I wrote this post the first week of June 2015. I couldn’t put it up for a variety of reasons; the primary one being that it was to be a week of joy, not sorrow, and consequently it just didn’t seem appropriate. That first week of June I watched my daughter struggle with emotions, fatigue and obligations, and there wasn’t anything I, or anyone else, could do. She did struggle, but she got through it, a summer challenging enough for a new mom, but even more so for a grieving daughter. This is what I wrote:
The week ahead looms fairly large for my daughter. There are two significant events that occur this week for her. On Thursday it is her birthday and on Saturday her best friend gets married. Happy events, but for my daughter, these could be difficult. She’s just put in a solid 12 months of turmoil.
My daughter discovered she was pregnant and told her father and me on Monday, June 23, 2014. Short-lived joy for my daughter, since on Thursday, June 26th, we had to tell her that her father had cancer. Stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to his bones; the radiologist gave him a 3 to 6 month prognosis. She would spend her whole pregnancy watching her father die. In August, her aunt (her dad’s sister) would be diagnosed with bowel cancer and end up in ICU in a coma for six weeks. Then in December her partner lost his grandmother, ‘Nan’, in her early 70’s, her death was completely unexpected. The toll on the family was indescribable, the joy of pregnancy was overshadowed by fear and anxiety.
In February of this year, she was identified as a high risk pregnancy. She ended up delivering a healthy baby boy by caesarean section. Her father, so very sick, held her newborn child in his arms; I think he held the baby three or four times before his death one month later. I cannot imagine what the hormones in my poor daughter’s body were doing as she went through this. She often confided in me that if she could, she would stay pregnant forever, if it would keep her dad alive. She knew he was only hanging on until the baby was born.
My daughter heads into this week painfully missing her dad. On Thursday we will celebrate her birthday in the same style as we would have had her father still been alive – with gifts, cake, a nice dinner and with memories. Her dad’s presence was so strong in life that, as she informed me, the thought of losing her father altogether is unbearable, so now she considers herself to have a ghost dad. Her ghost dad is always with her and although she can’t touch him or see him, she knows he is there for her whenever she needs him.
After her birthday then it’s the weekend, when she is maid of honour in a wedding for a friend that she loves. With respect to her friends, she’s in uncharted waters – all of her girlfriends have both of their parents and none of her girlfriends have children. Although they think they understand how she is feeling, they don’t have a clue. My daughter is obviously happy for the bride, but that doesn’t make all the other stuff that has happened go away. She’s still recovering from the C-section, continuing to adjust to being a first time parent, and trying to work through her grief. The wedding traditions won’t be the same for my daughter, she will not have the joy of her dad walking her down the aisle. Her father will never speak at her wedding, she won’t have that first dance. My daughter, like her brothers, fiercely loved her father, and he was remarkably involved in every aspect of all of their lives; not a passive man, my husband.
While everyone around her is celebrating, she’ll be tired, she is tired. All she wants to do is rest; she has a three month old baby, it’s only two months since her dad died, and I know she’s worried about losing me as well. You see, the thing about grief is that it takes us all hostage. After her father died, essentially for a little while she lost everyone. She lost me as I wrapped myself up in pain and sorrow; she lost her brothers when they went inward to find a way to make sense of it all, and her support network was nonexistent with her friends, not because they weren’t there – but because they weren’t THERE from a life experience perspective.
The summer looms large for her. There are five weddings in the next two and a half months; she is in two or three, I can’t remember. There will be showers and parties to celebrate new beginnings. She will be expected to, and will want to, participate in the events. Small baby at home, grief eating her up, but she’ll give it her best. Each wedding will have a father in attendance, there will be THE dance, the speech, the pride and love – it will remind her of what she has lost. She will be jealous of what her friends have and don’t seem to appreciate enough. Its cliché but true, you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore. For my daughter, she’ll have her ghost dad, and no one can ever take him away from her.
It just is so unutterably sad.