My Journey Through Grief


Kathleen O'Toole

On March 2nd 1990 my whole world was turned upside down. That is the day I got the phone call that Dad was gone. He lived alone and had died in his apartment suddenly. He was only 52. I was eight months pregnant with my third child. My sister was the one who called me and told me dad had died. I remember yelling, NO! and falling to the floor. I went into shock. Everything seemed so unreal. There was no wake or funeral as Dad had donated his remains to a local university. My sister and I did hold a small memorial service for him. My father was my best friend and I loved him dearly. No one ever told me about the journey of grief. I guess no one really understands what it FEELS like till someone close to them dies.

The first two months were months of intense pain. An emotional pain that I felt in my body. I had never known such a pain existed. It is a pain that does return once a year, on the anniversary of his death. Dad died nine years ago this Tuesday. The way I have been feeling these past few weeks, I feel like he just died... The pain, the anxiety and the tears have all returned.

I do know these feelings are normal. I also know that this will pass. There was a time when Dad died, that I didn't know that the pain will pass. Time didn't heal me. Just made it easier is all. I call grief a journey because it is one. It is one all of us will go through. I have felt every emotion that can be felt. Anger, guilt, anxiety, fear, sadness, pain. There were days I thought I couldn't go on. But I did go on, because we all have to. The first year was hell. Every holiday, every birthday and then the anniversary.

I was lucky. I realized that I couldn't deal with this on my own. I don't have a mother and my sister and I couldn't do this together. We both suffered a major loss, the same loss, but we needed to work through it in our OWN ways. I decided to go to a therapist. It was a wise choice for me. It gave me a way to deal with my grief and to have my grief and my loss respected. Never once was I made to feel that maybe I shouldn't be feeling what I am feeling.

I think everyone's loss and the time it takes them to get back on their feet should be honored. One thing I had to do was honor my grief myself. No one likes to hurt. One of the hardest part about my grief is I don't know when it will hit. For the most part it seems to hit a week or two before the anniversary. That has been hard for me, because the intensity knocks me off my feet. So, once a year at this time I go back to my therapist and deal with it there. One year I didn't go to my therapist and it took me forever to get through my grief.

When my grief came out this time, I knew I had to call him. I woke up having anxiety attacks. I couldn't breathe. I was scared to go see the doctor. As much as I know that going for help is healthy, I have also learned that by going, it all comes out. Not at once but over a course of time and I was dreading it. Yet, I knew that the only way out of grief was through it.

My therapist told me to take this time and honor my dad and his memory. When I am in the pain, use the pain and to mourn him. That is what I did. I let the pain come. I cried when I needed to. It wasn't easy but I did what I had to do. I also used this time to find what resources were out there on the net. I made some memorials in dad's name. I joined some on-line grief support groups. I went to grief sites and wrote letters to my dad telling him how I felt and what he meant to me. I have been reading post of others that have lost a parent. I have also posted my feelings on my loss. It has helped.

I miss my dad a lot. It hurts and it hurts like hell. He was always there when I needed him. He always listened to me. We had good times together. It makes me sad that he isn't here to enjoy the grandchildren that meant so much to him. It makes me sad that he will never know two of my children. And it hurts that he died. But I know that after the anniversary passes. I will go on. The pain will fade away again, to return someday. Dad was big on letting go. I have learned that letting go doesn't mean letting go of the loved one. It means just letting go of the pain. Most of the year I live my life one day at a time and to the fullest. That is what Dad would want me to do. And that is what I want to do. I have come through this journey knowing how important it is to live each day and enjoy each day as if it was my last.

I love you Dad. You will always be in my heart. It is ironic when I go through a hard time over the loss of you, many things you have taught me are the very things that are helping me get through all of this. Thank you Dad.

Kathleen O'Toole



You can send email to Kathleen at: Kathleen004@hotmail.com
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anniversary date 03-02-90
date of post 02-28-99

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW