Grieving through senior year

On November 27, my dad passed away tragically in my living room. My mother and I gave him CPR for what felt like hours while my brother called 911, and we listened to the first responders work on keeping him alive for forty minutes before they pronounced him dead. He had been in and out of the hospital for the previous few months for mysterious lesions on his brain, and after a biopsy which determined that they weren’t cancerous, he lost his ability to walk, which rapidly spiraled into his untimely death.

Since then, I’ve had this excruciating feeling that the world is ending. I can’t really explain it, but a few times a day I get hit with this indescribable need to disappear. To just forget every single responsibility and hide from the world.
My father dying was the most heart-wrenching thing I have ever experienced. I think it’s a pain that many others don’t really understand, and I feel torn, because on one hand, someone understanding that this memory and this extreme life change doesn’t go away in a month would be extremely beneficial when discussing the topic with me. On the other hand, I don’t wish this pain on anyone.

Despite this feeling lasting for months, I was only out of school for a week following that event. It wasn’t enough time, but I’m a senior in high school. I’m in rigorous classes, and have clubs and events to concern myself with. I could only barely entertain the idea of being out for a week, let alone longer.

Going back to school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I felt like everyone knew what happened, but no one wanted to approach me, in fear of upsetting me. I had teachers give me their condolences, but other than a brief, two minute conversation between myself and each of my teachers, I spent a lot of time alone. It was painfully obvious that the topic was being avoided, and the only question people felt comfortable asking was “are you doing okay?” While the answer is most certainly no, I’ve never said no. I say something along the lines of “everyday is different.” It’s not cool to depress people or push my feelings onto them [as I have made myself believe] no matter how many times it’s been insisted that it’s ok. This isn’t true, of course, but how could I spill my guts to someone I see almost everyday?
I found my solace in music, but I used it more as a distraction, rather than a coping mechanism.

My dad liked the Grateful Dead. Actually, ‘like’ isn’t the right word. He adored them, honored them, followed them. When I was little, I just hated that we couldn’t listen to what I liked, and as I got older and became almost as headstrong as my dad, I was frustrated that it was literally the only music he would listen to. I did, admittedly, like a small handful of songs, but I never told him that.
As I was driving home from school one day in early March, “Eyes of the World” by the Grateful Dead popped up on a random Spotify playlist. This particular song was among my dad’s favorite songs. To be frank, I still can’t stand the lead singer’s voice, but I found profound meaning in the lyrics of the song.
It seems to be keeping me connected to my father. The song discusses being the center of the universe, and finding a balance between oneself and the world around them. I’m not sure if I feel like I’m the “eyes of the world” or my dad is, but being present with grief and the loss makes it easier to process. My dad was present, and was always focused on his life currently, at least until the end, when he spent time in the hospital, and I hope to embody that as I go into the next chapter of my life.
With graduation approaching, there’s a part of me that is fearful of walking on stage in front of everyone, knowing that the one person in the audience that needs to be there won’t be there. My extended family is insistent that “he’ll be there with me in spirit,” but he won’t be there. That’s what matters.