Finding my new normal

It's been almost one year to the day that I got the phone call that would forever change my life. It was a cool November evening, I had just returned from a thesis meeting with my supervisor.I was feeling great, I was in my first year of graduate studies, I had my eye on a future that looked promising.And then the phone rang.It was my mom and dad, both with upsetting, and devastating news about their health. My mom found out she was diagnosed with brain aneurysms in the carotid artery. My mom was not scared when she was telling me this and I could tell from her voice that her mind was on something else. My dad got on the phone and told me his news. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. Stage 3b. This phone call was difficult to take...they were over 1300kms away from me.I had what the next 10 months held:November 2011: my world comes crashing down, I fly home and surprise my dad for his birthdayDecember 2011: I fly home for the holidays and start the scary journey of driving my dad to chemo appointments, radiation, etcJanuary 2012: I returned to school after being home for over a month. I had to get back to classes and my job as a teacher's assistant. My mom ended up in the hospital very sick, they ran tests but didn't find anything.February 2012: I get the phone, on Valentine's day, that my mom suffered a heart attack and was airlifted to a hospital in the city. I rushed home to take care of my dad (thank goodness for my classes being available online).March 2012: My dad's chemo is changed because it's not working. He starts radiation, and I visit home again.April 2012: Finish classes, and prepare for my third term (no summer vacation for me).May 2012: My mom ends up back in the hospital. Again. More tests. No answers.June 2012: My mom suffers a stroke, and the doctors find a major bleed in her brain. They tell us all to get to the hospital as soon as we can because they don't think she's going to make it through the night (Fly home asap). I witness my parents say goodbye to each other.My mom pulls through, like some kind of miracle...July 2012: My mom gets transferred to a stroke rehab facility. My dad gets an emergency CT scan and find the cancer has spread to his spine. They tell him he has 3-6 months. I drive the 14 hours back to my apartment (classes are not done yet).August 2012: My mom gets transferred home (finally, after more than 2 months in the hospital and stroke rehab facility). My dad finds out the cancer has spread more and decides to stop chemo. I fly home on a one way ticket.September 2012: My dad passes away.Fast forward to now. It's been over 2 months. My dad was 57 years old. He was my best friend. My younger sister was always closer to my mom, and I was the closest to my dad. I was the daughter who would call her dad crying because Father of The Bride was on, or that commercial of those kids winning the lottery and retiring their dad.My dad was an amazing dad. I feel like I have lost the person that understood me the most. I have no idea who I am now without him here. I have no idea how to get motivated and continue on with this life without him here. I've lost count of how many times in a day I have to stop myself from picking up the phone with the intent to talk to him because of something funny he'd love to hear.He passed away surrounded by my mom, sister, myself, and the pastor, pastor's wife and close family friend (a doctor). I knew that with his diagnosis, that the chapter was going to end with his death... but I didn't know how many more pages there were to live. It was heartbreaking to see him move closer to death. He was the kind of dad who was always tinkering, he worked 15 days a week... always sooo busy. His work of choice was woodscrafts, and it was so sad watching him sit in his chair and look at his empty woodshop.I'm trying to focus on the good memories of real experiences and not on the expectations and dreams of what I am going to miss out on. But...easier said than done.My boyfriend picked me up while I was home, and (to my surprise) he asked my dad if he could marry me. For as long as I can remember, any father/daughter wedding dance photo or the father walking the daughter down the aisle has made me cry. I am beyond heart broken that my dad won't be here to walk me down the aisle, but I am so grateful that my dad was made a part of this journey and gave his blessing.I'm sad that my dad won't see a bunch of movies (weird and trivial I know). He was so excited to hear about the new Star Trek sequel coming out, and really wanted to see Hangover 2. My dad also was very excited to see me graduate with my master's degree, and now I'm finding it hard to want to attend graduation in May.When you lose someone, you don't feel like yourself. I have experienced so many different emotions that it's overwhelming when I start my day. I think of where this emotional roller coaster will take me today.I've had tears (cry during tv shows with dads in them...usually most shows).I've had rage (throwing the phone when someone on the other end makes me upset).I've been angry (cursing the old doctor who treated my dad for pneumonia for 10 months...)I've been grateful (I didn't miss saying goodbye to him, I was home for it)I've been regretful (why didn't I hug him more, tell him I loved him more)I've felt guilty (saying I was exhausted out loud within earshot of my dad who had zero energy, or cleaning up his vomit while gagging)I've been scared (not knowing what to do or say when my dad said he couldn't breathe)I've felt neglectful (flying back and forth to spend time with my family and trying to balance life)The biggest complaint I have about grief is how much power and weight it hasĀ over you reestablishing that sense of normal you had before the loss. Before my dad passed away I was an honours student. I was focused, I put in my work hours, and did well. I somehow maintained an 80%+ average last year. After he passed way, school has been ridiculously difficult to get back into. I'm failing one class with less than 16%. I have been to counselling and have a doctor's note that my professors have been made aware of, but I just can't seem to find the power and belief in myself to carry on forward in my life without my dad. I had no idea how much my dad motivated me in my life. It's weird because I thought I was very independent.And this is where grief can be bad. I started to shut friends out of my life. I hated answering the phone. I hated calling home to my mom (it was too sad). I just wanted to be alone. And grief is wayyy toooooo heavy to face on your own and it's important to surround yourself by people or things that make you happy. I think I have watched every single comedy movie On Demand.Grief is a completely natural reaction to loss. Everyone has or will eventually experience loss. There's no rule or guideline of how one should react to it, and what I hope readers will take from my story is that grief can eat away at someone's mental, emotion, physical, spiritual and social life. Grief is too big to experience alone. It's much too heavy of a weight to carry after someone has been broken down by a loss, so if you yourself are experiencing grief-reach out to someone. Don't be scared, don't hide behind your pride. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It's more than okay to cry. I cried over a cookie I left at the store the other day!And, if you know someone who is experiencing grief, just be there for them. There's NOTHING wrong with not knowing what to say to someone who has just experienced a loss. I'd rather have a friend tell me that they don't know what to say, or are at a loss for words, or say THIS SUCKS, than give me some kind of cookie cutter expression or tell me they know how I feel and then go on to express some story of loss that I feel is nothing like what I lost.Some days I feel like pretending I'm a hermit, and others I just want to find laughter and sunshine. People say it will get easier. It will hurt less. Life will never be the same. The normal I knew before doesn't exist anymore, but I know that one day, I will find a new normal, and that is okay, and I will be okay.Thank you for reading.