I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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March 2016 – the blog archives

The hardest part about a parent’s death is the moment you realize you’ll never be able to talk to them again.

I’ve had countless moments since my dad passed away this February when I really wanted to call and tell him something but then realized…I couldn’t.

I couldn’t call him.

As I sit on the subway, writing this in my notepad, I can’t help but quietly sob. I don’t care if anyone on the train stares or wonders what’s wrong. Unless you’ve experienced this devastation (an event we will all have to go through at some point in life), you will never know. One can never truly and fully empathize without sharing an experience. So for now, I’ll continue to cry and write on the 1 train. My pen and paper acting as my therapy.

I really hurt my dad when I didn’t call him on his birthday this past December.

“Why didn’t you call me yesterday?” he asked sweetly. He just wanted to know. Because you didn’t call me on my birthday…

I’ll never be able to tell him how sorry I am that I didn’t call. How heartbreaking it was for me to hear him say that to me on the phone. That I cried when I got off the phone, hating myself for not calling.  I didn’t know you would be dead 6 weeks later. I thought we had more time.

Why do we always think we have more time…

Death is a weird thing. You always hear that a person’s death changes people, and it really is true. Death certainly changed me. I don’t look at life the same way anymore.

I feel like I am always living in fear that the loved ones around are going to pass away suddenly and out of nowhere. Because I experienced it directly through my father last month, I am always afraid that death will take away someone in my life again. At random.

I never thought about death before my father passed. I didn’t wonder about dying, I always simply embraced it.  But now, death has forced me to live in the present and now I appreciate the time that I have with the people I care for so much more.

In terms with the healing process, it comes in waves.

One week I’ll be busy and fine and life seems to be going smoothly as it did before he passed. And then the next week, I wake up crying, and I can’t get his words out of my head all day. I never see it coming. It’s like a trigger.

A quick thought. A flash of his face, a second of his voice, a flickering memory. It comes and goes so fast.

One never sees it coming.

I promised my dad I would build him and my mom a house in my backyard someday, so he’d never have to live his nightmare of being in a senior center home. I promised him the week before he died. He laughed and said “okay.”

Did he know then??

dad's death when a parent passes, a blog on losing your father in your twenties

He’ll never get to walk me down the aisle.

He’ll never get to smile when he hears me tell him that I kept my last name. His last name. Woods.

He’ll never see me grow older, and neither I, him.

I’ll never see him gray and wrinkly and walking down the street with a cane.

He went too soon. He was still so young.

I’ll always be angry with myself for not calling him more. I’ll always be sad that I only to see him once a year. Once a year.

I hate myself for not speaking with him that year. Not a Christmas wish nor a birthday card. When he called my mom the September before he died and heard about my two months wandering Europe, that I had quit acting, and about the boyfriend I had, his happy curiosity made me feel so guilty. “What’s he like? Is he good to her? When was she in Europe…what did she do there?” He wanted to know every detail. And I wasn’t there to give it to him.

An entire year passed, and I didn’t hear his voice a single time.

He would never know what that year was like in his daughter’s eyes, and I would never know his.

Stubbornness is a fault. And the resulting guilt even worse.

I’m grateful that my father and I rekindled our relationship, despite its rocky past, before he died. Although my dad and I weren’t extremely close, we had great talks. He was the person I went to for advice, and we’ve always had amazing communication throughout my teenage years. I always say that I am my father’s daughter, as I’m more like my father than I am my mom, despite the closeness that my mother and I share. I felt deeply connected to my dad, even when we withdrew and didn’t speak to each other.

What I’ve Learned From My Father’s Death

Since my dad passed, I make it a daily habit to call my mom every day, even when we argue. I never want to feel this guilt again, and I hope you don’t ever have to feel the same guilt as I have.

Always tell your parents you love them.

Call them every day, or at least, every few days. In fact, call them when you’ve finished reading this blog post. Even if it’s just an “I love you.”

You never realize what you have until it’s gone. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

Share Your Appreciation

Learn to appreciate and love the ones around you everyday, especially your parents. The passing of a parent feels like a deep cut, and you’ll forever want to call them when something great happens in your life.

Live in the Present

Life really is short. That is also another cliche, but boy, is it accurate. I am now forever living my life in the NOW. In the present moment.  I’ll forever be living extremely, loving deeply, and telling everyone around me that I appreciate them.

Take More Pictures

I regret not taking more pictures of my dad over the years. As a photographer and writer, I highly value memories, especially visual mementos. Now, looking back, I only have 2 photos of my dad and me over the years, and I wish I had taken the time to take more. 

when a parent passes, a blog on losing your father in your twenties

I hope this blog post, however depressing it may appear (I promise, I’m okay.), makes you hopeful for living. I hope this experience I had inspires you to go live your life out of joy rather than fear, and I sincerely wish for you to truly live every single day as if it were your last. We never know when our time is up on this planet, and it’s best to go spread your love to every person you come across in this life. I also hope you go pick up your phone and call your parents to tell them you love them.

Love,

Helena

When a Parent Passes: the Lessons I Learned When My Father Died

March 6, 2016

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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