Wisdom//

My Dad’s Death Taught Me the Most Important Lessons

They were his greatest gift.

Derketta/ Getty Images
Derketta/ Getty Images

I always had a hard time finding a Father’s Day card for my dad. So many of them seem to revolve around being “Daddy’s Princess,” but that’s not who I was. I was his sidekick and helper for projects ranging from laying sod to installing new household appliances. He taught me basic toilet repair when I was in third grade, and made sure I knew how to change my own tire if I got a flat. 

I learned too much from my dad to sum it up in a few words, even if I were to write a few thousand of them instead of a few hundred. I’m sure he would have had welcome advice to share on the subject of parenting if he’d lived long enough to become a grandfather. 

My dad always loved kids. Even when I was in college, he would jokingly asking my mom if they could have another child. I know he looked forward to being a grandfather (because he told me so), and I planned to ask him for his parenting advice. 

Unfortunately, my dad passed suddenly and unexpectedly after suffering an instantly fatal heart attack on the morning of July 5, 2015.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about life would come from his unexpected death. 

After losing my dad, part of me wanted to give up completely. We were close. He was the stay at home parent who did the cooking and drove a minivan. I’d always had a deeper relationship with my dad than with my mom, simply because he was the one at home with my sister and me while my mom worked full time.

I knew giving up wasn’t an option, though. That’s just not how my dad raised me! I certainly had a few very difficult days during those early weeks, but I knew it wouldn’t do justice to his memory if I didn’t try to pick up the pieces and figure out a new normal.

Before losing my dad, I had a bad habit of taking things for granted and complaining way too much. I was a hard worker and very determined, but had a tendency to be jealous of other people, waste time on worrying that others thought of me, and feel more like the victim of circumstance than the captain of my ship. 

During my grieving process, I started a gratitude practice for the first time. I turned that practice into a gratitude challenge on my blog and YouTube channel. I was so surprised by the number of people who followed along and participated! Creating (and answering) the gratitude prompts was healing for me, and helped me learn to see what I like to call the silver lining in the cloud.

I’ve maintained my gratitude practice, and have continued to help others develop their own practice. I’ve expanded my blogging to include other conscious living resources and free printables to help as many others as possible. I’ve connected with fantastic and supportive people on the same path, like my friend Crystal Dawn, who teaches people how to practice appreciation. 

I’ve realized that virtually every bad situation has a lesson to learn, or some positive nugget that you can take away. Many times, this positive thing does not “outweigh” the bad, but that’s okay. The knowledge and things I’ve gained since losing my dad are not worth more to me than his life and presence, but they are still valuable. 

This ability to find the good in the bad has served me well over the past four years. I was able to find gratitude for my ability to return “home” to support my mom and sister after my dad’s death. I can find something to be grateful for in virtually every negative experience now, and can keep little annoyances from ruining my day. 

For example, just this morning, my mom’s kitten chewed on my daughter’s favorite new book. I wasn’t mad at all. I told my husband that it was a great reminder to put things away properly, because the book had been left in the hall. A few years ago, I would have been really mad at the cat. I would have vented my frustration on the cat, set a poor example for my daughter, and ruined my entire morning. 

Being able to demonstrate an attitude of positivity and gratitude to my daughter is a gift from my dad — an unexpected lesson learned from his passing.

Although my dad taught me many things, this attitude of resilience and gratitude may be the greatest gift he could have ever given to his granddaughter. I am so proud to be raising a confident, strong Latina who will help shape our future, and I know he’d be proud of her, too.

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