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How I survived burying my father

How I survived burying my father

Burying my father was the hardest thing I ever did but I survived it. I hope that my story will help you to handle your own grief and will teach you that there’s a way out of it.

The Relationship

My dad and I had what one would call a long distance relationship at best. He didn’t much care for the telephone, and he moved to another state altogether. We spoke on occasion, and the talks were very brief. I tried on several occasions to engage him in dialogue, but my dad wasn’t interested in talking on the phone. After several attempts I decided to give up trying to engage him. This is a decision that I deeply regret and will have to live with for the rest of my life. I really wish that I had tried harder, and that we had shared more time together. My only comfort is that when we parted last, we did share time together, and we were finally able to talk as adults.

During my last visit, we sat at his quiet, plain apartment and he told me stories from his younger days. My dad had a very storied life, and my only regret about that day is that I did not record our conversation. I believed that I would remember all of the details from his stories, but I was wrong. He told me how he had seen me on television several times, and that he was proud of his famous son. We shared some more stories, and then I left him at the hospital as he was feeling slightly ill.

Days later after I returned to New York City from my time in Florida, my dad was gone.

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The Cremation

My dad asked to be cremated, so that is what was done. I wasn’t present during this request, so I don’t know exactly what he wanted to do. However, we cremated his body and my sister received his remains in Pennsylvania. After several months of driving around with my dad’s ashes in the back of her van, she decided that it was time to finally bury his remains. I was under the impression that we’d scatter his ashes in the ocean or something, but she really insisted on burying them. My sister happens to be somewhat religious, and it is her belief that the lord will return, and his servants need to be buried. I respect her views on this and I complied. I also paid for it all. Money comes and goes, but if I can give my little sister some peace of mind, then so be it. The entire day was a haze for me, I know I lived it, but I was in a dreamlike state the entire time.

I had a cold the night before, so I had to sleep on the couch. Using my cpap with a runny nose is not a good thing. I awoke relatively early, went through the morning routine, and I took the train out to Newark with my son. The only times I had ever gone to Newark Penn Station had been to visit my dad. Immediately after arriving there, I started to shed tears. My youngest sister called me, and I could barely get the words out as we spoke. Everything about this trip reminded me of visiting my dad, except that this time he’s in an urn. I couldn’t breathe, I started to hyperventilate. I told myself “breathe Angel, let it out.”

Dad’s Girlfriend and her faith

My son and I caught a cab and went to my dad’s girlfriend’s place. When we arrived I saw the cathedral where my dad used to work, and the building he used to live in. Last time I was here was a few years ago, before he moved to Florida. His lady moved to a new apartment, thank goodness, less pain. However, once we walked in, I heard the birds that have always been there. As soon as I heard them, I remembered joking with my dad about the angry birds that they have. My tears began to flow, she hugged me and my son. I couldn’t bare her looking at me, I know that she saw my dad in my face. When she looked at my son, I know that she saw my dad in his face as well. I saw my dad as I looked at her, then came more tears.

We sat and spoke for a while as we waited for my mom and sisters. She spoke about Jesus and the Christian religion. As she spoke, I heard her radio in the background, it was tuned to a Spanish Christian station. The speaker on the radio was intense, screaming and preaching. I was feeling overwhelmed and I just wanted to run away. She continued to repeat to us how good God was, almost as if she were trying to convince herself of this. She repeated how her faith and her love for the lord have guided her through this and many other difficult times.

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She shared a story with us. She said that 40 years ago she was an alcoholic, heavily drinking beer, wine, and whatever she could get her hands on. She said this happened when she was more or less my age. She then stated that one day she couldn’t take her lifestyle anymore, and she threw her arms up, closed her eyes, and begged the lord to save her from this living hell. Just like that, she said she was done with the drinking and dedicated her life to the lord.

Anyone who knows me, is aware that though I respect religion and people’s right worship as they will, I don’t particularly follow any religion myself. Though truth be told, I was raised as a Christian. As I listened to her, I could feel my son looking at me, he was wondering what I was thinking. I didn’t say anything, and I let her express her views uninterrupted. My son knows that I often speak my mind, but in this case, I decided it was best to let her continue without interjecting my own views.

It is my belief that if a person’s faith is so powerful that it can actually stop them from doing drugs and drinking, that you should allow them to follow their faith. Who am I to try and steer her from that? Who am I to plant even the smallest seed of doubt? The only thing that I said jokingly as she prayed for my cold to go away, was that just in case God was too busy to cure my cold, I was going to take a cold and flu pill.

The Cemetery

Once the others finally arrived, we all piled into the car and drove over to the cemetery. My mom saw a flower store and wanted to get flowers, I complained that we were late and we should proceed to our objective. I think that I was overwhelmed and didn’t want to prolong this any longer than it needed to be.

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It was a dark and rainy day. My sister asked “Who is carrying the urn?” I immediately replied that I would. I am his son, and I will carry him to his final resting place. I picked up the urn containing my dad’s ashes and I carried them slowly up the hill towards his grave plot. The urn was much heavier than I expected. It had a rough grainy and salty feeling. It’s one of those eco-friendly urns that will dissolve in time. My youngest nephew asked my sister question after question as we walked. “Grandpa is in there? Why? How did he die?” She knew that I was upset, and she was concerned that I might snap so she told him to calm down. “Sorry, he doesn’t understand yet.” I nodded that I understood, he is a child after all.

The Goodbyes

Once we arrived at the plot, some men were there waiting for us. I didn’t know what to do, so I stood there holding my dad’s ashes. One of guys told me to place it on top of the plot and I did. Once I set them down, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I stood there staring at the ground. The men indicated that we should say our goodbyes and final words, but I had none. I took the lead position in the group, but I just stood there like a deer in the headlights.

What happens now? What are we supposed to do? There was no major procession, no priest, just me, my son, my mom, my two sisters, my nephews, and my dad’s lady. The one who actually said some religious words was his girlfriend. As mentioned before, she’s extremely religious and provided the parting words. I didn’t process a single thing that she said, “thankful and grateful he is free.” I was in a haze, she held my arm, my sister held my other arm, “I’m happy he is at peace.” I couldn’t process or say anything. I stared at the urn and thought “he tried,” and “this is all that is left of what was my dad.” No legacy, no grand event, not even a proper grave marker.

The Burial

One of the men picked up the urn, removed the green carpet and inserted the urn in the hole. What was happening? I think I was crying. “Are you okay, Angel?” I didn’t know who was speaking. They began to throw dirt on the urn. I began crying again. My sister was confused, “How will we find him?” The guy explained, she didn’t know these details, my pain became anger. I understood what was going to happen, we spoke about this before, she’s the one who explained it to me, why was she confused? I didn’t want to talk about this then, I thought she understood.

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I was getting angrier, but I came to my senses. She was distraught, she was hurt, he was her dad too. I became foggy again. I explained to the men that we understood, not to worry. My mom wanted to put a simple grave marker of sorts, again, the anger came forth, but she loved him too. I went through so many emotions. I was numb, angry, confused. We were there, but were we really there? Was this really happening. I was so very sad.

Since my dad was in an urn, they do things a little different and only provide a small little plot with no headstone, or grave marker, etc. They put their names on this big stone where the other urns are interred. It didn’t feel quite right to me, my dad was worth more than this. Are we cheating him in death? Again, I felt the anger and rage coming up from inside of me. We spoke about this, why did they bring it up? This made me feel unsure.

Part of me thought this was a fitting ending for a man like my father. He loved his privacy, and unlike me, he was extremely discreet and secretive. He hated people knowing anything about his personal life. Even as he was dying, and I went to visit him, he was suspicious of the other folks in the center. He never trusted people, he was extremely private. So I can’t help but think that he would prefer that we are the only ones who know where he is buried. I considered trying to find out if he could get a marker, but it seems like it’s not an easy thing to do, and like I said, I kind of felt he’d prefer this method.

What’s next

The whole day I felt weird, and I apologized to my loved ones if I was distant or not present. It was all a haze to me, and though I know I was there, I wasn’t. This was truly one of the most difficult things that I have done in my life. Today as I look back on that afternoon, I miss my dad, but I am thankful that we shared those last few moments together. I am thankful that I made him laugh, and that he was proud. I am thankful that I was able to feed and provide him some comfort in his last days. The most important thing that I know, is that my father felt loved, and he was not alone when he left this world. Isn’t that the sum of it all? The true meaning of life, being loved, and not being alone?

That’s how I survived burying my dad.

Featured photo credit: Angel Rodriguez via instagram.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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