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  • Writer's pictureJulia Heck

Good Grief (more like horrible grief)

I've struggled with the loss of my father since the day it happened. Since getting diagnosed, it's been a hell of a lot worse.

In December of 2018, my Dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack. I was out to dinner with some friends and got a phone call to let me know what had happened. I wish I could say it's something I could get out of my mind, but in reality, it's something I will NEVER forget. And I definitely won't be going back to Carabba's EVER.


I was really close with my father and we always had fun when we were together. When I was young, Dad and I would often not see eye-to-eye and would find ourselves arguing over the most ridiculous things (my b). Thankfully once I was in high school, we started to get much closer and really enjoyed spending time together.

I went to college at my Dad's alma mater, SUNY Oswego (GOO LAKERS), and that brought us even closer. We would often find ourselves comparing our experiences and always talk about how much we loved the school as well as the friends that we met while we were there! This was around the time I discovered how similar we really were, personality and looks!

When I moved to Jacksonville we started talking more and more often. Between him being on the road and me having a 40 minute commute to work, we had tons of time to chat. It was always special when we would catch up a few times a week and talk about anything and everything.


Having that ripped away from me (and my family) suddenly wasn't any easier than it would be for anyone else. It was the worst news I had EVER heard and I was completely in shock and can only imagine the scene I caused in Carabbas--Thank god for good friends being there to comfort/help me.


While some days are better than others, the pain from the loss of a loved one never really goes away. I've developed some coping mechanisms that I thought I should share in hopes to help others that are going through this.

Believe that they're still available to chat:

Back in November, when I was first having all my tests, I would constantly call my mom, stepmom and stepdad to fill them in on my medical updates. Prior to my diagnosis, I would always call all of my parents, one right after the other, to update them on whatever life event was happening.

The loss of my father was so much more "in my face" when I really started to have life changing events (like starting on a new career path, getting diagnosed, having to move). I really struggled with the fact that I couldn't call my dad to tell him the updates, too.

I often found myself alone in my car having conversations out loud in hopes to update him! While I'm not a super religious person, it really helps me to be able to "chat" with him in hopes that he can remain in the loop.

Write down the happy times:

Whenever I'm having a tough day, like his birthday, I find that it really helps me to make a list of the times that I spent with him, the things he did that made me laugh and the advice that he gave me that still helps me to this day.

I write these things down and sometimes fine myself laughing and crying, but in the end it is always comforting knowing that nothing can take my memories from me.

Take time to realize the special things that remind you of the loved one:

Dad always loved Blue Herons and even named the company he owned after them. I always take time when I see one to stop and think that it's a sign for me too! It's funny the times that they do show up in my life. Again, I find it so comforting to know that those are a sign for me too that maybe he's not really gone!

Another "special thing" that always makes me feel happy when thinking of dad, is when I blast songs that remind me of him. I always find myself smiling when I think about him scream-singing Roxanne, Milkshake or All My Exes Live in Texas. I have SUCH vivid memories of him and I singing these in the car!

Of course whenever I drink Titos with Lemonade I'm also thinking of Dad. While I love it just as much as he did and sometimes I just crave one, I can't help but drink one to feel like he's joining in on the fun too!


While it's still pretty fresh (come to find out, a year and a half isn't that long), I have come up with some coping skills that often help me to get through the bad days of missing him. I'm hoping these ideas can also help someone else. Sometimes when I'm upset, I want nothing to do with smiling. I just want to be sad, and that's okay too! I think it's best to figure out what works for you, but the more tools in your toolbox the better, right?!

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