The stages of grief are far from linear. Over the course of grieving my father’s death, I have moved back and forth between each stage I’ve named, as well as stages that are nameless.
I cannot say the precise time that I radically accepted my father’s death.
But I know that I have.
I have accepted that I will never look at him and truly see him look back at me. I have accepted that when I mention him to my loved ones that I speak of him in past tense.
I have accepted the reaction that my body has when my aunts or uncles look at me and make remarks about how much I look like him and how proud he would have been of me—how much he loved me.
I have accepted that there is joy in having dreams about him — it is no longer unpleasant. I consider it a gift from God to have a dream of my father. In my dream state I get to see him move, I get to see him smile, I get to be with him while he is driving. It’s just like old times.
When I wake up from dreaming of him, I smile with gratitude … sometimes I wake up and I cry. Whether smiling or crying (or smiling through my tears), I am filled with gratitude for having had him for the time I was allowed.
I have accepted that I cannot watch a father-daughter dance at a wedding. I’ve been to dozens of weddings since he’s passed and consistently, I’ve walked out of the building.
‘Someone come grab when they start up a line dance …’
I’ve accepted that I will always have a tug at my heart strings when I see girls doing something with their fathers. It can be something as small as them dining at a restaurant to practicing something athletic at a park. I experience a great deal of nostalgia and reminded of times when he and I did something similar.
During the last stage of grief in the Kubler-Ross model, there is acceptance of the reality that your loved one has passed away. And, an acceptance that life will never be the same as it had been prior to your loved one dying.
It is a harsh reality— reality nonetheless.
Accepting the death of a loved one requires the practice of radical acceptance. That is the total, complete, and absolute acceptance of reality as it is. Radical acceptance does not mean that you approve of or like things as they are. It simply means that you recognize and accept the truth of reality. It takes practice. Lots and lots of practice.
After my father died, I thought many things once important, were pointless. It was pointless to try. It was pointless to have hope. It was pointless to think about the future. In spite of the pain I felt after losing him some way, somehow, I accomplished things that I could not fathom.
Remember to remember, I am the same person who didn’t think that I would graduate from high school; I ended up graduating from college, twice. I am fortunate enough to have found a passion in my life that allows me to be of support to teenagers in helping them take suicide off the table as an option. And in a way, helping one more family avoid the deep pain that comes with losing a loved one to suicide.
Through my experience of grief, of being a suicide loss survivor, I’ve realized how resilient my family and I are. And, I realize and accept that I will miss my father every single day.