What Losing My Father Taught Me

What Losing My Father Taught Me

There I was on my 25th birthday, November 22nd 2011, celebrating at home with my family as usual. It was a dull autumn day despite the numerous greetings from friends and the nice presents from my family. Scattered thoughts were running through my mind – what I was going to do with my life, it was high time to organize my personal life and career…I wasn’t a child anymore, I was becoming a young woman. But there was something else – I had an oppressive feeling – foreseeing that something bad would happen.

The next day my boss told me he was cutting down my working time and respectively, my salary because of the hard time the company had in the situation of economic crisis. At that time I was working for an international company and I was in charge of sales. I had been working for the company for almost 3 years and it was quite a surprise for me. The cut down almost equaled a dismissal. I was up against the wall, I had to look for a new job.

Two days after my birthday, I was still in my hometown when my mother came back from work with some terrible look and she said it straight from the doorstep: “Maria, I’ve just met an acquaintance of your father, she told me he is sick and he has undergone two brain surgeries for eliminating tumors.” I froze right there – I couldn’t believe my ears – that couldn’t be true, not to me, not to him, not again! I had lost my beloved grandfather 3 years ago from cancer, that couldn’t be happening again, not so soon! I just sat on the sofa, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t cry, I just sat there motionless and my mind was refusing to accept it.

My parents got divorced when I was 3 and I was seeing my father only twice a year – he wished it to be so. He had moved to another town far away from my hometown after the divorce and he had started a new life. We respected his decision although my mother never really moved forward – she devoted all her life to my sister and me. I knew he loved me, though he wasn’t showing it the way I wanted him to and the time we spent together was never enough. He was the most expected and beloved guest.

He passed away a month and a half later after I had learned about his illness. I did my best to stay by his side, to help him as much as I could, but it was too late; he was in the last stage and he was so helpless. It was a hundred times worse than the most dramatic movie! So many questions, so many unspoken words, so many whys, but they all stayed inside. I didn’t have the chance to share them. I forgave him about everything the minute I understood what was happening. There wasn’t even a spot of resentment towards him. Why was life so unfair to me? I hadn’t really had a father though I needed him so much and he would soon be gone forever…

That was the turning point. The tragic event that deeply changed my life and provoked me to make some important decisions. This may sound cliché, but I realized that family is the most important thing in one’s life. They were the only ones who truly felt my pain and for a couple of months I didn’t want to see anyone except them because I knew that a person who hadn’t experienced it couldn’t really understand me. I needed time, space and silent compassion.

It happened so fast that most of my friends were not familiar with the situation. I’ve also learnt that you need to go out as much as possible, meet people and forget at least for a while for the burden you carry. I avoided talking about the tragedy, I felt that telling the story made me suffer over and over again.

The loss made me realize what and who was actually worthy to stay in my life. One of my best friends back from school refused to support me and acted quite unsupportive in my darkest times. I want to believe that it was unintentional, but she never called to ask how I was coping with my nightmares. I realized that people who don’t care about me are not welcomed in my life.

In my opinion, overcoming death of a parent may be a little easier if you have your own family, a husband/wife and kids that need you and support you. I had an almost 6-year relationship with a boy I loved so much – he was my first big love. We both wanted things to work out but there were always some setbacks, we just couldn’t see the future together. It was one of the hardest decisions ever, however, we both agreed that it’s better to look for happiness separately. So, I didn’t have a life partner to lean on, who would wipe my tears, soothe my pain and heal my devastated heart…I took the challenge to be strong, to look deep within, to find my own strength and use it wisely. I had to stop resisting against the obstacles, to accept what I cannot change and to make a plan how to move forward.

My number 1 lesson when coping with grief is to keep moving and stay busy. I didn’t want to think at all, so for the first time in my life I really took control over my mind. I started drawing pictures of the good things that I could do for myself and of the great moments that were yet to come. I was eager to start living again – studying, working, going out, reading, traveling, healing…

I asked myself – what would make you happy? As a result, I signed up for a 10-month advanced language course and also went to a course for a professional make-up artist. In the meantime, I took my exams at the university and wrote my final thesis for graduating with a master’s degree in Journalism. I was offered a flexible part-time job for an international company as well. I also fulfilled my dream to visit London and Paris; I indulged myself with that marvelous journey!

When you are vulnerable, you start noticing that there are a lot of people in need which have less than you and though you may think you don’t have anything to offer them, you actually do. Little by little, I became a volunteer for a local non-governmental organization helping orphans. And the gift for me was the revelation that by helping others, in fact I was healing myself. My heart was overflowing with love, gratitude and compassion. Initially I thought I was poor and miserable, but the time spent with those kids made me realize I was loved, supported and even happy… in my sorrow.

I also spent a lot of time reading books of motivational authors such as Louise Hay and Rhonda Byrne. My faith in God grew stronger and I rediscovered the power of prayer. I watched mainly comedies and romantic movies. Of course, I had my emotional outbursts of anger and tears and they still continue to happen from time to time. It is all normal in the healing process.

Everything looked brighter, I was so busy that I couldn’t spend time regretting and complaining. I was using my energy the best way I could and I should mention that my family and I were really proud of my accomplishments in that hard time. 

Now, a year later, I cannot say I’ve overcome the death of my father. I still feel a lot of pain and sorrow in my heart. I will always miss him. But I believe it is our right to take responsibility of our lives and to work hard to avoid depression and move forward. Problems come and go, we all have them and they are the certain sign that we’re alive. I will finish my story with a quote by Robert Frost I’ve come across recently – “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learnt about life: it goes on”. 


Maria Tonev

Maria Toneva

Positive thinker. Dreamer. Unstoppable traveller.

Economist and journalist by education, Maria is a 26-year old girl from Bulgaria who struggles to overcome the loss of her father.

To contact Maria, send her an email here: [email protected]

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