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Think of your family in a perfect sense. Love, smiles, happiness. Everyone remembers how it feels when things are going well. Now imagine hearing the words cancer, disease, sickness, or death. It isn’t easy to smile, or feel happy when you hear these words, and no matter how prepared we try to be, or think we are, nothing prepares us for the loss of a loved one-especially a parent. In April of 2019, my Father passed away, after a tough battle with cancer.
When I initially heard the news that he was sick, I immediately wanted to be by his side. My problem was, I lived on the other side of the world. I had a 15+ hour flight to make my way home. During that flight, I tried to prepare myself for how my life was about to change. I knew my Dad would fight and battle with the illness with all his might but how would I react to seeing my hero in such a struggle?
Seeing Him for the First Time After the News
Once I arrived home, I was comforted by his ever consistent hug and confident conversation on how he was going to give it his all. You couldn’t tell by looking at him and if you didn’t know, he seemed “normal”, just down a bunch of weight. I was able to go to some initial appointments with him and my Mom, and we were able to lay out a plan for treatment that we all hoped would be the cure for him. Then I had to leave. I’ll never forget the day I had to come back to my home. The hug we had will hopefully be an everlasting memory for me. The fear of not knowing if I’d see him again was tough.
I’m truly thankful that I had a year with him after he was diagnosed. During that time, I tried my hardest to push myself to reflect on the impact he made on my life. As I look at it now, I feel like I was trying to prepare myself to lose him, by trying to not forget anything about him that was important to me. It was tough, and as it was happening, I didn’t know why, but I asked him a lot of questions. Crazy questions, curious questions, questions on things I always wondered. Dad tried his best to answer all of them. Looking at it now, I’m happy I did, because now there isn’t really anything that I wonder.
After he passed, I can’t even begin to describe the hollowness that I felt. The pain of achieving a life long goal, and not being able to hear him excited for me stung to my core, and there are many times even now, that I want to call him for advice, but I’ve adjusted and will talk to him in my mind or while riding my bike. Initially, I internalized way more than I probably should have. But I don’t regret any part of my grieving process. I was able to think deeply about the impact he made on me, and how I wanted to try my best to continue to be an example of his name and carry on his legacy of being an honorable man.
Throughout this journey, I have learned and realized that coping is different for everyone who has experienced loss. I’ve found comfort and peace of mind in exploring the memories of my Dad, and I truly enjoy thinking deeply about the many lessons he has taught me. Honestly, that’s how all of this started for me. I’m not ashamed to talk about my grief. I was a lucky man to have a father like I did. I want as many people who want to hear what he taught me to be able to do so. I’m not in any way, shape, or form an expert in this field but I’m a great listener and understanding myself. Therefore, I’ve put together my thoughts on how I’ve made it to this point after losing him.
5 Stages of Grief
Understand the 5 Stages of Grief
Like most things in life, there are general explanations that describe how people are affected by certain things. Grief is no different. It’s medically proven that in most cases, we will all grieve in similar ways when there is a loss. Understanding this has helped me tremendously.
In my opinion, knowing what helps you, is ultimately the most important aspect of the coping process. I can attest to being on a “emotional roller-coaster”, but since I knew about the 5 stages of grief, I tried hard to identify them. Although sometimes retrospectively, where I was and to tell myself it was okay to feel the way I did after my loss proved difficult.
Keep Your Support System Informed
My wife was my rock! Not only did she listen when I needed to talk about my Dad, she also proactively engaged in conversations with me because she could see that I was in deep thought or struggled with his loss.
Have an Outlet
My go to therapy was riding my bike. It’s tough to explain but, I was able to connect with my Dad while riding. I had a playlist that had a couple of songs that made me think of him. I knew when I was on my bike, I could think about him, and it was okay to have any emotion that I needed to have at that moment.
Know Your Resources
I didn’t know or think about all of the resources while I struggled, but I definitely do now. Instagram pages, Facebook groups, awesome blogs like Supportive Fathers. They’re all great resources to help you cope with your loss. And of course professional counseling is there if you find yourself stuck in a spot that you can’t seem to figure out.
So this is the beginning of my story. For now, I accept that I’m still learning everyday and trying to deal with how to handle this reality that we all will eventually face. I try to capture some good life lessons in my videos and Instagram posts. I look forward to the road ahead and dealing with the grief I have accepted. Follow me on my journey on Instagram @rideswithdad.