The older we get the more likely it is that we will be touched by the grief of losing someone we love.

Grief and loss, the stages of griefI lost my father nearly two and a half years ago.

Losing him knocked the foundation right out from under me. I felt as if I was in “free fall” for the first three or four months afterward. Nothing seemed “real” and nothing much mattered to me. It was as if I was awake but, in a “dream.”

I went through all the stages of grieving from shock and sorrow, to loneliness and missing him (still do). I even lost my appetite for a while, which is highly unusual for me. And for once didn’t worry about eating diet food either.

The only stage I did not experience was anger. I was not angry at him nor at God for taking him. Death is, after all, a part of life.

In the early stages of processing his loss I wasn’t ready to think about  the lessons death can teach us.

But, now that some time has passed I feel it’s important to share what I learned about life from losing of my father.

Lesson one

Share your feelings. Tell your loved ones that you love them while they’re alive. Hug them and share what’s in your heart. If you feel “uncomfortable” saying “I love you” or hugging them – make yourself do it anyway. Doing this just once or twice can melt barriers, heal resentments and open your heart.

Each night as I left the hospital I told my father that I loved him. He was so weak all he could manage to do was “blow kisses” to me. (My dear friend and fellow medium Andrea Atack reunited us the evening my father passed and one of the first things she said was that my father was “blowing kisses” to me.)

Lesson Two

Get to know the people you care about. Ask your parent, elderly friends and relatives about their childhood and early life. Ask them about the extended family you never knew. Pull out the family albums and go over all the people you don’t know and take notes. Use a tape recorder to preserve the family history. Just be sure to get it down before they transition. Ask your family members to submit questions and then interview your relative or parent and record this precious history.

This is one thing I wish I had done more of with my father. I knew a lot about his life and luckily my mother is still here to fill in some of the gaps but, not all. I wish I knew more about his youthful adventures.

Lesson three

Make time for friends and family and take photos at family events. When you lose someone nothing feels better than recalling wonderful memories of family gatherings and looking at photos of the event. (Whenever there is any sort of disaster reported on the news you always hear people say that one of the most painful losses was of their cherished family photos.)

My dad was the family photographer. He was famous for his self-portraits. Whenever he did anything he took a photo of himself doing it. We used to laugh when he did it – now those photos are the most precious photos of all. Since losing him we’ve tried to make an effort to take pictures at our family gatherings.

Lesson four

Have fun and laugh more. Don’t take life so seriously and don’t let fears hold you back. Take that trip with your best friend you planned since college to see the Great Wall of China. Do it now! Go to your high school reunion or reach out to old friends you’ve lost touch with. You will never look back over your life and wish you had worked longer hours. Instead you will be sorry that you didn’t make more time for your family friends and fun.

My father was a hard worker but he also loved to have fun. He went fishing with his friends fairly often and those were among his most cherished memories. After my dad died it dawned on me how many invitations I had turned down because I had put work ahead of friendships. I’m not doing that anymore and I hope you won’t either.

Lesson five

Be true to yourself. One of the things I admired most about my father was that he had no regrets. He lived the life he wanted to live. He loved his family, friends, church, city, home and being a mechanical engineer. He absolutely loved working on the huge skyscraper projects in New York all those years. And, he didn’t mind commuting into the city either. He did it for fifty years and didn’t retire until he was 72. I never once heard him say that he wished his life had been any different.

After my father died I realized I hadn’t been living authentically. I had spent 20+ years in a career I had no passion for. I was paying a mortgage on a house that kept be chained to the career I had no passion for. All I did was work practically, seven days a week. My life was a runaway train. I vowed to change that and I have – thanks Dad for teaching me this lesson – sorry you had to go so I could learn it.

Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be and don’t wait for the “right time or permission” to be that person.

Life can change and life can end in an instant. Live it – all of it – now.

Is your life all that you want it to be? If not why and what will you change to make a life of wonderful memories?

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