I recently came across an article, An Open Letter To Every Kid Who Has Lost A Parent. The title interested me because I too, lost my dad two and a half years ago. I was curious to read what this girl had to say and I found that I could only relate to a couple of things on her list of 15 thoughts. I realized I couldn’t quite relate because for nearly fifteen years, I didn’t know my father at all with the exception of a few letters and quiet phone calls. We didn’t have family traditions, or old home movies of him playing with me or teaching me to crawl, and I don’t think I will ever relate to anyone who grew up with both parents, nor resent them for it. I also do not find myself in a bind and wonder, “What would Dad do?” because I honestly don’t know. However, the last seven years of his life, I did get to know him slowly, but surely. But it never made up for the fifteen years we had lost.
I’ve decided to make a list of my own in regards to what it is like to a lose a parent you hardly knew.
First off, it’s okay to cry. It feels weird at times, I know, but it’s real. In fact, be thankful that you can form the tears because it shows that you care, and that counts for something, doesn’t it?
1. I became obsessed.
I began finding out things I never knew about him, and it killed me inside. I held tightly onto what little stories I heard, the good and quite possibly, the bad. I wanted to know everything from the moment my mom knew him to the end, even if what I was about to hear I could have lived without.
2. I felt guilty.
I probably felt guilty for a number of reasons. One of them could have been that when I was younger, and so used to the idea of only one parent, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality was far too strong. If I was younger, and given no chance at all to know my father and he had died then, I can’t say that I would have reacted with sadness. That may sound harsh, but it was equivalent to finding out your teacher from twenty years ago passed away. I might have felt more disappointed than sad.
Perhaps I felt guilty for all of the times he reached out in the past, and I ignored him. Or the cards he sent for my birthday and Christmas I tossed to the side. In my mind, I know I could have done things differently.
3. I wondered what life would have been like with them around.
My mother always kept my best interests at heart, and she knew that life with my father would not have been grand. I truly thank her for that. I would have rather imagined happy scenarios than be faced with the truth. I started to wonder how I would have turned out if he had stayed. I wondered where I would have ended up. Would I be a good person, or a bad person?
4. I felt stripped from opportunity.
I was lucky enough to have my father at both my high school and college graduation, even if it meant he would die four months later. I was lucky enough to be able to teach him the art of the smartphone, and celebrate my first “big girl” job. There are so many more opportunities we could have had, like my wedding or birth of my first child. Those moments are far more important to me than him teaching me how to ride a bike or prepare me for my driving test.
5. I held onto every last thing.
Unlike others, I didn’t have an unlimited amount of fond memories of my dad because of the fact that he wasn’t around. I now only have objects of his, like a necklace he gave me of Lady Guadalupe, and a few of his bandanas and drawings. If I lose those things, I feel as though I’ve lost everything.
6. I questioned my reaction to death.
My dad and I were starting to get really close by the time he died. I remember when my mother called to tell me, I couldn’t breathe. I sat in the bathroom with my face in the toilet for about thirty minutes, and then paced my bedroom for hours trying to figure out what to do. I cried for an entire week straight. I was then terrified with the idea that if this is how I react with my dad, who I was still getting to know, how am I going to handle it when my mother dies? Or my sisters? Or my grandparents? Was I just more upset about the fact that I’ve lost all possibilities and opportunities? It was an overwhelming feeling that I physically would not make it, and it kept me up at night.
7. Every bit of condolence is tiresome.
That first year after his death was the hardest, especially when others did not know everything. So when they said, “I’m so sorry for your loss. At least you have so many wonderful memories of him to hold onto,” I had an urge to scream. It wasn’t their fault. They were just trying to show support, but sometimes not saying anything was best. Just a hug would have sufficed. Now that time has passed, it’s a little bit easier to deal with it when someone sends me their condolences through conversation.
Losing a parent is not an easy thing to explain to others. Losing a parent you barely knew is just as complicated. It’s certainly something I do not wish even on my worst enemy.