It hurts to watch your friends joke with their fathers, taking it for granted that he will give them away at their weddings, watch them graduate high school, his eyes shining with pride as his little girl gets her diploma.
It hurts as you think about the years you’ll miss, and it hurts to leave knowing what he was really like, more as a man than a father, in your imagination.
You collect and treasure the memories you have, as vague as they may be, awakening with a jolt in cold sweat as you realize that one day you’ve forgotten the sound of his voice, or the way he smelled after a shave, the little habits he had, or realize that some of your memories of him aren’t as clear as you could recall.
You wonder what he’d think of your new boyfriend, laughing at the bittersweet notion of how he’d probably want to bury him 6 feet deep in the ground.
You’re wary of your boyfriend, for reasons you cannot fathom, keeping your heart encased within the walls that serve as its prison, to save you from the heartbreak you know so well.
You shy away from physical contact, retreat at the sound of words like “I love you” and wear a smile, a laugh, as convincingly as the next person, bottling up the pain within.
New relationships, be it with friends or anyone else, terrify you. You find yourself feeling possessive and insecure within a few months, certain that you are not good enough, that they will leave, as people always do. You try to convince yourself that the thoughts that torment your mind and ensnare your heart aren’t the ghost of your heartbreak, back to haunt you yet again.
You grow bold externally, as you retreat more so than before into your shell internally, determined to hide yourself from the world, to act as if you don’t care, to imprison yourself where no one can find you and hurt you, keeping yourself safe, secure, and miserably numb as your bindings tighten.
It hurts that you no longer know the standard that you deserve from a man, leaving you willing to put yourself out there, for no reason but to escape.
You range from a girl afraid of love, afraid of heartbreak, and afraid to display her affection, to a promiscuous young woman on the threshold of adulthood, unafraid, bold, finding what you never had in the arms of some other boy or man, someone to whom your attraction runs only surface deep.
You become a girl who surrounds herself with people on the surface, turns into a class clown, laughs her booming laugh and puts up a front of confidence, while internally feeling lonely, abandoned, anxious, and insecure.
You become the girl so consumed with the people who leave, that you become desperate to make them stay, scared of confrontation, terrified of fights, disagreements, afraid to let them in, and yet, afraid to let them go.
You overthink, even one day of friendliness to someone else means that you weren’t good enough. That you weren’t enough, that you will never be enough and that you will always be unsatisfactory.
And yet, you have an angel. You have a person in heaven to be there for you. You know, that every time you look to the sky, or simply look into your heart, he’s there, his heart, though no longer beating in his body, beats in rhythm with your own.
And yes, the concept makes one scoff. But, as the days pass, as the years go by, there is a certain solace in knowing that your father is closer than ever, now more than ever before. So let go of all that is in your heart, and cry.
Cry for the good, the bad, the angry, the sad.
Cry for the times that he lifted you up and spun you around, or played a sport with you, or looked at you like you were the most perfect thing in the whole world.
Cry for the times you held back the tears, emotions, and sorrow, and made yourself all the more miserable.
Cry for the irrational guilt you felt, as occasionally you wondered if you would be where you were if he were still here.
Cry for the times you wondered what it would be like if he were still here.
Cry for the times you took it out on your mother for not being enough, for not being able to get out a single “thank you” or an “I love you” because of how hard it is. And smile.
Smile for each moment you had, or for the tough exterior that you have managed to build around you.
Smile for the fact that you have someone to make proud of you, and smile because as a new day dawns, you set upon your own road, your own path, to meet your own goals with the ghost of a smile wafting upon your way from above.