Saturday, April 17, 2010
Life Lessons: Coping with loss
There are certain things that happen in our life that are defining moments and life changing events that affect us for the rest of our lives. If I could rewrite the script of certain events in my life I clearly would but I am only a witness to life circumstances and have no control over events or the actions of others. I am a very compassionate and sensitive person and I am trying my best to come to grips with the tragic death of my dad last year, April 16th, 2009. It has been a very long year filled with so many unanswered questions. I am still just trying to accept that my dad is no longer hear to talk to or visit. I really miss my dad's presence as he was the rock of our family and he was such a kind and caring person who was always there to listen and lend his support. I've grown to appreciate my dad over the years and always enjoyed seeing him and just sharing time with him. He was a tremendous influence on us and he was always very supportive and understanding. He really took an interest in our welfare and loved to spend time with us. He particularly enjoyed spending time with Matty and was very encouraging offering him praise and honest good old fashioned grandfatherly advice and he never viewed him as being different at all. He treated him just like all his other grandchildren.
I feel so sad that my dad had become so lonely and isolated in the end despite having family by his side. My dad was never a man of many words. He lived his life with pride, dedication and a tremendous work ethic. He was without a doubt a very well liked person and was very low key and humble. He did so much for others and he was such a driven person. You could see that in how he approached his work, his artistic endeavors and his family life. Dad would spend hours making replica models of construction sites with tower crane and all out of card board, balsa wood, tooth picks and make it so true to scale and realistic in appearance. His true love was military and aviation and he made several models of planes including Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis which was his prized possession. He also made replica models of aircraft carriers and John F. Kennedy's PT 109. He loved reading about John F Kennedy's wartime experiences and his rescue during WWII involving the doomed PT boat.
Dad was also very compassionate to mom when she was sick and dying in the hospital and he always made sure he was there every night to hold her hand and whisper in her ear how much he loved her. When she died it was very traumatic for my dad and he was never the same after that but he always managed to put on a brave face.
Despite my dad's limited education through the 11th grade he was an avid reader and thoroughly enjoyed reading about WWII and great historians. He was so caught up in the flight of Lindbergh from Roosevelt Field Long Island to Le Bourget Airport, Paris, France abroad the Spirit of St. Louis that he could recite a great deal about the 33 plus hour first successful trans-Atlantic flight. I remember watching the Jimmy Stewart movie portrayal of Charles Lindbergh and that flight with my dad and I have that as a pleasant memory of spending time with my dad. When I saw the video in the mall I had to have it so I could watch it again and remember my dad. It will never be the same though watching it without him.
I feel life is bittersweet because we are blessed with such wonderful things but we are also affected deeply by inevitable loss and that is the sad and inescapable reality. We also have to come to terms with not only the mortality of loved ones but ours as well and that is a bitter pill to swallow because we have so much responsibility towards our family and want everything to be perfect, especially for our children and our loved ones. We live our life as if we are guaranteed another day, another week, another year, another decade and so on. The reality is we live with so much uncertainty but try to be as certain as we possibly can. All I know is that we seem to worry so much in our life and in retrospect it seems like we contribute so much wasted energy in the process that proves no help to us whatsoever. So why do we get all caught up and worry when we should look at the bigger picture? That is something we all have to discover in our own lives and learn as best as we can to properly deal with.
The day I learned of my father's unexpected death I was beside myself. I could not imagine the pain and suffering he must have been feeling to ultimately decide to end his life that day. It pains me terribly and I wished I could have been there to help him through his pain. The sad reality is that we all became so caught up in our own lives that we did not stop to think of the feelings dad was experiencing. I only wished I did not burden my dad as much as I did. My dad was always there for us but I feel I leaned on him more than maybe I should have. He was my dad and I always looked up to him and I still look up to him. If only I could have changed the outcome of that fateful day. That is something I will have to try to live with for the rest of my life. I was not there in my dad's most fragile time of need. I am feeling very sad about it and no matter how much I try to put it out of my mind I feel I should have listened to him more than sharing my personal concerns and worries with him though he wanted to help. My dad seemed to take on the weight of the world and it became to much for him in his advancing years. I have cried many times about the tragedy wishing it never had to happen and it will take a long time to come to terms with it. The hardest part is reaching for the phone to call my dad or drive to his former apartment suddenly realizing he is not there anymore and never will.
I have a son who has said many times that Pop is still alive and he never doubts that. I feel my son really loves Pop and does not accept that he is gone. He wants things to be as they were and that is one of the hardest realities of autism. Children on the spectrum have difficulty coping with change and family loss and that weighs heavily on me because I need to be there for my son and be strong for him and provide him with a secure and comfortable life free of worry and during these times it seems so much harder to do so and there seems to be too much uncertainty today. It seems life is becoming harder and harder and much more stressful.
In dealing with my dad's loss I have started writing more to help address my feelings and write them in a constructive forum and be truthful honest and respectful in expressing my feelings and emotions. It helps and it is something I feel I should do because I am also focusing on my son and autism and trying to help guide him properly in his young life. I wished I could guarantee my son happiness and comfort throughout the years and I find that I can only take one day at a time right now and always strive to help myself through the difficult moments.
My main focus is my family and especially my son who needs guidance, love and nurturing as he slowly approaches his teenage years which can be a stressful time. I need to set a good example for him and to be supportive, loving and compassionate towards him like my parents were with me.
I honor my father and am very proud of him and wish to thank him for all he has taught me about life. I miss him terribly and hopefully will reunite with him and mom and all our family who have passed on through the years. May God always look over my parents and our family.
Edward D. Iannielli III