It’s been 3 years. 156 weeks. 1,095 days. 26,280 hours. 1,576,800 minutes… since my dad left his physical body.

Interestingly enough, in one of the the Facebook groups I belong to, someone posted about grieving the loss of her mother his past Summer, and wanting to feel “normal” again.

In commenting on that post, I was reminded of how it felt to me, to say goodbye to the most important man in my life.

This will be a short post. But if you are struggling with grief, I urge you to read it. Maybe it an bring you some comfort. I hope it does.

The first 2-3 months are impossibly hard. The memories are too fresh and your mind plays tricks on you. For example, sometimes I’d wake up and not remember that he was gone. It took time for that fact to settle in. There was also a lot of regret. I was tortured with the what-ifs. That was hard.

Then the edges get less and less sharp as time goes along. There’s their first birthday when you won’t get to talk to them, or sing them happy birthday. Then YOUR first birthday when they won’t be there to celebrate it. First Easter. First Christmas. And so on.

Once that first anniversary comes around, it feels lighter. To me, personally, I felt that life was slowly returning to normal, whatever normal is. I was slowly able to find joy in his memories, and not only the pain of his absence.

There’s something to be said about the practice of some cultures, where folks mourn someone’s loss for exactly a year by wearing only black (we call it “luto” in Portuguese), and moving on after that. That year mark is indeed very powerful.

However, time alone doesn’t do all this. There’s a level of acceptance that must come from within. Accepting life (and death) on their own terms. For me, there was a lot of reflection, of trying to face the reality of his health condition straight on, and accepting the outcome. His quality of life wouldn’t be promising. I’d never want to see someone I love suffering just to give me the selfish knowledge that he’s still alive.

In my case, on top of acceptance, there was also forgiveness. I had to constantly work on forgiving myself for the things I didn’t do or the things I didn’t do perfectly. That played a huge role in my ability to move on and find peace again. I had the choice to keep beating myself up – I chose not to.

This past year has brought so much loss and pain. Lots of us lost loved ones in 2020. So, today, this message is not for my dad. I talk to him all the time through my prayers, in my dreams. He’s always with me, and he’ll always be. This message, instead, is for YOU who is mourning. I hear you. I understand you. And I am here to say: there is a way out. Allow yourself to see it, when the time is right.

As we say in Yoga, the only way out is through. So get through your grief, feel every feeling, allow yourself to navigate through that dark, winding, twisted tunnel that never seems to end. But don’t hang on, keep walking, keep moving. There’s an end to it, I promise you. If you just keep moving, at your own pace, but do it. One step at a time.

In loving memory of Luiz B. Dornellas, my beloved father.