Growing Through Loss – You’re Not Alone

My name is Hannah, and I’m 22 years old. I just graduated college (congrats class of 2020!!) with a Mechanical Engineering degree and commissioned as a 2LT in the Army. College was the hardest time of my life, because it was the longest season of grief due to loss in my life.
For the majority of school, I was commuting an hour or so one way. I worked two jobs to support myself, worked my butt off in ROTC, supported my long time boyfriend through the police academy and the early part of his career.
I was a busy girl, but this was my normal, and I loved it. However, my Never Quit story reaches a peak my junior year.
In summer 2018, my dad began an aggressive chemo treatment program. Within months I watched my hero age fifteen years and be reduced to a shell of a man.
My dad was the kind of guy that would walk into a crowded bar in Iowa and the whole place would erupt with his name. He was a friend of everyone, regardless of who they were or what they did. He was the life of the party, a calm and gentle father and ultimately my best friend.
In December of 2018, my dads health began to decline rapidly, and my boyfriend of four years broke up with me. I was shell shocked. This man had been my first everything and I thought we were on the path to marriage. I moved out of our apartment together into the only room left in my moms house – the equivalent of a really big storage closet in the basement where we kept the cats’ litter boxes.
I felt so alone. My best friend was dying, the only person I thought would love me forever left me because I wasn’t good enough (which of course now I know is not true) and I was living in a closet like I was Harry Potter. I lost twenty five pounds in two weeks.
Now my birthday is Valentines Day. My dad called me for the last time on February 14, 2019. A week later, I got a phone call from my brother, saying that Dad was in a coma and had been given 24 hours to live. I hopped on a plane the next morning and was by his side until he passed that Saturday night.
I was in the middle of my semester, couldn’t get fired from my jobs, and had a leadership role in ROTC. I hopped on a plane that Monday and went right back to it. My teachers and friends looked at me like I was crazy, but I wasn’t ready to deal with the grief yet. I needed to move, to be helpful to others, otherwise I thought I might burst at the seams and never be able to put myself back together. The grief was overwhelming.
My professors quickly banned me from going to their classes, my LTC told me to take time off, and my bosses told me not to come into work.
The funeral was that next weekend. I flew back out to Iowa for a wonderful celebration of life and got to meet all of the people who my dad had impacted over his life. He was very popular.
The one thing I kept telling myself, was it could always be worse. I grew during this time, because I didn’t stop moving. Some days were worse than others, but I kept saying “it could always be worse, find the silver lining, be the young woman your daddy would be proud of.”
Summer of 2019, I went on a cadet deployment to Mongolia. During that trip, I stood on top of a mountain, overlooking the Russian boarder. I cried, because all I wanted to do was call my dad and tell him the amazing things I was doing. But a voice called out to me and said, “what do you mean, child? I get to experience it with you now.”
I listened to the TNQ podcast frequently during this time and the one episode I listened to over and over, was the interview with Marcus and Taya Kyle. This interview helped me through some of my darkest moments and helped me keep my head up. Thank you for creating such wonderful content, so that people like me know they’re not alone and that it does get better.
The best part of this experience is that I’m only 22 and have already experienced so much. I’m excited to start the rest of my life, with my daddy as my guardian angel, and I will NEVER quit.

Author: Hannah