decided to write this.  

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I understand all too well. I lost my Dad in October, too. I had a little more warning than you but I was still really shocked. He was only 52.


My Dad had a hard life. He was an alcoholic. He lost his dad to lung cancer when he was 13. He spent most of his life living with his mom and taking care of her. He lost her to lung cancer, too, in 2005. My parents separated before my first birthday. I spent every other weekend with my Dad and Grandma. Every memory I have of weekends with the two of them are good ones. They always made sure I had everything I needed, they put me through private school, they taught me to do crossword puzzles, they played a million board games with me. My dad was a GREAT dad.


After my Grandma died, he wasn't doing well. He lost his way. He was arrested and spent a year in jail for child support and DUI. When he got out, he was homeless for a while. We lost touch. It was so traumatic for me. We had all these traditions and things we loved to do together and they were just ripped away. On the rare occasion I would hear from him, he was usually drunk.


Finally he got a better grasp on things, but he had a disorder of the hands called Dupuytren's contracture and he couldn't work. He applied for government help and got his own place nearby. He had a phone, he had a computer. We were able to be in regular contact again. He never got his license back. He said he didn't want to be tempted to drink and drive again. He was lucky in that he never had an accident, and he didn't want to chance it anymore. That meant he called me when he needed to go to the grocery or run an errand. I was so grateful for that time. I knew these last few years that our time was limited so I cherished every minute. I took him the store every time he called. I took him wherever he wanted to go. I just wanted to hang out with him.


In September, I didn't hear from him for about two weeks. I didn't know what was happening. I assumed the worst of him, that he'd gone on a bender and was recovering. The truth was that at least for a few days, he was so weak he couldn't walk. There was a bad line in a box in the neighborhood causing his phone to not work. He crawled around his apartment for days unable to walk and unable to call anyone for help. I had decided to go over there to check on him when I got a call from his friend. He had found him in this state and called 911.


I rushed to the hospital where the nurses told me he was extremely malnourished and dehydrated and they had found a golfball sized mass on his lung. I knew right in that moment. No one had to tell me it was cancer, I didn't have to wait for test results. I knew right then. He wasn't 100% coherent that night. The next day he was better. He was eating a tiny bit, drinking lots of coffee. He was back to himself again, aggravated that he couldn't get the U of K football game on the tv at the hospital, laughing and teasing me, cracking jokes with the nurses. The morning after that, the morning of my 27th birthday, September 26th, I walked into his room and asked him if he had gotten any of his test results and he started to cry. He didn't tell me what they said at first, he just asked me for a hug. Turns out, his diagnosis was stage 4 metastatic small cell lung cancer, with mets in his liver, stomach, large intestine, and bones. Prognosis was less than a year.


He left the hospital because he didn't agree with a fluid restriction they had him on. He refused to come home with me. That meant I went to his apartment every single day. I took him food, I got his prescriptions filled, I took him to the doctor (the one time I got him to go). I filled up his water glass, I got him ice, I did his dishes, I cleaned whatever he would let me. I did everything for him. He was so convinced he was putting me out but the truth was I was so happy to be helping him. I never felt put out. I never felt inconvenienced. I'm in nursing school. This is my passion. I tried to tell him that but I think he just thought back to taking care of his parents when they were sick, and he didn't want to put me through that. I realized about 2 1/2 weeks in that he wasn't eating. He was telling different people different storied to make us all think he was.


On October 24th, my mom and I went over to clean his apartment top to bottom. I took over old pictures, we cracked jokes and reminisced about things that had happened in the past. They told me stories of their adventures before I was born. It was a great day, but the whole time we were there, he never got out of bed. I told people I thought they should make plans to see him soon. Even though I knew it was close, I was also in denial. The next morning I got the call from my uncle. They had gone over to visit and take him breakfast and he was gone.


They told me I had a year, and I didn't even get a month.


It's the strangest feeling, one that I'm sure you can understand, not being able to pick up the phone and call him. He's been answering every question I've ever had for the last 27 years and who do I ask them to now? How can the world just keep turning like everything is normal when such a big piece of it is missing? That first night I had a dream about him. I dreamed that he got the diagnosis and he asked me to help him die. I remember so vivdly throwing my arms around him and saying, "But Dad, you'll be taking my heart with you when you go." That's exactly how I feel. Like someone opened up my chest and took out my heart. And I wonder, how can it feel like it's gone but hurt so much at the same time?


I also feel like there are less hard days but they are worse. I guess it's because it's been longer and longer since I heard his voice. His trademark deep laugh. I think as the year goes on it will get harder, too. I was given the promise of one more Christmas, one more birthday, one more March Madness, one more Derby Festival, one more of all things we enjoyed together. Each one of them will be like a new loss.


My biggest hurdle is that I feel so alone in my grief. I don't talk to anyone from his side of the family on a regular basis so I feel like I'm the only one grieving for him. I have this irrational fear that people will forget him. I know that isn't true. I've talked to so many people who loved him, who have stories about how even when all he had was the shirt on his back, he still found a way to help them with something, or give them something they needed. I know I can reach out to them, but I also feel like they're tired of dealing with my sadness, that they've gone back to their regular everyday lives. I also feel like it's so unfair. I know that is irrational, too, but it's just how I feel. When I see someone on the street or on tv with their parents and they're older than me, I think to myself 'Why do they get to still have their dad but I had to lose mine already?'


I guess we just have to take it one day at a time, and on the bad days one hour at a time. Some of my relatives pitched in and got me the most amazing gift. It's a pendant with Dad's thumbprint on it and his ashes inside. I never take it off. I rub it like a worry stone. I talk to him all the time. Sometimes things happen around me and I'm sure it was him. I hope he can hear me when I tell him that I love him and miss him.


People keep telling me that one day when I think about him I won't be sad anymore, that I will smile at the memories instead. I hope that is true, because I can't imagine going on for the rest of my life with the crushing weight of this grief on my chest.

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