Five Things I’ve Learned in the Five Years Since My Dad Died

cardinal-2524695__480It’s been five years since my Dad died. Some days, it feels like just yesterday he was here teasing me about my overprotective child rearing ways, and on other days? It seems like he’s been gone forever.

I’ve learned so many things about myself and about life as a result of his death. I imagine as years pass, I will learn even more. Oh death – the gift that keeps on giving. Humor – that’s one of five lessons I’ve learned during the past five years. Here they are.

Laughing is just as therapeutic as crying. That saying “Don’t speak ill of the dead,” is for the birds. Some of the most wonderful and therapeutic bouts of laughter and all on tears have come from talking about the many and glorious shortcomings my Dad had. From the way he mispronounced countless words because of his Argentinian accent (mortifying me as a teenager!) to his brass, bold ways of getting into restaurants, getting out of parking tickets and getting shit done – each character flaw we reminisce about makes us smile, tell more stories and keep his spirit alive.

None of us are perfect people. But our people are perfect for us. And we keep them with us by laughing at all of their good and all of their bad. This makes them real and present within us. Many times the laughter turns to tears, but it also takes the sting out of them a bit.

Time heals. It does. I swear it does. Time eases the ache of loss. Time allows us to live again, to move on and to find joy. I still think of my Dad every day and smile. It’s rare that I cry. While there are random moments I feel the loss and sadness out of nowhere and do end up tearing up, the ache is no longer all powerful and consuming.

Losing a parent grows you up while simultaneously brings you back to being a child. It’s important to step up to the plate when a parent passes. I remember taking care of funeral arrangements, making phone calls, meeting with a rabbi and comforting my own mom during the days after my Dad died. While my brothers and I can never fill my Dad’s shoes, we are all the adults now, moving around dinners and holidays and well, life, as the one’s in charge. And then there are the days when all I want is hug from my Dad. I want him to lift me up and tell me it’s all gonna be o.k. I want to revert to the little girl looking for and getting answers from the guy in charge.

Our loved ones send us signs-pay attention. My Dad pops into my life more often than I ever thought he would. I see him in a red cardinal perched strangely on my patio table. When I’m thinking of him, a song comes on the radio that is so specifically ‘his.’ The day my Dad died, I had to refill a prescription for myself as I was sick. “Where are you Dad, where did you go?” was the question playing on a loop in my head. When I walked into the drugstore, the song playing overhead was from the musical Evita – my Dad’s favorite. Some may say it’s coincidence, but I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in the magic.

Life is for the Living. We have a choice when we go through trauma. We can live in grief or we can live in joy.  My Dad said this all the time. This quote, this thought, this lesson, has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned in five years. I remember my father, I enjoy remembering, I allow myself to be sad and allow myself to be happy.  I choose to lose myself in small moments every day. I choose to live fully to the best of my ability. I choose to live my life. By choosing to live, I am honoring my father’s life.

Have you learned any lessons following the death of a loved one? I’d be honored if you would share them here in the comments below.


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