Facing Loss Head On

By Antonietta Gutierrez • April 20, 2017

Two years and just over three months ago, I lost the most amazing person I have ever had in my life.

I was twelve.

As each day, week, month and year pass by, his absence is felt even harder.

You only ever get two parents. Never did I imagine that I would spend the rest of my life without one.

"I have cancer." Those words ring in my ears every single day. I was ten when I first heard those three words.

I didn't understand what it meant only acknowledging that he was sick.

For two years my dad was bounced around four different hospitals. Hooked on chemo therapy, radiation and many different medications, I witnessed the life slowly drive out of someone.

I wanted so him badly to cheer me on at my soccer games, drive me to school, go on Saturday morning Tim Horton runs and go to the beach. He was healthy, active and happy. There was no sign pointing towards cancer. My dad never got sick. He was a family and career man. Anyone who knew him can tell you he always had a beautiful story to tell filled with plenty of smiles and laughs.

He was the kind of person who would make you feel like his own son, daughter, brother or sister. He always reached out to those in need. He cared like no other. He loved like no other. He lived like no other.

Each day it hurts a little more. The effect of this loss has changed so much about myself. My life hasn't been the same. I still walk through the house door and expect him to be sitting on the couch, watching Bundesliga soccer games. I still walk into Tim Horton's and pretend he's there ordering coffee while I snack on a donut.

There's this quote, "We didn't realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun."

When I think of this quote I realize that when you have a person who is so special and close to you, you don't pay attention to the things you do and say. Little do we know all the moments good and bad, make beautiful memories.

On January fourth 2015 everything that I've known and loved was taken away from me. I lost so much that day. It's a day that I replay in my head a billion times. I never got to hold his hand, and tell him how much I loved him at his very last breath. The thing about this is i could've been there. But I chose to not be. I was selfish. I was tired of being around someone who could barely recognize me. Someone who was in so much pain. I was too oblivious to realize that he needed me. I chose to not get in the car with my brother that morning. I wanted to stay home. I had school the next day. I could've been there and said everything I needed to say. It wouldn't have changed anything. I would've at least known that I told him and he heard me. I cannot go back to that day and rewind the time. I prayed that he would've held on until we got there. But he didn't. I was left to my guilt and pain of not telling him. I neglected the fact that he was deteriorating. I will never ever for! give myself.

I was always told that with time it will get better. I've come to realize that it is completely false. Breaking a bone or getting a bad grade will eventually heal and improve. But when you face a loss of this magnitude there will never be a timeline for "recovery." Because you truly never recover. You can only cope and heal.

Grief is real, prickling, heart-wrenching, tiring and painful.

There are moments where I feel at peace with myself and other when I want to float away to another world.

It hits you like a truck. The hardest part is going on with life. Holidays and birthdays are one the hardest challenges. You are cruelly reminded of who should be there but isn't. It's a permanent part of you that is indefinitely damaged.

Those who have never experienced loss and grief will never understand it. You're the lucky ones.

There are times where I feel so alone, depressed, anxious, angry, sad and scared all combined into one.

Rarely, you get a glimpse of sunlight. Like a happy or funny memory that keep you sane. Genuine friends and people who help guide you through the treacherous waves.

I found happiness in music and dance. I was able to talk about it with the amazing social worker, guidance counselor, countless teachers, friends and organizations who reminded me that there is still room for hope.

There was a time when I felt numb and hopeless. It was scary because I felt nothing but felt everything. I was suicidal. The shame and fear of wanting so badly to tell someone, but being too weak to say anything at all. I was saved that day. I am here to tell my story. I hope that anyone out there in this beautiful world who has ever lost someone knows that there are ways to talk about it. It needs to be talked about. I know the dangers of hiding.

The world may feel like a hurricane of dread and misery but please, please hang on. Because you have a beautiful life ahead of you. All is not gone. You are never alone.

I can't tell you how to cope, how to feel or how to move forward. There is no manual for grief. It's a silent barrier that makes you different. You have to try. Try and try every single day. Scream, shout, cry until you can't anymore. You are allowed to feel sad. No one can have power over how you cope. Every little step. Getting out of bed. Going on a walk. Talking to someone. Having a laugh. Finding pleasure in hobbies and activities. These are little victories that make you a bit stronger day by day. You will fall. You will take many detours. It will take everything you are and have. One day you will find that peace. It hasn't happened to me yet, but ever so rarely I get a taste of it. Hold on to memories you have. Those will never die. Those around you are your lifelines. Reach out. No matter how afraid you are. There are incredible people out there. Believe me. That's why I'm still here.

I have to live on for my dad. I need to honor his memory and celebrate his legacy by moving forward.

The days will drag on but I will never forget. Being happy doesn't mean you are forgetting your loved one. It means you are living their lossed opportunities at life. It's an incredible privilege. To know that what I do and where I will go will help me find the peace to heal. I live to make my dad proud. He sacrificed more than anyone should. He fought harder than anyone I've ever met. He keeps me going.

No matter how much I've lost I've gained a whole new family and community of people in the same boat as me.

We will get through this together.

With love, trust, strength, fearlessness and family, we will find peace.

Those we love come and go. We cannot control that. But we can value every step and moment. Life is beautiful and tragic at the same time.

Loss has changed my perspective on life and on the world. I am stronger and wiser. Because of the incredible person that was my dad.

I hope that whoever reads this grieving or not knows that you are loved. Again, you are NEVER EVER alone.

So with that, live, dream big and hug those around you a little tighter. :)

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