By Melissa Chapman
About the Writer:
Melissa Chapman and her brood of three live in the urban, concrete jungle of NYC – that’s two kids and her dog. Oh and she’s got a husband too.
My dad, my first love, the man who never ceased to let me know how special, beautiful and talented I was, even when I didn't deserve compliments, passed away a little less than a month ago.
He had this innate ability to imbue an incredible sense of self-love and worth within his kids -- that was just about as unconditional as it gets. I've spent these past few weeks, alternating between crying, grieving that we lost him at such a young age, miring in guilt over derogatory things I said to him when I was 16, and still even engaging in the sort of magical thinking that this has all been a horrible nightmare from which I will awaken at any moment.
My 10-year old daughter has taken his death a lot harder than I had anticipated. They were very close; he was my baby nurse when I gave birth to my daughter and literally lived at my house the first four months of her life. I had suffered severe post partum depression, and my dad, somehow managed to survive my incredible highs and lows during those initial months of my daughter’s life and simultaneously tended to both of our needs, while my husband logged 18 hour days at the hospital. The bond he established with my daughter was as undeniable as the one he established with me -- and the three of us carried this very special place for one another in our hearts. And for 10 years all my daughter (and I) ever needed was a hug from my father and all felt right with our world.
My daughter vacillates between crying uncontrollable and begging for just one last chance to see her grandfather, to shaking her fists at the sky and asking why g-d would take such a pure, good soul. And while I am trying to have her rely on our faith, there are so many questions I can't answer. Will she see him again? Is he watching over her? And most of all- at ten years old she's been saddled with the inevitability us grownups never want to talk about- our mortality and the fact that every day we are living we are actually also dying just a little bit. It's morbid, it’s scary and in a nutshell it just plain sucks, having to have these conversations about the fact that we will all one day simply cease to be- whether it’s after a long, protracted illness, like my dad, or a sudden instantaneous accident.
Of course I'm reading books, talking to counselors, and trying to provide answers to her ever growing list of questions. But unfortunately I think time is what will ultimately help to heal and ease this seemingly unending despair and loss. And I'm asking everyone, for their two cents -- and just how they helped their child deal with the death of a loved one.