I never thought my dad would die.
In our family, we just didn’t talk about death. It wasn’t something any of us would even think about or consider. We have always been so close—me, my two sisters, mom and dad, the “five musketeers”—that even the idea of losing one member was heartbreaking.
One of my grandfathers (my dad’s dad) died several years ago, and my father was given the position of basically being our family’ leader. He had two sisters and a widowed mother. He took the place as the new head of the household. He became the glue that held our family together, and a great source of strength for all of us.
As much as it pains me even now to write this, my dad suffered a massive heart attack in October of 2011. He died before I or either of my sisters could make it home to see him again. He died on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, in my mother’s arms.
Daddy was a passionate man. He was the pastor of a small church that was growing under his ministry, someone who was loved and deeply respected. He will always be missed and held in the highest regard by anyone who knew him.
And now we are faced with the questions. What comes next? How do we move on with our lives when the only thing any of us want to do is curl up under a rock and never see the light of day again? Although Jesus may have felt this same way, I think He would call us to respond much differently. I think instead of closing up, we should become more open, loving people. We should be so moved by the brevity of life that we are impassioned to be courageous, kind and generous. The death of someone we love can be a wake-up call for us, instead of an excuse to stay in bed.
It’s possible that you have suffered a great loss as I have. It isn’t that rare, although it may seem like you are the only person going through this. Death is scary. I know how you feel. I wish you and I could sit down over coffee. I wish I could look you in the face and tell you how sorry I am. I know you are in pain, and I know you are very, very overwhelmed. I could smile a little as I tell you, “It will get better.” Even though it feels like it will never get better. It will.
I could offer you these words of encouragement, and I would hope that they sink down deep into your spirit and help to build back a little of what has been broken. Even though we aren’t sitting over coffee, I write these words to you now—personally—and I hope they help:
You’re only human. For a while, anywhere from a few months to a year, you need to be willing to cut yourself some slack. No one should expect you to immediately be this composed, calm-and-collected individual. You can be strong, but you don’t have to be a robot. It’s normal to be sitting somewhere one day and just spontaneously start crying. You don’t have to apologize for missing the person you’ve lost, or grieving over their death. It’s all part of the healing process.
You aren’t alone. First of all, there are people in your life that will support you through this. If not family, then there are always counselors and pastors in your area who would be ready and willing to listen and pray with you. Secondly, no matter how small you may feel, remember how huge God is, and be comforted. Read Proverbs 3:5, Isaiah 48:17, Psalm 48:14. Take heart; you aren’t alone.
You aren’t crazy. You aren’t losing your mind just because you can’t wrap your mind around this. I know for a few weeks after my dad died, I would ask God constantly: “Why? Why did this happen? Why?" It felt like He didn’t answer me. But it’s not really our place to understand. We can be confused, it’s normal to be, however we should remember that all of us are His creation and He can do what He wants. He is perfect, He does have a plan (even if it felt like He went on a lunch break when my Father passed away). He’s in control.
You’ll be OK. I already said it will get better—that probably isn’t the right wording. It will get easier. If you deal with this in the best way you know how, every day you will grow from it. 1 Peter 4:19 says that if you’re going through something difficult, keep doing what’s right and trusting God—because He’s faithful and He’s never going to let you down. He isn’t going to forget you. If ever there was a time You could trust Him, it is through this. He will prove Himself to be good, time and time again.
My prayers are with you as you embark on a new journey, a new piece in the puzzle of your story. A new chapter in your life after loss.