It’s been 28 Mondays. More than six months from the last time anyone heard his laugh, saw his mischievous smile or smelled the Tommy Hilfiger cologne that he made his signature scent decades ago. As I’m writing this, it’s surreal that it has been that long. The days go by in a blur and sometimes it feels like the last six months have been one long never ending day. Whatever role he played in people’s lives — husband, father, brother, son, friend, neighbor — their lives have been changed forever because of his sudden passing.
He was more than my father. And I know every child can probably say that about their dad, but he really was. I was the youngest and daddy’s little girl. He was the man who bought me a pretty sailor dress when I was little and realized after much protest, that cars, ponytails, transformers and Big Wheels were more his daughter’s style. He taught me how to shoot a gun when I was 8, rebuild car engines when I was 12 and live life as an independent young woman when I was a teenager.
When my life was falling apart as a young woman, daddy picked me up, bought me a house, and showed me what I needed to do to be resilient and thrive. And when my life fell apart a second time after the death of my first husband, he sat quietly with me on random afternoons, demonstrating that he wasn’t there to fix it — he was there because he needed to grieve too — we needed each other. All of this taught me how to be a humble and kind mother, wife, businesswoman and leader who isn’t afraid to admit weakness.
Many people have asked if it has gotten easier. The short answer is no. When I think of him, it hurts just as much now as it did the day my heart dropped into my stomach as I glanced at my phone during a meeting to see missed calls and a text that said “Please call me *911″ from my sister. The long answer is it’s different, because I’ve accepted that it’s OK for me to not be OK right now.
Being OK with falling apart is uncomfortable and nearly impossible in today’s world where everyone is expected to just keep it together. Social media reinforces that we are supposed to be perfect — only demonstrating how happy we are and how beautiful our families and lives are. I have found there is undeniable strength in admitting when you are not strong. And by doing so, you may find there are other people struggling as well, and together you can support each other until your perpetual wounds stop flowing.
I finally mustered up the nerve to play the last voicemail message my dad left me. I thought I was ready to hear his voice and hoped it would comfort me. I smiled through the tears and I think that’s progress. I’ve realized that losing your parent is a unique loss because you aren’t just losing someone you love, you’re losing the person who has always had your back and will always be proud of you no matter how bad you mess up. When your parents die, you feel like instead of going into every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.
I will bounce forward when I’m ready. For now, I am OK with not being OK.
(originally published on Thoughts And Ideas blog)