When I was 17 my father died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. He was a very integral part of our family. My two brothers, my sister, my mom, and I were all devastated by his sudden death. I think we were in shock for the first year, and we never really talked about dad with each other. I felt so alone, lost, confused, and angry. I was angry at God and at my mother because she didn't do her job as a parent and take care of us. Now I understand how much pain my mother was in and how much she as well as I lost that fateful day.
Dad's death has impacted my life in so many ways that I hardly know where to start. For the first year after his death, I was numb and angry. For the second and third years, I was hurt and trying unsuccessfully to deal with the pain of my loss. I distinctly remember one intense crying spell that I had about two years after his death. I sat in my dorm room and cried for at least two hours. I couldn't stop, and I wanted my dad to comfort me like he used to when I was a child. I was also so scared because I couldn't remember the sound of his voice or his laugh. I missed him so much, and I still do. He was a wonderful, kind, and sensitive man. What I remember most about my father is how he used to tuck us in at night. My father was a farmer, and he was up before us and didn't get in until late at night. So bedtime was our special time together. He used to tell us bedtime stories, usually the Three Pigs or Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, and he used to get us a glass of water, aspirin, and tuck us in. I know he must have been so tired at night, but he never once complained or said a word. He never once told us to just go to sleep. Without fail, he always brought us that drink of water, told us that same bedtime story hundreds of times, and tucked us in.
The world lost a wonderful human being the day he died, and I often think about how much my nieces and nephews are missing because they will never know their grandfather.
My healing process started my junior year in college. I had a very good friend who understood what I was going through. She took me aside our junior year in college (3 years later) and told me about a support group on campus. She looked me straight in the eyes and said "Lynn, you really need to do this." She was right. I did attend the group, and it helped me tremendously.
Since then I have been working on confronting my grief and facing my pain. I have made a lot of progress, but I also know that I have a long way to go. Because of my experience, I have witnessed first hand how the death of a parent has affected my siblings, my mother, myself, and my family as a unit. We are finally beginning to talk about my dad, almost ten years later.
I have changed so much, and I am a completely different person today than I was 10 years ago. I have grown in so many ways and have discovered one good thing that has resulted from my father's death. As a result of my experience, I have decided to focus my career on helping grieving people. I am currently in graduate school at Michigan State University and am working on my Ph.D. in psychology while working as a bereavement coordinator at a local hospice. My dissertation focuses on how the death of a parent affects the surviving parent and children on an individual level, and how it affects them on a family level. I am looking for families who have lost a parent within the last four years with children between 12 and 18. If you or someone you know has experienced this loss and would be willing to complete some mailed surveys, please contact me at 1-800-765-7542 or e-mail me at [email protected]. I really need your help. When I am finished with grad school, I hope to work with organizations and schools in developing and evaluation support programs designed for grieving families. Your participation would be greatly appreciated and could potentially help numerous other families who will or have experienced the death of a parent.