“It’s ok,” I said to yet another friend offering condolences. “We were expecting it; he was ready to go. He’s healed now.” It was December 1st, less than a month before Christmas and only 9 days before we were to embark on a long-awaited warm vacation with our little family.
“It’s ok”, I repeated to the store clerk, to the neighbours, to friends texting their love, to my salon when I had to reschedule appointments. “It’s ok. We knew it was coming.”
And I really believed it was ok. My dad was 85. He’d lived a full life and was ready to go. He’d been diagnosed with end-stage lung disease a year earlier, thanks to the asbestos he’d been exposed to for years as a mechanic.
It really was ok, wasn’t it? I knew what raw, fierce, dull, and bleak grief looked and felt like. But I wasn’t feeling that this time. ‘Good’, I thought. ‘I prepared myself and it really is ok. He’s in a better place and we’re totally fine.’
And I was fine. I was totally fine through the funeral and time spent with my siblings. I’m the youngest of 10 and we hadn’t been together for over 21 years – since our wedding! I was fine through the hymns and the burial, through the hugs and the memories. I cried a little, but none of the all-encompassing grief that I was becoming all too familiar with.
We headed home after the funeral, stopped for various travel-required testing along the 6-hour drive, quickly packed up and left the next morning for our Caribbean cruise. I thought the timing could have been so much worse. Dad could’ve died while I was in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, with no cell or internet access. I was grateful he’d been called home before we left so I could have closure.
But it wasn’t.
And it wasn’t until I sat on the beach at Cozumel with strangers all around me, eight days after the funeral, that I started to feel the first waves of overwhelming grief. Sitting in the surf, pummeled by the tide, I suddenly felt it all. Nothing was ok. I was in the Caribbean, and I was fatherless. I turned to a lovely woman beside me – someone I’d never seen before – and I asked, “How do I say goodbye to my dad?” It felt so impossible, that he was no longer just a phone call away.
The salt of my tears mingled with the salt of the ocean as I began to truly feel. My husband gathered me close and two of my new friends quietly crept near, offering their support and words of hope and wisdom.
You see, it doesn’t matter if you were super close to your dad or not. It doesn’t matter if he lived next door or across the continent. It makes no difference if you talked to him every day or twice a month. Losing a parent hurts. It hurts because something in your world tilts differently without one half of your parental unit. It hurts because you remember things you wish could’ve been different. It is so painful because you’ll miss their gruff voice on the phone, or seeing their eyes light up when you walk in the room with their grandkids.
It’s painful because it’s final, and irreversible.
There is nothing “ok” about losing a parent. You may feel fine for awhile, but at some point you may feel really not fine, and I want you to know that it’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok, it’s ok to be a little broken. And healing comes with the acceptance of the pain and the surrender to its depths. You simply can’t “ok” yourself out of a loss that big.
The best part is, there is Someone who shouldered pain greater than any human can comprehend, who wants to walk with you through the suffering. Jesus experienced his Father turning away as he took on the sins of the whole world. He was utterly alone and experienced unfathomable depths of suffering. He knows, he understands, he feels. When it feels like you can’t take it on, he can. All you need to do is ask. When I can’t do it anymore, I surrender with a barely a sigh, and He’s right by my side. You don’t have to carry it alone.