How to Grieve the Loss of a Parent

Death and taxes. They always say that nothing in this world is certain but those two. But looking back at some of my old photos, I would like to add bad haircuts to this very short list. Hello, I am Victor Platon and I will be your Grief Counselor-in-Chief. “What makes you qualified for this role?” I hear you ask. Well, my father has succumbed to lung cancer eleven years ago and I have been grieving since.

In the last decade, I have seen friends and acquaintances undergo the same heartrending experience of parental loss. It goes without saying that I always find myself giving these friends of mine (often unsolicited) advice on how to grieve. It can be summed up in three bullet points:

  • During the wake and internment, you will find yourself too busy to properly grieve and it’s alright. Do your duties to ensure that your late parent gets the proper send-off he or she deserves.

With death certificates, insurance claims, hospital bills and funeral arrangements to think of, who has the time to grieve? On the day my father died, one of the first things I did was shop for clothes. (Seriously.) I expected lots of relatives and friends to sympathize with us and I wanted my family to mourn in style. I found it my duty as a gay son to make things aesthetically pleasing for my late father.

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Papa’s Boys. Aren’t I cute?!?

So do what you have to do to make sure that your late parent gets the goodbye he or she deserves. Dry your eyes for a few more days and fill the funeral parlor with your Mom’s favorite blooms. Does your Dad love beef stroganoff? Then make sure the caterer serves it to his well-wishers. This will be literally the last thing you will do for your dead parent.

  • The day after the internment, when everyone has gone home, is your actual Day One. That is when you will realize that this is your new normal: a life without a parent.

You have buried or cremated your parent. You have paid for the bills. Your relatives from the province and abroad have all gone back to their respective homes. All the kerfuffle has died down (no pun intended). Welcome to Day One. So now what?

Now, you can properly grieve. Allow yourself that One Big Ugly Cry where you shout to the heavens (preferably in the rain, for effect) and question everything. Take that hot shower you deserve and let your tears roll down as you slide down your bathroom wall. Think of it as your Meryl Streep Oscar montage moment. Trust me, it will feel great after. It will be cathartic.

  • The pain of grief never really goes away. It may hurt less through the years but it will still hurt.

It has been eleven years since lung cancer took my father away from me. (Nowadays, I only buy those cigarettes that cause impotence.) The pain may not be as fresh as it was back in 2007 or 2008 but the pain remains.

I always wish that my father was still alive during my family’s major milestones – my grad school graduation, the many promotions that followed, the birth of my two nephews, the day I moved out of the house (and the day I moved back in), among other things. But more often than not, I catch myself wishing my father to be with me for the smaller, quieter moments in my life.

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Family Photo circa 1983

I wish he was still alive so I can share with him the amazing sunrises and sunsets that I see in Manila Bay. I wish he was still alive so I can sing ABBA, Ray Conniff and Peter, Paul & Mary songs with him. I wish he was still alive so I can share a cup of taho with him, so he can meet my two dogs whom he will surely love, so we can give those dogs a bath every Saturday.

I wish he was still alive so I do not have to write something every year on his death anniversary. I wish he was still alive so I no longer see him in crowds, so I can ask him stuff that I never got to ask him, so I can take more photos with him, so I can tell him that I am thankful for all the sacrifices he had endured for me and my brother. I wish he was still alive so I can tell him I love him one last time.

I love you, Papa. That’s for certain.

Vicente B. Platon, Jr.
(June 11, 1941 – May 24, 2006)

© 2017 Victor John Platon
All Rights Reserved.

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