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*This is the third of four essays dealing with the death of a parent

As the Elton John song goes, sorry seems to be the hardest word. But I'm beginning to believe the hardest word is goodbye. How do I say goodbye to my father who was the first to see me when I was born, who has loved me unconditionally, and who made me feel safe in an unsafe world?

Grief is a response to a loss. The loss of a person we’ve grown attached to and relied upon. Perhaps the loss of someone who failed to live up to our expectations or who we fear we failed to live up to theirs. We experience grief over the end of a marriage, loss of a job, death of a pet, end of a dream, and the realization that this world isn’t exactly what our childhood eyes imagined it would be. A popular saying goes, we are all sure to experience two things in our lifetimes: death and taxes. Perhaps we need to add grief to that equation.

How we navigate through grief, why we experience it, what it feels like and how we show it varies greatly. It is simply one thing—a loss—and it is many complicated things too. An emotional experience, a physical one, a spiritual event. There are deep thinkers who analyze it. Some hide in their homes while others hit the town to party away their woes. Many turn to philosophy, others to religion.

I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this experience of losing a parent. While I know I have to let him go, I am also aware that I need to allow myself to experience this highway of loss in my own way, content that there is no right or wrong roadmap to experience grief, grateful to have the support of family and friends, of well-wishers and empathizers.

One day, perhaps, I will see my dad again. Until then, I will think of the Neil Diamond song, “Hello Again”.

Hello, my friend, hello

Just called to let you know

I think about you every night

And I know it's late

But I couldn't wait


Goodbye seems to be the hardest word but I am ready to say it. Goodbye, Pops. Until we say hello again.