Photo courtesy of Pxhere.
Photo courtesy of Pxhere.

Grief During Graduation

May 21, 2022

My Dad died on a beautiful spring day. It was two o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun was shining bright. 

My school day was done, and everything felt calm. It was March 2021, so my junior year was going well, considering it was all online. 

It was a shock, to say the least. I want to say I was calm and collected. I want to say that I was prepared for this. 

I wasn’t. 

After I woke up from a well-deserved nap, my mother walked in with a look of shock on her face. Her phone was in her hand. I was still groggy and tired. 

“Your Dad passed away,” she said. 

Everything snapped into focus. It felt like I was yanked out of water. Everything felt too saturated and too bright. 

You hear about grief in passing. I had heard about it from school counselors and friends. Even though you know that it’s going to happen someday, it feels distant somehow. I thought I would be older. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

Was I in shock? This couldn’t be real. Nothing felt real. I was floating between a dream world and reality. I’m still dreaming or asleep. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

“They said he died of natural causes,” my mother said. 

What does “natural causes” even mean? He was healthy, even though he had a drinking problem. I thought about the last conversation I had with him. It was a fight. He was drunk. I cried, like I always do. I was trying to tell him to stop drinking. I don’t remember when I told him I loved him. Did he know that before he died? 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

The funeral was quick. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin played. Multiple people approached me. They told me they were sorry for my loss. They told me he was a good man and friend. Some of them were his friends from childhood or cousins. I had never seen them before. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

I wrote the eulogy. He used to tell me to start every speech with a joke. How ironic that I’m using his advice now. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

My friend’s father passed away my junior year of high school. It was cancer, I remember. Is this how she felt? It feels like everything wasn’t real. It feels like I can’t breathe. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

March 22nd—William Shatner’s birthday. My Dad loved Star Trek. Shatner turned 90, while my father died at 57. It’s unfair. Shatner lived longer than my father, and it’s unfair. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

His ashes were on our kitchen table. Everytime I walked into the kitchen, I saw his remains. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

Sleep was impossible. He haunted my dreams. When I woke up, I could’ve sworn he was still alive. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

I text him. I send him articles and updates about my life.  I tell him I love him. Sometimes when I’m too far gone, I call him to hear his voice one more time. I still have his last voicemail he sent me before he died. He was drunk or tired, probably both.

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

Two deaths followed after his—his sister and my uncle. They died alone and suddenly, just like him. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

I joke about it. It’s easier this way. If I joke about it, the pain is less intense. Grief makes you feel like you can’t breathe. The jokes are a band-aid. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

I went on dating apps to feel something. A woman talked to me. She was beautiful, a woman from a painting. Red hair and soft skin and blue eyes. She told me I was pretty and sweet. She filled that gap inside me for a little bit. 

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

I told her about my Dad, finally breaking down. Everything came all at once. The grief, the pain, the guilt—I didn’t know myself anymore. I was fractured and broken. We stopped talking after that.

Nothing can prepare you for this. 

I started to write instead. I deleted all the dating apps and went to therapy. Every day, I feel a bit better. Some days, I’m happy. It feels like a personal win. 

I talked to my roommates and friends about it. I’m not alone anymore. We go out for coffee and laugh at stupid jokes. It feels good to open up and talk about this. 

Nothing can prepare you for death, no matter how hard you try. 

Grief is love unspoken; this is me speaking now.

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