I Feel Lost…

Just three months ago, my dad was living independently in his own home. In May, he transitioned remarkably well into an assisted living facility. Two weeks ago, he began receiving hospice care. And now he’s gone. My dad died peacefully in his sleep early in the morning of July 23rd.

My heart is broken.

I feel lost.

At first, I wasn’t going to share this with you, my Dear Readers, until later. Maybe it’s not appropriate I thought at first and what would I say anyway?

I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready. Then I thought more about it. This blog is about breast cancer and loss, after all. And when I am going through difficult times, I do what I always do. I write about it. So I will keep doing that now too.

I feel lost.

“I guess we are now starting a new chapter in our lives,” I said to one of my sisters the other day when saying goodbye.

“I guess so,” she said.

But how do we do that?

What now?

I feel lost.

Many of you know my dad was a history teacher in the small town I grew up in. Yes, I had him for a teacher too. I wrote a bit about that in my memoir, btw.

Even during hospice care, my dad was still teaching. He was helping students from the local college learn how to give injections, how to apply creams and ointments, how to properly help an elderly, terminally ill person roll over in bed and other intimate details of end-of-life care.

He was still giving lessons with a mind that was as alert and sharp as ever and a heart that was as big as ever too. It was only his body that gave out.

Throughout my life, my dad has been my best teacher.

Now my dad has taught me a thing or two about dying.

I didn’t want to learn the latter lessons, not yet. Once again, I was not ready. I am not ready now.

I feel lost.

It’s a privilege to witness and be a part of a loved one’s end-of-life care giving. I embraced this time as best I could. They are the sort of days and nights precious memories are made of.

But now what?

I feel lost.

I will write a more proper post to honor my dad’s memory at some point later on when the time feels right. For now…

My heart is full.

My heart is grateful.

My heart is broken.

And I feel lost.

Do you have a loved one who is no longer living you’d like to share something about?

Are your parents still living?

If not, how did you begin that next chapter in your life without them?

dad and me
My dad and me – the last photo taken of just the two of us.

40 thoughts to “I Feel Lost…”

  1. Oh Nancy I am so so sorry that your father has died. Loosing a parent, let alone both parents, is devastating regardless of how old we are. I feel your heartbreak thru your words and I know from having lost my father at age 18 and my mother when I was 32 that the feeling of being lost is so real. I am now 68 and still yearn to talk to them.
    Write your heart out. I would love to hear about your father. Tears flow easy when the loss is so great. Cherish all the sweet moments with him that bring you comfort.
    I have always thought that looking a parent brings home the reality that I am now the future.
    Big hugs to you as you journey through your loss and please know that you do not walk alone. I am so sorry you have lost your father.

    1. Mary, Ellen, Thank you for your very kind words. I’m sorry both your parents died when you were still so young. How awful. But of course you’re right, it’s devastating no matter what one’s age. Thank you for saying you’d love to hear more about my dad. That’s so sweet. Thanks again.

  2. My sibs and I were there … for my mother … and this brings it back. I send you my thoughts and prayers, and the wish that those pictures and good memories cushion the blow just a bit. Reach out when you need others; we are here. Peace.

  3. Oh, Nancy. I am so so sorry for your loss. And “lost” is probably one of the most accurate descriptions of what it feels like after having to say that last good-bye. We lost a brother-in-law and sister-in-law (leaving 2 young boys), and my father-in-law, all within one week – Thanksgiving week, 2004. Thanksgiving is still bittersweet. My parents are still living, age 87 and 91, and over the past 1-2 years, I have really seen them age. I’ve had to start saying the ‘little’ good-byes — to things they cannot do anymore, and to their short term memories, and even to some of their humor. I, too, will feel lost after my last good-bye to them. I do believe there is a better world waiting for us, and I do have the hope of reuniting with all of them in that perfect world, and that is what continues to get me thru. I believe like you have said –we learn in time to move forward, but we never move on. There is an article by one of the writers for Houzz about “how to cope with grief at the holidays” – written after losing her sister. Many, many people have responded to this article, even years after it was written. Their responses have somehow helped me to not feel alone in my grief, and most have shared not only their grief, but also encouragement. The topic of coping with loss really touched a lot of readers – just like your articles here have given many of us a place to ‘talk,’ listen, encourage and feel understood. Maybe later, when you are ready, you might look at it: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/35177466/list/10-ways-to-cope-with-grief-during-the-holidays. I appreciate so much your willingness to be open and honest and share your heart here on your site, not only about your ca, but now with your loss. You have truly made a difference in my life. Thank you. My deepest sympathy. Courage, Beth

    1. Beth, Thank you very much for your kind words. It’s certainly understandable how your Thanksgivings are still bittersweet. So much loss…I’m sorry. It’s wonderful your parents are still living. I will definitely check out that article. I’ve written a post or two about grief and the holidays too. They will have even more meaning for me this year. Thank you for sharing the link and thank you again for your kindness.

  4. Nancy, I’m so sorry.
    My mother died of (possibly breast, or ovarian) cancer that metastasized to her brain when I was 3 and she was 28, and my father died of (some unknown) cancer that metastasized to his lungs when I was 29 and he was 54. I don’t have any siblings. My first memory is of going to visit my mother in the hospital, and my second is the coroner coming to the house after she died at home. The day my father died I thought the world stopped revolving, or at least that it should have done so. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lost and abandoned in my life. Even now, 21 years later, I tear up and my heart hurts when I think about it.
    As you already know, the loss of a parent can be so immensely painful. It certainly took me a number of years to move past it somewhat.
    Those losses certainly shaped my life – I am glad that you have siblings who can share your memories of your parents. My thoughts are with you.

    1. Cathy, Oh my heavens, that is so sad. I’m so sorry to hear about those traumatic losses you’ve experienced. And yes, of course, your heart still aches. Time does not make the loss go away. Thank you for sharing and thank you for your kindness.

  5. I became an orphan at the age of 59, eight years ago. I knew that my mom had been ready to go for a while. She fell and broke a hip. They did surgery but she did not wake up and I made the decision to not pursue answers . (I knew her end of life wishes so it was an easy call) She was in hospice for a week before passing. I was surprised at my feelings and how hard it was hitting me. I came across the book The Adult Orphan:Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change After the Death of Our Parents by Alexander Levy. It was a great book and helped me understand that I was not alone with my feelings.
    No matter what it is never easy.

    1. Sue, I’m sorry about your mother. Sometimes I feel surprised by how hard this has hit me too. I knew it would be hard, of course, but…well, you know what I mean. Thank you for sharing about that book. I will put it on my to-read list.

  6. Nancy, you have my condolences and prayers during this difficult time, My dad dropped dead ten years ago from a massive heart attack while I was away on business. It was the worst day of my life. And every day I still think about him and miss him. Time will heal but not ever forget. May his memories soon lead you to comfort! I can tell you I am glad he didn’t live to see me go through cancer..that alone would have killed him!And my mom suffered a debilitating 30 years of MS before her body gave out at 56. I was a big part of her care, and her strength and courage have been my role model for battling cancer. My parents live in my heart and soul, and so will your dad!

  7. Nancy, I’ve been thinking of you a lot. I am so sorry this happened. There’s never “a right time” to lose a parent no matter how old they are. I hope you feel a sense of peace knowing you were a great daughter to your father and supported him always. I think he knew in his heart how much he was loved.

    My biological father died last year (or was it two years ago?). We did not have a relationship but I felt sad anyway. My biological mother is still around but we don’t have a good relationship. We never did. My real parents were my grandparents and they’ve been gone for a long time now. The biggest loss for me was my grandmother who died when I was 19. I have not been able to overcome her death, and I think part of that is because I did not have closure. But also, no one has been able to replace her in my life. No one has cared or loved me with the same intensity that she had. I have good and bad days, but I miss her terribly. One thing that has helped is to write about our memories together and to talk about her constantly. I also keep photos of her near me.

    May the good memories you have of your dad help heal your heart. xoxo

    1. Rebecca, I know you miss your grandmother terribly and I’m sorry she died when you were still so young and needed her so much. I love how you write about her, talk about her and keep photos of her near you. Your love for her shines through. I know I am lucky to have many wonderful memories of both my mom and dad and I know that will help. Thank you for always caring. xo

  8. Nancy – so sorry to hear of your loss. Take comfort in knowing how much you were able to be with him and share his last days. He’ll always be in your heart.

    1. Donna, Thank you. I do feel very blessed to have spent so much time with him in his last days and yes, he’ll definitely always be in my heart.

  9. Nancy, thank you for sharing your loss with us. My heart is with you during this difficult time. I’ve lost both parents and I get it, but something that stands out to me is many years ago at my father’s funeral. A family friend told me when he lost his second parent, he remembered thinking, “Now I’m an orphan.” No matter how old we are when we lose our second parent, there really is that feeling of being lost, without any parents at all, and it’s such an empty black hole of a feeling. And of course, there’s the grief and loss of losing that person we love who has been there our entire lives. Many hugs to you, my dear cyber friend.

    1. Eileen, It is an empty, dark hole sort of feeling. That sums it up well. Thank you for your comforting words and for the hugs too.

  10. Nancy, I am so sorry for your loss and unfortunately I can so relate… I lost my beautiful Mum on July 9th, she had lung cancer and was living independently (with some home help) up until 18 days before her death… She had gone into hospice care for symptom management but went downhill quite quickly… My sister, my daughter (she is 33 and was very close to her Nan) and myself were by her side for the last three days and nights of her life. She fought hard not to leave us and I feel blessed to have been with her! I miss her everyday (we talked everyday) and my heart is broken and will never be the same again!

    1. Susan, I am very sorry for your recent loss. Your grief is still so fresh and raw too. It is a blessing to be present when a loved one dies. Once again (as with my mom), I was not there at that moment of my dad’s death. But I feel very blessed to have been with him as often as I was during his last days and nights. Thank you very much for sharing about your mum. May your heart continue to heal, though of course, it will never be the same. Nor will mine be.

  11. Lost, yes that’s the feeling. I’m so sorry about your Dad and at times like these words simply aren’t enough. My life is more full of loss than I can possibly imagine and despite that I have no wisdom to offer, no magical incantations, no quick fixes. Do whatever feels right for you at a pace that feels right for you in a way that feels right for you. Grief isn’t linear and like love it defies rules, boundaries and norms. My thoughts are with you, with much love, Tracy

    1. Tracy, I am very sorry your life is so full of losses. There are no magical words or words of wisdom. The pain of grief cannot be fixed, but must be felt. I know that, of course, but it’s all so overwhelming. Thank you for your very kind words, which are actually quite full of thoughtfulness, understanding and wisdom.

  12. No matter how old you are, the worst thing that happens in your life is when you become an orphan. I’m so, so sorry. Great grief only comes after equally great love. Hugs.

  13. I am very, very sorry. He looks like a very kind and sweet man and I’m so happy that you were able to have a gentle and dignified passing away for him. The picture of the two of you is lovely – you can just feel the love.

  14. Oh Nancy, I’m so very sorry about your dad’s death. Of course you feel lost; your second parent has died. I wish I could give you a big hug right now and comfort you. Take care of yourself; be good to yourself during this time of grief.

  15. Nancy, I join in the commenters to say I’m so sorry for your loss. Your dad sounded like a person that made a difference while he was on this earth and you should be proud of that. My father passed away 20 years ago, but I still miss him and always will. I have a lot of good memories and our family still uses a lot of his favorite phrases—especially, “It’s always something…” which pretty much covers everything! My mother is still alive at 90, but we did move her into assisted living recently after she had a series of falls. My nephew passed away at 44 of a very aggressive colon cancer a few years ago. He went through a lot of extreme surgeries which only extended his life for a short time because he just did not want to leave his wife and kids behind. He was in home hospice care at the end and the staff was amazing. He was kept very comfortable but it was horrible to watch him waste away. Don’t apologize for your feelings of sadness, anger or hopelessness. Keep writing! You do that so well.

    1. Christine, I love how your family still uses some of your dad’s favorite phrases and of course you still miss him. How could you not, right? Hope you mother does okay in her assisted living facility. I am sorry to hear about your nephew, that must have so difficult to witness. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I’ll undoubtedly be writing my way through grief too. Thanks again.

  16. Nancy, I’m so sorry. I don’t wonder that you feel lost. I was shattered when my dad died. And now, like me, both of your parents are gone. When that happens, we’re like rudderless boats, drifting and unprotected. A huge part of our lives is gone. Our parents were always there. Until they’re not. It’s such a shock. Hugs and comfort. xoxo, Kathi

    1. Kathi, I feel exactly as you described, like a rudderless boat, drifting and unprotected. It is a shock and I do feel lost. How do you find your way? I’m pretty clueless right now. Thank you for your kind words and hugs. xo

  17. Oh, Nancy… I’m so very sorry to learn of your father’s passing. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    We’re in the same boat – I lost my father in January and am still reeling, still lost. Maybe more lost than in the beginning?

    It certainly casts a pall over the bright days of summer. My thoughts are with you as you grope your way through the miasma of loss.

    1. Julia, I am very sorry to hear about your father’s death. Feeling more lost now than in the beginning makes perfect sense to me. Thank you for sharing and thank you for your words of encouragement.

  18. Nancy, I am so sorry for your loss. Lost. Yes, that’s how I felt when I lost my mom. She was my best friend my entire life- she and I never fought, never went through a bad stage- nothing. We were always so close- I talked to her daily and most of the time SAW her daily. I wasn’t sure I’d survive her death quite honestly. My dad and I have never been close and I have no siblings. Losing her was losing my family. I’ve now lived 1/4 of my life without her and I still feel a huge hole.

    1. C, Gosh, what a heartfelt comment. I’m sorry about your mom. And I am sorry about that huge hole…Thank you for sharing about her.

  19. My dad’s dying intrinsically changed me forever, as I spent two weeks bedside talking to him while he was in a coma. He woke up once upon my arrival and held out his arm, said my name and I rushed to him and with a weak hug he whispered I love you. He slipped back into the coma never to open his eyes again. I could tell when he was in pain, when he was at peace, and when he was ready to go. I felt his feelings and provided a voice for him. I breathed in his last breath as I told him don’t be afraid, I love you, I’m here. It’s okay now. It was harder in October of 2013. I was angry he left me again, but that passes and now I talk to him regularly in the small box of his ashes with his universe painted glass Paperweight next to it. I love him but all isn’t lost and I had the gift of his breath, that’s part of me always.

    1. Ilene, Thank you for your heartfelt words. I am intrinsically changed as well. Sadly, I wasn’t with my dad when he died. Or my mother either, for that matter. I’m okay with that as there were not things left unsaid and yet, it’s still saddens me. It’s too painful to write about that yet, even now, three years later. Thank you so much for sharing about your dad.

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