MATTHEWS: Life after losing a loved one

A family photo from a Southport trip the Matthews family took in 2016.

Three months ago, I lost my dad, Jack Matthews, after his near-11-year battle with kidney disease. 

Not having a close family member pass away since I was a child, I was not really prepared for what life would be like after the loss of a loved one, especially a parent. As I noted before, even though you know your parents will not be around forever, a tiny part of you holds out hope that they will defy the odds and live beyond the century mark because the thought of being without the people who most shaped your life is unbearable. 

I was in the middle of preparing to put my house on the market when my dad’s health took a turn for the worst back in April. When that happened, I dropped everything and went to stay with mom while dad went to a physical rehab facility to try and get his strength back after a fall he suffered. 

He never got well enough to come home. In fact, just a few days before we lost him, the facility had told us they didn’t think he’d be able to walk again. 

The first two weeks after dad’s passing, I was numb and mostly went through the motions. I did my best to keep it together for mom because considering the grief she was feeling I didn’t want her to worry about me. 

After that, we sprung into “get it done” mode, as there were some things to get settled in the aftermath of the loss of my dad, as most people who have been through losing a loved one will understand. It was overwhelming, and mom had a hard time keeping track of it all. So I stepped in to help, right around the same time I got back to a normal-ish work schedule. 

It was a lot to handle, but doing all of that kept my mind (for the most part) off of the fact that dad was no longer around to talk to, to watch football games with, and to visit Southport with. 

In addition to that, I got back to getting my house ready to sell — and helping mom go through dad’s things so we could donate them. Though the latter was tough, we both soldiered through. At this point, about 90% of the things he had in the house have been donated, with the remaining items being picked up last week. 

After those things were picked up, I had a “daddy moment,” something I had not had much of once the first two weeks had gone by. That final pick-up of his things, including the books he loved to read and the CDs he loved to listen to, hit me hard and made me remember that dad is well and truly gone. 

Mom and I have struggled with some degree of guilt for letting go of his things, but I’ve reminded her we are not trying to move on from remembering dad; we’re just letting go of things that cause us the most heartbreak. 

The goal now is to forge ahead and make new, happy memories. Instead of dwelling too much on what we’ve lost, we now look back at what we had with my dad and thank God that He gave us so long with him. 

We know the holidays will be tough, but we also know dad wouldn’t want us to be in a perpetual state of sadness. So we’re moving forward with those thoughts in mind. I’m pleased to report that mom and I have been having more good days than bad in recent weeks. 

We still miss you like crazy dad, but — as it should be — time is healing the wounds we suffered from your loss. Love you. 

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.