I am OK – Grieving While on the Road

My dad took his own life when I was 21. Through the pain, I vividly remember the feeling of relief I felt that he had set himself free, that he had found a way out of a life that wasn’t made for him. Please don’t take this as me saying that suicide is a solution because it is not. This is just my personal way of coping with the loss of my father. I was and still am happy that he ended his suffering in the only possible way. End of story.

I’d always been a bit of a wild child and this event gave me the urge and the financial means to go after my happiness and seek my own freedom. This is really where it all started for me. I had no idea what I was going after, how long I wanted to be gone for or what the hell I was going to do, but those were trivial questions; all I really wanted was to go get lost and perhaps find myself somewhere – anywhere. Out of the last twelve years, I spent half of them away from home, either actively travelling or living and working abroad. Should it have not been for the time I wanted to spend back in Canada getting a degree, I would have spent all of those years away. Because travel is what makes me feel happy and free. In a way, the end of my dad’s life was the beginning of mine.

However, there’s this one thing that has been nagging at me since day one: the guilt of leaving my mom alone. Now, this is completely silly, because my mom is a strong, independent and resilient woman that really does not need any looking after or worrying from her estranged daughter. I suppose I take this from my grandma: I worry. It’s like a part-time job. Fortunately, four years into my travels, my mom met this wonderful, amazing man that loved her and respected her. He took care of her the way my dad hadn’t and I felt so thankful for him. He moved in with her and, knowing her happy and loved like this, I went about my travelling worry-free. When I came back home to go to University, I met this gentle giant with kind blue eyes and instantly loved him like a father. He made us complete.

When I left for this trip a year ago, my family and I said our goodbyes like we always have: teary-eyed, but lightheartedly because these things always go fast and we knew that next thing we’d know we’d all be reunited around the table playing cards and drinking beer.

Only, it’s wasn’t like that this time. Cancer harrowed through my beautiful family and took the gentle giant away from my mom in a matter of months, without having time for me to realize what was happening. He was in perfect health when we kissed goodbye a year ago. I just can’t believe what I am writing. Worry is creeping back up at my throat and I feel so guilty for my absence. My heart is like a ton of bricks in my chest. I am so sorry. I am having a lot of trouble making sense of this lifestyle I have chosen for myself right now. I’m really not one to wear my heart on my sleeve in life, and I apologize if you come here for travel advice, but this had to come out. I figured it would help with the bereavement. Grief doesn’t come with instructions, but apparently laying this down is the first step towards acceptance. Life goes on. We are moving on. I am OK.

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