This has been the amount of time that has passed since the saddest and most surreal moment I’ve had to experience in my 31 years.
A little over 6 months ago, dad got sick, and we had to face the terrifying reality that we could (and would) lose him. There’s no “Losing your dad for dummies” book, so I was LOST. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to feel? To act?
I went with numb, and denial for a while. (This is how I learned firsthand about the “waves of grief” and it’s not fun waves like at the beach, it’s hard, crashing, tidal waves)
Fast forward. We get through the memorial/celebration of life, where I experienced such an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from so many people. Made me realize how important, special, and loved my dad was.
After that day, reality set in. The “new normal” as it’s called. Whatever the f#ck that means. Looking back, hindsight is 20/20 (LOL, with my lazy eye this may be the best vision I’ll ever have). I really have a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” attitude about it all. I could have, and should have, been a better sister. Daughter. Cousin. Niece. Friend. I still should be all of these things. And, I promise, I am doing my absolute best. It may not seem like it, but I swear on anything you believe in, that I am really, really trying. It wasn’t just me who lost my dad. SO many people lost Tom Donnelly that day. His impact, love, and legacy spread far and wide.
I should have visited my mom and siblings more (for obvious reasons). I should have reached out to my cousins to see how they were holding up, since this is the first aunt/uncle we lost. I should have reached out to my aunts and uncles, because they lost their brother. I should have kept in better touch with my friends. They love me, and care about me, and pushing them away isn’t helping. They called my dad “papa donnelly”, they suffered a great loss that day too.
But, I couldn’t. I could barely handle my own well-being. Do I feel selfish? YES. Of course I do. A lot of people look at me as “single Julie with no kids”, so, it appears easy for me to gallivant around and check-in and visit. But, honestly, this is when my single life got the best of me. It was, and still is, so so hard. I don’t have anyone to go home to. (My cat is cool and all, but, she can be a little selfish and a bit of a bitch at times) I don’t have someone at home who can be there for me on the bad days, who knew my dad, who can cook me dinner and give me a hug while I cry. I don’t have any of my siblings or my mom close-by. I am beyond grateful for everyone who was (and is) there for me. Don’t get me wrong, my support system is incredible. But, this whole grief thing is lonely, and hard, and mental health is a bitch.
Okay, let’s catch up here and keep this train moving. 6 month recap of my life: I’ve had ups, and downs. Fair mix of both. My job is going well, I’m maintaining a social life (or pretending I am. When I’m not at home eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching ‘My 600lb life’ or a true crime documentary), and dating (LOL talk about grief). From the outside, I’m doing well. My inner-circle knows the truth. It has been the absolute longest and fastest period of time I’ve ever experienced.
So, let’s talk about remembering dad. I already feel like I am forgetting pieces of him and that is absolutely devastating. I am so happy my mom got her, my sister and I necklaces with a little bit of his ashes in it, for us to wear every day to remember him. (Okay, I know. When my mom first called me about this I was so freaked out, but now I love it).
I also decided to kinda-spontaneously get a tattoo to remember him. I knew I wanted one to remember and honor him. Eventually I decided it would be some form of sports related tattoo. I didn’t really want to get “dad” tattooed in flames on my bicep. (For now, I may get that eventually, you never really know.) Here is the tattoo, and what I wrote about it the day I got it.
This one’s for you, dad. You’ve taught me a lot, but one thing I’m most grateful for is teaching me my love of philly sports. I’ll never forget listening to Phillies games on the back patio, or that painful football season where I made you teach me all the ins and outs. I’m so glad you called me the moment the eagles won the Super Bowl so we could share in that. Thanks for the passion.
One thing I am constantly working on is continuing to make him proud and honor his legacy. I strive everyday to live how he did. Some days I find myself asking WWTD? (What Would Tom Do). I actually am talking with people at Gift of Life, and am looking to volunteer with them and help raise awareness, so more to come on that.
Wow, this got long. If you made it this far, thanks. To recap:
– Grief is not a straight line. It’s not easy, and there isn’t a handbook that I found that really helps (yet… who knows, maybe I’ll write one)
– I can’t go back and change what I did, and didn’t do. I handled, and am continuing to handle, life the best to my ability in the moment.
– No one is perfect. Everyone is going through things. Be patient and understanding.
– I miss dad. A lot.
– Through this terrible time, I found my voice and began writing and opening up, which is incredible and terrifying.
– Life is continuing. Earth keeps spinning. Even when the world feels shattered.
– I learned though all of this that I can overcome hard shit. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. And I’ll continue to do so. My optimism on life is coming back, and life is going to keep going, so I need to enjoy it and make the most of it.
Thanks for reading, and supporting me.