“The heartbreaking news”: No one can ever exactly prepare you for what you’re going to feel when you lose a loved one, especially when you’ve never experienced it before. There’s no amount of sympathy that will make you feel better, and a rare form of empathy that will heal the pain. I grew up without a father in my life, and the closest thing I had to a father figure was my grandpa. During my freshmen year of college, my grandpa became sick and was in an immense amount of pain with every movement. At first, no one could diagnose his pain and would repeatedly tell our family that he was simply suffering from a form of arthritis. We never believe it, we always knew there was something deeper to the situation. You simply cannot tell a pain who described his pain as a 6 when he cut off a finger, that his pain at a 10 is arthritis. So we kept pushing for more tests. Eventually the truth came out and he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, that had metastasized to his stomach, spine, and brain. The doctors told him that he had 6 months to a year to live, and you do not know how much I wish that was true.
“A blink of an eye”: Two days after he was diagnosed, I received a call from my mom saying things had taken a turn and that I should come home immediately. It turned out that his life expectancy was now towards 1-1.5 weeks, instead of the allotted 6 to 12 months. By the time I was able to get home he was almost unconscious in order to keep him comfortable. I slept by his side all night, and the following morning he passed away. In this moment I felt as though no person could take away the pain from losing a father figure, and no amount of words could make me understand why this had to happen.
“You don’t understand what it’s like”: Not only is experiencing your first death hard, but having it be someone who you looked up to, helped raise you, and have it happen so quickly makes it even harder- almost unbearable. I felt like no one understood my exact emotions and no one could help me come to terms with his passing happening so quickly. A couple days after everything I was finally ready to process what happened and talk to someone about it, at least vent about how I was feeling. I decided to talk to my aunt on my other side of my family about it, as she was not grieving as severely as the rest of us and has lost several family members. I explained to her how I was upset about how it happened so quickly, and that the doctor’s should have given us an accurate life expectancy. I was also upset because I could not understand how one day someone could be talking and moving around perfectly fine and 2 days later pass away. Instead of looking at it from a medical perspective, she was able to give me a more genuine and heartfelt response. She explained how “he was such a great man, and lived life with no regrets. He didn’t need 6-12 months worrying about his every move and pleasing everyone or saying he’s sorry, because he already did that. He knew how much we loved him and we all knew how much we loved him. He has no reason to suffer any longer.”
I would have never thought of a death in a way that she explained. It shined a brighter light on the situation. I never thought that would be possible. She could have simply said, “I’m sorry for your loss, I know it’s hard but it’s going to be okay and he’s in a better place now,” but instead she gave me a perspective on the situation that I would have never thought about. She understood what I was going through and gave me her life experience towards situations similar to aid my grieving. I was able to see a positive reason and gain acceptance faster than I would have alone in my own thoughts. I am forever grateful for that exact response. If I were not given this response I would still be asking why this all happened so quickly and why did it have to happen to someone who meant so much to me.