This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
"Losing a parent changes you forever" is a sentiment so obvious that it's almost a cliché.
It's the token event inserted into almost every great hero's back story to give them depth or purpose. Seriously, try to name an iconic character who has two alive parents — it can't be done.
Heck, Harry Potter literally spends his entire academic career trying to avenge the death of his folks.
It's less dramatic when it happens to you in real life. Losing my father at the age of 12 changed me, but finding an overarching purpose for his death was impossible. There was no noseless Ralph Fiennes to battle — I just had to deal with it.
So, I did, for a long time. But, I'm 29 now and I am ready to reflect.
To do this, I thought I'd share six lessons I learned while dealing with my father's death.
Hopefully, it'll be of help to someone in a similar situation.
You have to protect your dreams
My father wasn't doing the work he wanted to do when he died. He was selling used cars to earn income so he could support his kids. It was a very honourable thing to do, but it made him deeply depressed.
After he passed, I promised myself I'd make a living doing what I loved or die trying. I saw what a lack of purpose outside of work and family did to my father's mental health, and I knew my life's work would have to come from a place of passion.
So, I protected my dream of wanting to be an artist, waved goodbye to the hobbyists and sacrificed a lot of financial security. Statistically, it was a very dumb thing to do, but I woke up every morning with a clear purpose, and that was enough for me.
Do what you love. You and the people you care about will be gone quicker than you like, don't betray your heart.
No one's coming to save you
When I was young, I firmly believed that nothing else bad would happen to me because my father died. I thought I had gotten my one terrible thing out of the way and the rest of my life would be smooth sailing.
Sadly, that's not how it works. The world doesn't care about you. It's just a place where things happen to people, and when it's bad news, people either lay down in the gutter or get back up.
In truth, no one can save you. People can help you, but they can't live your life for you.
I've asked my father for help plenty of times since his passing, and the only answer I ever got back was to take more accountability.
I stand by that hard truth, I think it's the only way you can figure out what tiny fraction of the universe is within your control.
You have to forgive yourself for your early mistakes
During my first years of adulthood, I constantly worried about what my father would think about what I was doing and if he'd be proud.
It was an understandable but painful conundrum.
Every time I made a mistake, I'd feel twice as guilty, once for myself and once for my father's memory.
I wanted to prove that his death meant something to the world by becoming famous. I wanted people to look into my backstory and realize how much of what makes me special comes from him.
It's an admirable goal, but really all it did was make every rejection hurt more.
I struggle with this problem today, but I'm more aware now. These days I try to put my father's memory to rest and live in the present moment. It feels good to have taken us both off the pedestal.
It's hard enough trying to live your own life, let alone yours and your deceased father's.
You have to let them go
"Ah, nothing lasts forever, and nothing stays the same," Joey Ramone once said.
The hardest stage of mourning is acceptance. Put simply, you move on. You stop thinking about the person you lost as much. Their face and voice fade from your memory, and life without them becomes normal.
People don't want to reach this point. I know I didn't. It feels cruel that the healing process from such a tragedy is similar to forgetting, but that's how it is.
Thankfully, the next step, "accepting acceptance," is much more meta and enjoyable.
It is here that I found myself at peace with my father being gone.
I don't force myself to think of him anymore or punish myself for forgetting his birthday. I just live my life.
I highly recommend anyone dealing with a loss to join me here when they're ready. I find that it's a much more manageable way to grieve.
Forgive your parent
Forgiveness is like a power cleaner for families. It just washes away all the dirt and makes everything shiny again.
If you lose a parent young like I did, at some point, you have to forgive them for leaving you — even if it's their fault.
You must also let them off the hook for hurting you while they were alive unless you plan to shake your fist at a ghost for decades.
Grudges, especially those against dead people, only weigh you down. No one's mother or father is perfect, which is why I recommended letting any issue you left unresolved with a deceased parent go, it's not worth the baggage.
Hopefully, this piece has provided you with a few tips on how to grieve in a healthier way.
Stay strong, friends!
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or mental health concerns, please reach out to a trusted peer, parent or health care professional. You can also contact the Crisis Services Canada helpline, which is available 24 hours a day, or consult these additional resources. If you need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Support is available.