I lost my dad 5 years ago today. He was 55, had a whole lot of life to live, and we had a whole lot of life to live with him. It would be easy to focus on the moments, experiences, and time my family and I have missed with my dad than it would be to find the moments of gratitude despite his absence.
He's missed my younger sister’s high school and college graduation, the birth of his grandchildren, the purchasing of my first home, and my brother getting into medical school. He’s missed our yearly drive up the canyon every fall to take in the beauty of the changing of the leaves. He’s missed his children starting new jobs. He’s missed having pancakes at his favorite beachfront cafe. He’s missed waking up to the love of his life every morning. He won’t get to walk 2 of his daughters down the aisle. The missed moments can add up quickly.
However, I've realized that if I continue to celebrate his life in each moment, even though he's physically gone, his life and love can still be a celebrated part of my every day.
Over the past 5 years I’ve realized that there are great ways to keep loving someone you’ve lost. Here are 5 ways that have helped me:
- Use the things they taught you – Whether it be how to change a tire, or the importance of standing up for yourself, make a conscious effort to use what your loved one taught you and say a prayer of gratitude for them as you do.
- Keep their legacy alive by adopting the traits they lived so well – when you think about your loved one, what were their greatest traits? Was it their integrity? Their kindness? Their ambition? Whatever it may be, try to grow and live those traits in your own life and you’ll surely be keeping their legacy alive.
- Keep creating memories – Find creative ways to celebrate them. Keep up their traditions or start new ones around the things they loved. Find ways to capture memories for those who knew and loved them by continuing to celebrate their birthdays, telling stories, or going to their favorite places.
- Find gratitude in the moments that are hardest to find it – The moments that are the hardest to have your loved one absent are the ones it's most important to find and hold onto gratitude. Whatever life event you are experiencing without them, remind yourself of the ways your loved one influenced and played a part in getting you right where you stand at that moment. I bet you'll realize they're more a part of that moment than you thought.
- Write down your favorite memories and things they told you, and read them often – I have a note in my phone with paragraphs of “Things I learned from my dad” from over the years. Some are hilarious things he said that make me laugh every time I read them, others are advice I can’t live without and need to be reminded of every so often. Taking time to remember moments, writing them down, and revisiting them, is a way to keep loving and living with your lost loved one.
It's devastating to lose someone we love. A parent, a child, a sibling, a spouse, a best friend. But just because they're not on this earth doesn't mean they're not still influencing our lives. Love keeps everything alive.
Revelation 21:4 – "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
This lyric from Beyonce's song "Heaven" is perfect:
"I just can't stand to see you leaving
But heaven couldn't wait for you"
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