Lisa Ingrassia

@lisa-ingrassia | contributor
Lisa is passionate about discussing the difficult path a caregiver walks. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling. Lisa is a freelance writer who writes regularly for Beliefnet, Her View From Home, The National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders and is a Huffington Post blogger. Fun fact: She’s obsessed with her Boston terrier Diesel and loves the color blue.
Lisa Ingrassia

I Was Flashed by a Stranger and Now I Feel Unsafe

Recently, while walking my pup on what seemed like a “normal” Saturday afternoon, a man called me to his parked vehicle and demanded I look at his fully erect penis with his pants down. It has changed how I feel in my own home and stolen my sense of safety. Perhaps there have always been perverted men who demand women look at their man parts, but the brazenness I witnessed opened my eyes, and has made me aware of my surroundings. I used to think I was a strong, independent woman. I worked in New York City for years. I commuted into Penn Station. I have traveled across the country alone. I am always aware of my surroundings. At least I thought I was. I had just finished a bike ride and decided to give my pup a quick walk around the block before jumping in the shower. I was sweaty and gross. Halfway through my walk I realized I forgot my cell phone on the kitchen table. What could possibly happen around the block from my home in my cute little beach neighborhood? I have always felt safe here; in fact, the police drive up and down our busy street daily. It happened just 200 steps from my front door. I observed a young man sitting in a white vehicle with his car turned off. I could see him holding his cell phone in his left hand. He was clean cut and young, the kind of person a child would go up to. I then heard him asking me for directions to Broadway. I stayed on the sidewalk and proceeded to give him directions. Suddenly, he interrupted me and said in a stern voice, “No, come closer. I want to show you something.” Instantly, my stomach dropped. I clenched the dog leash and my entire body immediately tensed up. I knew nothing good was going to come out of what seemed like a “normal-looking guy” asking for simple directions. I could hear my Dad in my head, telling me, “I told you never go up to a stranger’s car.” I let my guard down and now, I was afraid of what is about to happen just steps from my home. Without getting closer, I looked into his vehicle to discover his seat reclined all the way back, his body propped up, his pants down; he’s holding his cell phone in one hand and his fully erect penis in the other. Instantly, I became totally enraged. Enraged that this “man” would think it’s “normal” to behave like this in a place where children play, where I walk my dog numerous times a day, where I live! Enraged that this man would think I want to look at this and enraged to think this pervert was trying to humiliate me or even control me. I was now in a complete fury. I was raging. I locked eyes with him and berated him. I told him he was sick and to get out of here, now. I told him I was getting his license plate and I was calling the police. And then it got weird. He apologized, slumped down in his seat, tucked his you-know-what between his legs, did a U-turn in the street (giving me enough time to get his plate) and drove away. Reciting the license plate number over and over, I ran into my house. I was now screaming for my husband. In the safety of my own home, I went from an enraged, independent woman to a terrified little girl. Trembling, I told my husband what just happened and we called the police. As the days go on, I become infuriated. I’m finding myself dwelling on what happened, and I am finding myself not feeling safe walking my dog in front of my own home. The cute little beach town that I have grown to love no longer feels safe to me. Did this guy happen to see where I live? Will he return because I called the police? For the first week I stopped opening my downstairs blinds when I’m home alone out of fear of this guy coming back to retaliate. I feel violated by what happened just steps from my house. The “what ifs” now haunt me with each passing day. As I begin to tell friends what happened, the men make jokes and laugh it off. I have been asked, “are you really offended that some dude pulled out his man parts?” Or, “was he manscaped?” I then find myself explaining that no, in fact, his pants were down, he was full flagstaff with his vehicle turned off. This wasn’t just some drunk college kid going streaking. But when I tell the women, they become terrified for their safety. The women are enraged that such a vile act has happened in our cute little town. How sad that an offense like flashing is often trivialized by so many. Depending upon the circumstances, it is a very uncomfortable experience because you have no idea what the man is going to do next. Flashing is an angry pathetic act. These men are low-lives who are so unskilled at communicating with women that they find it easier to pull down their pants rather than to say hello. These “men” want a reaction. In 2017, author Jennifer Wright put up a status on Twitter where she asked women who have been flashed a penis to speak up on their experiences. The responses are astounding. Countless women have been through this more than one would like to imagine and some of the stories are horrific. Maybe if the penalty for flashing was stronger, this sort of deviant behavior it would not be so common. I don’t know, but I do know I should not have to unsafe in my own home, or feel guilty for not having my cell phone with me on a simple walk around my block to be prepared to take a photo as evidence in case some pervert decides to drop his drawers.

Lisa Ingrassia

I Was Flashed by a Stranger and Now I Feel Unsafe

Recently, while walking my pup on what seemed like a “normal” Saturday afternoon, a man called me to his parked vehicle and demanded I look at his fully erect penis with his pants down. It has changed how I feel in my own home and stolen my sense of safety. Perhaps there have always been perverted men who demand women look at their man parts, but the brazenness I witnessed opened my eyes, and has made me aware of my surroundings. I used to think I was a strong, independent woman. I worked in New York City for years. I commuted into Penn Station. I have traveled across the country alone. I am always aware of my surroundings. At least I thought I was. I had just finished a bike ride and decided to give my pup a quick walk around the block before jumping in the shower. I was sweaty and gross. Halfway through my walk I realized I forgot my cell phone on the kitchen table. What could possibly happen around the block from my home in my cute little beach neighborhood? I have always felt safe here; in fact, the police drive up and down our busy street daily. It happened just 200 steps from my front door. I observed a young man sitting in a white vehicle with his car turned off. I could see him holding his cell phone in his left hand. He was clean cut and young, the kind of person a child would go up to. I then heard him asking me for directions to Broadway. I stayed on the sidewalk and proceeded to give him directions. Suddenly, he interrupted me and said in a stern voice, “No, come closer. I want to show you something.” Instantly, my stomach dropped. I clenched the dog leash and my entire body immediately tensed up. I knew nothing good was going to come out of what seemed like a “normal-looking guy” asking for simple directions. I could hear my Dad in my head, telling me, “I told you never go up to a stranger’s car.” I let my guard down and now, I was afraid of what is about to happen just steps from my home. Without getting closer, I looked into his vehicle to discover his seat reclined all the way back, his body propped up, his pants down; he’s holding his cell phone in one hand and his fully erect penis in the other. Instantly, I became totally enraged. Enraged that this “man” would think it’s “normal” to behave like this in a place where children play, where I walk my dog numerous times a day, where I live! Enraged that this man would think I want to look at this and enraged to think this pervert was trying to humiliate me or even control me. I was now in a complete fury. I was raging. I locked eyes with him and berated him. I told him he was sick and to get out of here, now. I told him I was getting his license plate and I was calling the police. And then it got weird. He apologized, slumped down in his seat, tucked his you-know-what between his legs, did a U-turn in the street (giving me enough time to get his plate) and drove away. Reciting the license plate number over and over, I ran into my house. I was now screaming for my husband. In the safety of my own home, I went from an enraged, independent woman to a terrified little girl. Trembling, I told my husband what just happened and we called the police. As the days go on, I become infuriated. I’m finding myself dwelling on what happened, and I am finding myself not feeling safe walking my dog in front of my own home. The cute little beach town that I have grown to love no longer feels safe to me. Did this guy happen to see where I live? Will he return because I called the police? For the first week I stopped opening my downstairs blinds when I’m home alone out of fear of this guy coming back to retaliate. I feel violated by what happened just steps from my house. The “what ifs” now haunt me with each passing day. As I begin to tell friends what happened, the men make jokes and laugh it off. I have been asked, “are you really offended that some dude pulled out his man parts?” Or, “was he manscaped?” I then find myself explaining that no, in fact, his pants were down, he was full flagstaff with his vehicle turned off. This wasn’t just some drunk college kid going streaking. But when I tell the women, they become terrified for their safety. The women are enraged that such a vile act has happened in our cute little town. How sad that an offense like flashing is often trivialized by so many. Depending upon the circumstances, it is a very uncomfortable experience because you have no idea what the man is going to do next. Flashing is an angry pathetic act. These men are low-lives who are so unskilled at communicating with women that they find it easier to pull down their pants rather than to say hello. These “men” want a reaction. In 2017, author Jennifer Wright put up a status on Twitter where she asked women who have been flashed a penis to speak up on their experiences. The responses are astounding. Countless women have been through this more than one would like to imagine and some of the stories are horrific. Maybe if the penalty for flashing was stronger, this sort of deviant behavior it would not be so common. I don’t know, but I do know I should not have to unsafe in my own home, or feel guilty for not having my cell phone with me on a simple walk around my block to be prepared to take a photo as evidence in case some pervert decides to drop his drawers.

Lisa Ingrassia

Seeing Facebook Memories of My Dad Around the Anniversary of His Death

Most days I welcome my happy little Facebook memories. This week, leading up to the anniversary of my father’s passing, it’s a love-hate relationship . For those of you who do not know, my dad passed away after a long battle with stage IV base of the tongue cancer . The last four months of his life, he was on hospice, and I was in total denial. I would walk around telling people hospice was to help him “get stronger.” He was unable to eat orally for the last four years of his life; all of his nutrition came from a peg tube inserted in his stomach. Let me repeat that, he could not eat or drink orally for four years. He lived on Ensure and Gatorade all through a peg tube. He suffered from extensive nerve damage after his aggressive radiation treatments. He would shake and sometimes scream in pain. People often tell me to remember the good times, but if I forget how much he suffered, then he suffered in vain and I can’t let that happen. I spoke to my father daily, visited weekly and with each visit, another piece of him was ripped away. On my car rides home, I would punch my steering wheel and scream at God. Why was I given front row seats to watch my beloved father suffer? Five years later, and I still do not have an answer for that. The days leading up to my father’s death were gut-wrenching and emotional. I had a very difficult time accepting he was in fact dying. In my mind, he was supposed to get better and eat again. See, I’m Italian and like many Italians, we love our food. When my father lost his ability to eat, a piece of me died. I became angry. Quite honestly, I am still angry. There is truth in the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” People spend their lives chasing fad diets, depriving themselves of various foods for various reasons and my father was in agony and yearned to eat something — anything. I didn’t realize how much I still carried this pain with me until I clicked on my Facebook memories today. Thanks for that. Those little Facebook memories always seem so friendly and inviting. “You have memories.” Memories like sitting in the sunshine watching the ocean waves ride up to your toes. This week is quite the opposite. What Facebook should have said is, “You have a painful nightmare, click here if you want to throw up.” Even now, I scroll through those memories and my heart is shattered into a million pieces. With each post leading up to the anniversary of my father’s passing, my heart is shattered over and over. How quickly we can slip back into a memory and have it feel so real and raw … as if no time has passed. Today, I clicked on my Facebook memories and once again, my heart shattered all over, my eyes filled with tears and the gut-wrenching pain all returned. Instantly, I was brought back to the moment I was sitting next to my father’s hospital bed, hysterically crying, begging him not to die. Making childish bargains with him to please not leave me. I realize how incredibly silly and selfish that sounds, but death can do that to us. We can get wonky. We may say silly stuff. We may get angry. My father’s body was ready to leave this life, but I wasn’t ready to let him go. I needed him, I still do. Death is final and often terrifying for the people left behind. It seems like our parents teach us everything in life, but how to survive without them. Five years ago, I cried until I had no more tears left, and then I cried some more. Five years ago, I knew my father was dying in the days to come. Five years later, I’m thankful for the time God gave us with my father, despite how painful some of those memories are. I feel incredibly thankful and blessed God gave us these last moments with my father. My dad already knew how much we adored him, but I was able to tell him one last time. On the day of my father’s death, I held the hand of the man who guided me throughout my entire life as he took his last breath. My father was my best friend and my deepest inspiration for strength. There’s something profound about holding someone’s hand as they leave this life. Even more if that person is the center of your entire universe. January 17th will be five years since my dad left, but I can still remember holding his hand as he took his last breath and my assurances to him it was OK to let go. That despite my childish pleas just days before, I would in fact be fine and to not worry about me. Five years later, and I have created my new “normal” without him. There are moments I still go to call him for his fatherly advice, and those waves of grief come rushing in. But I consider myself blessed to have had a father who had such an impact on my life that even now he’s still missed. These Facebook memories truly are a love-hate relationship. Some are gut-wrenching and shatter my heart into a million pieces, but they remind me of what an honor it is to be the daughter of a man who fought so hard to live for his family. And as long as I have breath in me, I will be my father’s living, breathing legacy. I will tell his story and remind everyone of how hard he fought to be a part of this beautiful life. These Facebook memories are a love-hate relationship, but they also remind me of what a blessing this life is.

Lisa Ingrassia

Going to Places My Dad Loved After His Death

“Daddy, can we go for ice cream?” The answer was always yes. Even when I didn’t finish my dinner the answer was yes. This was our ritual for years throughout my childhood. When I was young, I thought all fathers took their daughters for ice cream at least once a week. When the summer evenings became hotter and hotter, my dad would pile us up in the car and take us to Carvel for ice cream. Take me into a Carvel and I am immediately transported to my childhood. My senses begin to dance with the aroma I can only describe as sweet vanilla heaven. Even if I’m not hungry, once I step foot into a Carvel ice cream shop I find myself wandering around for a scoop of ice cream feeling like a 5-year-old little girl again. When my father lost his ability to eat from his cancer treatments, I lost a tremendous piece of me. Watching a parent endure a horrific illness is one of the most difficult things in the world. I stopped going into Carvel, stopped indulging in delicious treats. I spent four long years watching my father survive on a feeding tube. For a very long time I walked around angry, and because ice cream was such a big part of my childhood memories, Carvel became an innocent victim. Grief makes a simple trip to a place like Carvel anything but simple. Carvel was loaded with landmines I was not ready to face. Abandoned rituals that were once fun are common in the land of grief. But last week, for the first time in a very long time, I stepped foot in a Carvel. Just walking in there was a major accomplishment. I was positive the entire store could hear the sounds of my heart breaking all over again. Tears quietly began to roll down my cheek past my dark sunglasses. My hands began to tremble as I remembered what once was. And suddenly my grief let go, and I was able to remember my dad as he was. I was able to remember my dad before the cancer took over. I was able to stand in a Carvel and smile as I thought of my dad. Eventually, the tight grip of grief will let go, even if for just a brief moment and you too will be able to remember your loved one as they once were. My dad is no longer here, but I raise my ice cream cone to him. Chocolate ice cream with sprinkles brings me back to the sweet, cool, creamy taste of a simpler time.

Lisa Ingrassia

The Lies Often Told About Grief

Grief is a natural reaction when we experience the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, our society has no idea how to handle grief and how to treat someone who has just experienced the loss of a great love. For starters, when someone dies, we often say passed, transitioned or whatever else comes to mind. When my father died, I had an older relative (bless her soul) reprimand me for saying my father died. What is wrong with the word dead? Last time I checked, that’s what he was, dead. But for some, death forces us to think about our own mortality, and that’s just too much to handle. So instead we often fluff our words, walk on eggshells and avoid saying trigger words. Something happens when someone you love dies. If you are like me and you are forced to watch your real life superhero in pain, it changes you. We can feel helpless as we watch someone we love slowly fade away. We are left with a tremendous hole in our hearts. Our souls weep, and no matter what we do, there might not be a way to comfort them. As you begin to walk your grief journey, well-meaning friends might repeat the myths they have heard or the lies told to them when they experienced a loss. I believe they know no other way because our society knows no other way. In my experience, society wants us to get over it and move on, and if we can’t get over it, they want us to put on a pretty grief mask when we are out in public. Grief is the elephant in the room wearing a pink tutu that no one wants to acknowledge. But the truth is, where there is great love, there is great grief that lasts a lifetime, and we grievers desperately want to acknowledge it. Below are some of the lies we often encounter throughout our grief journey: “You must stop living in the past and move on.” As a grieving daughter, I cringe when I hear people tell my newly widowed mother to “move on.” People who tell someone grieving to move on may not understand loss. Think about how hurtful it can be. Instead of telling someone to move on, try saying, “I have no idea how you’re feeling, but I’m here for you.” Remembering our loved ones keeps their presence with us and is a way of honoring them and a way of honoring our feelings. It keeps the love alive. “You need to get over it.” No one has the right to tell you how you feel. There is no timestamp on grief. There is no “normal” way to grieve. Our grief is as unique as a snowflake. You do not have to get over it. “You really shouldn’t talk about him or her so much.” As long as I have breath in me, I will be my father’s living, breathing legacy. I write to keep my father’s memory alive. What better way to honor a beautiful life than to extend all the love we can no longer give our loved ones to others? Talking about our loved ones creates legacy for our loved ones in a world that seems like it would rather bury its emotions and move on. These are just some of the myths we may be told while grieving a great loss. The truth is, no one may understand what you lost. No one may understand the searing pain you feel in your heart. No one may understand the yearning to hear your loved one’s voice one more time, to hug them one more time, to tell them you love them one more time. Death is final; grief lasts a lifetime. It is true — where there is great love, there is great grief. And what a privilege it is to love that deeply. A version of this post originally appeared on A Daughter’s Love. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Lisa Ingrassia

To My Grandmother After My Father's Death

It is a magnificent blessing to really get to know your Grandmother throughout your adulthood. I am blessed to have a healthy, accomplished, almost 86-year-old grandmother. She is the last of my grandparents and I value her wisdom, love and friendship. Dear Grandma, Dad always valued his relationship with you. He said you never made him feel like an in-law — he felt like a son. This is something he told me up until days before his death. As my father’s health deteriorated, I began to lean on you for guidance. During the darkest moments of my life you have offered encouragement, advice and honesty. As I reflect on my father’s illness and my mother’s selfless caregiving, I realize these qualities were inherited from you. I watched my mother transform into a hero as became Dad’s caregiver. She selflessly cared for Dad for 7 years. Many times I looked at my mother in awe and wondered where her courage, kindness and resilience came from. How could I not realize these characteristics are an inherited quality from you? You are the strongest woman I know, you are living proof that life goes on despite the detours life throws in our path. You beat cancer, heart issues, survived World War II and so much more. You are one of the most vivacious, optimistic, and resilient people I have ever known. After my father died, I counted down the minutes for you to arrive. Your hug instantly brought me back to my childhood. During one of the saddest times of my life you made me feel safe and warm. I didn’t want to let go and return to reality. As we grieve the traumatic loss of my father, I watch you selflessly hold us up. You are the light in the darkness, guiding us as we find our way in this new life without Dad. You are the definition of bravery and wisdom. If there’s one thing I don’t tell you enough is “thank you.” Thank you for your unconditional love, your support, for being the matriach of our family.  Thank you for being you. At 86 years old, you are the kindest, strongest, funniest, most amazing woman I know. You are our angel on Earth, and every single day I hope to make you proud. You taught my mother how to be the best person she can be. I love you more than all the stars in the sky, Grandma. Love, Your oldest grandchild, Lisa We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Lisa Ingrassia

A Letter to My Father One Year After His Death

Dear Dad, It’s been one year and one month since you’re gone. According to Google that’s 9490.01 hours, but to me it feels like an eternity. I still wake up in the morning thinking it’s a nightmare and you’re not really gone. At night I look at the sky and make a wish on the brightest star I see, believing it is you. When I was young, you told me we grieve for ourselves because the deceased are in a better place. As a grown woman, I know that is true, but I still miss you terribly. For seven years I watched you endure horrific pain. I prayed and pleaded with God to heal you. Towards the end of your life, I was angry my prayers were not answered. When you died, my grief became so overwhelming and suffocating that on numerous occasions, I was convinced I was dying, too. My heart was so heavy and the pain was unbearable. You played a major role in my life, and now you’re gone. For my entire existence we spoke every single day, even when I was away in college. That’s 40 years of saying, “I love you,” 40 years of being a Daddy’s girl, 40 years of feeling safe, 40 years of pure, unconditional love. And now you’re gone. I wonder, will I ever smile again? I watched Mom selflessly care for you throughout your marriage, but with extra care the past seven years. It was not uncommon for you to shout to the doctors that you were alive because of Mom. As your health began to fail, Mom was the one breathing life into you each day. I will never forget how your eyes lit up with joy when Mom entered the room. You and Mom showed me what true, unconditional love looks like. Watching Mom mourn you is unbearable; there are times I’m certain I can hear the sounds of her heart breaking. Hearing the gut-wrenching sounds of Mom mourn you is a heartbreaking, agonizing experience. How do I comfort someone mourning their soulmate when I don’t even know how to comfort myself? The people who I thought would be my anchors quickly became the holes in my lifeboat. I felt complete, utter disappointment. Our family desperately needed kindness, love and support — anything else seemed cruel and unwelcome. Taking a page out of your book, I chose to break ties and ignore. One of the greatest lessons you taught me is to quiet a fool with silence. Unfortunately, death can bring out quite a few fools. But you prepared me for this. From teaching me how to walk, to throw a ball, even to dance while standing on top of your feet — you showed me ways to stand on my own two feet. A dad’s job is not only to protect his little girl, but also to show her how to defend herself when, one day, he is not around. You were the biggest influence in my life. A father is the one who guides his daughter through life, and now even in death you’re guiding me. You’re constantly showing me that love never dies. You speak to me through feathers and music, and if I listen closely, I can still hear your sweet voice. Your death has been a mysterious doorway with so much painful grieving for me. A heartache I never knew was possible, and a mystery because I never know how or when that door is going to open and pull me in. It’s been a full year and one month since your death, but you’re still opening that door, comforting me. Sometimes it is gut-wrenching pain, like the other day when Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” came on in the store and I felt a faint brush on my cheek. I knew it was you, and I sobbed in the middle of Stop and Shop. Or when I’m driving to work in the morning and I can smell you, and for a moment, I can feel you sitting next to me in the car. Or when a beautiful fluffy white feather crosses my path, and I smile because I know it’s you sending me love from above. Since you have passed, I have found enough feathers to build my own angel wings and visit you in heaven. I miss you. I miss you even more today than one year and one month ago because it’s been 13 months since I heard your voice, heard your laugh, told you I love you and held your hand. There is so much of you in me that I think I frighten Mom sometimes. I have your sense of humor and share your love for life. Mom is always telling me I have your eyes and heart. You loved people and a good party. Since you have gone, I have received endless photos, emails and texts telling me what a great man you were. I established a fund in your name where all monies go to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders. I desperately want to help the countless individuals living with a swallowing disorder, people like you, and families like ours who felt so isolated. Last weekend I hosted my first fundraiser. Dad, 52 people, some whom you never met, came out to celebrate you and to help raise awareness. Your passing has created another level of a new beautiful community. Dad, you taught me what heroes are made of. You taught me how to love life even when it’s terrifying and difficult and you know it’s going to be painful. As I sat and held your hand throughout my life, and the past seven years of your pain and suffering, I saw an incredible person, my hero. I learned how precious life is. As I remember you one year and one month after your passing, the painful image of my very sick, frail father is fading. I will always carry your pain and suffering in my heart, but I can also see my father, my superhero, the strongest man in the world. The man who raised me, the man who was my first love and my best friend. The man who gave me butterfly kisses, taught me how to drive, how to dance while standing on top of his feet and how to appreciate doo-wop music. These days I count how long you have been gone in milestones, and most recently I am engaged. I now wonder how I will survive my wedding day without you by my side, smiling and laughing. Even though I can no longer hear your voice, I still see your face, and I can feel your love. You’re still with me, in my laughter, my smile, my tears and in my writing. Love never dies; it simply evolves. Love always,Lisa Follow this journey on Love is Infinite. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Lisa Ingrassia

Condolence Cards That Comforted Me After My Father Passed Away

I have a blank condolence card sitting on my desk for well over a week now. I know better than that; this card should have been signed, sealed and delivered long ago. It’s been sitting on my desk. I procrastinated and now I’m sitting here thinking, “Oh shoot! What if I say the wrong thing? What if I stir up painful memories?” But I know how comforting every single card and note received was after my father died. The bond between a father and daughter can be profound and everlasting. The loss of my father brought about not only feelings of loss and grief, but also a gut-wrenching fear. Losing my father was devastating. I spent the first few days after my father’s death in a daze. Just speaking and showering were difficult. I remember my phone ringing and people talking, but all I heard was the Charlie Brown teacher on the other end. Just uttering the words, “Thank you,” became exhausting. So I stopped answering the phone and relied on my better half to tell people I couldn’t do it. Grief is confusing and has a way of making my thoughts race. But condolence cards and well wishes can be comforting. We received hundreds of cards, some from people we never met but knew of us through my dad. They knew of us as “Al’s girls.” Friends of my dad who knew how my father’s face lit up when he spoke of his family. Cards from men and women who worked for my dad many years ago but fondly remember him as being a kind and fair boss, a great man. I vividly remember sitting at my parent’s kitchen table reading every single word, hanging onto every single word. Slowly as I read through piles of cards, hundreds of them, it seemed overwhelming to think about how so many people cared enough to send along their prayers and well wishes. I went through the cards more than once. They became my lifeline. Just knowing so many people were thinking of us, trying to comfort us in such a painful time, was what really mattered. The pain of losing someone may never be fully erased, but in my experience, a few words of sympathy can help ease the burden of pain off your loved ones who have lost a person of significance. Below are some suggestions when we’re at a loss for what to write in a condolence card. I am deeply saddened to hear the news of your father. He was a great man. Your father had such an amazing personality. He always made the best out of any situation. (Include a memory your remember.) I learned a lot from him throughout the years. He was always a ray of light and an inspiration. My life will not be the same without him. I am truly sorry for your loss. There is not grieving message that can express how much he meant to me. My heart is aching. Your father was always there for my family and me. He was so giving and thoughtful. He will live on in our hearts forever. Your father always bragged about how wonderful you were. I hope you know that you meant the world to him. He was a wonderful man and will be missed. Truly sorry for your loss.

Lisa Ingrassia

Grief: What to Say and Not to Say to a Grieving Daughter

I was 40 years old when my father died. That’s 40 years of spectacular memories with my father. He was and always will be my hero. He spent the last seven years of his life bravely battling stage IV tongue cancer. During the last four years of my father’s life, his pain was endless, and there was no cure. Cancer, in case you didn’t know it, you suck. As time passes, I have more and more friends losing their loved ones to this horrific disease, more and more friends losing their dads. Everyone deals with grief differently. Some say our grief is as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake. Unless you’re directly in a grieving person’s shoes, it is difficult to understand the magnitude of loss the person grieving feels. For many it is an impossible task to express the impact of such a monumental loss. But just because something is difficult does not mean we do not want to discuss it. Those of us who are grieving want to keep our loved one’s memory alive. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my dad. I am a part of him, and he is always on my mind. The past year has given me my own guidelines on speaking to a grieving person. Even if you have the best intentions, there are some things I believe you should never, ever say to a daughter who has lost her father or pretty much anyone grieving a person of significance. “He suffered so much! Now he’s in a better place.” — Witnessing my loved one’s pain was torture for me. I watched my real-life superhero in pain, and I now carry pain with me daily. Please do not remind me of his pain when you are trying to help. Don’t bring up my marital status and ask me if I have any regrets. — Just because I lost my father doesn’t mean I’m broken. I am a strong woman because I am my father’s daughter. He played a major role in making me the person I am today. Please don’t tell me to move on or ask if I’m still upset. — All this does is point out a significant amount of time has passed since my dad died. When you lose someone you love, you don’t “get over it.” Don’t tell me only the good die young. — Unless we are listening to Billy Joel, please don’t say this, ever. Please don’t tell me my father would not want me sad. — I miss my dad, and sometimes I just need to be sad. I’m not perfect, and I’m guilty of telling bereaved friends their loved one is in a better place. I had the best intentions when I uttered those words. Until I felt the gut-wrenching pain of grief, I was not capable of understanding how this sounded, and how family members might not want to hear that. I know my father is in a better place, but that does not take away my pain. Actually nothing will take away my pain, but there are things we can do to help. Here are my suggestions of what you can say to a friend instead. “Your father was a great man. I miss him too. Want to hear a story about him?” “I found this old photo of your dad. Here’s a copy for you.” “Tell me more about your dad.” “I wish I knew him.” “I wish I had the right words, but please know I’m an awesome listener.” Grief can feel like all the love we want to give, but cannot give, creating a hole in our hearts that never goes away. We all grieve differently, but one thing we often need is someone to listen. Grief is messy and complicated. There is no guidebook for the loved ones left behind. Sometimes comforting a friend is as simple as silence and a hug. Follow this journey on Love Is Infinite. Image via Thinkstock

Lisa Ingrassia

Christmas Without My Father

This Christmas is my first Christmas without my father. I now have a gaping hole in my heart that aches for not being able to shop for the perfect Christmas gift for my dad and the sound of his infectious laugh. I spent the last several holidays watching my father endure unspeakable pain, unable to eat, housebound with endless tubes and machines stuck all over his frail body. Instead of singing “Silent Night,” I silently sobbed as I helped my father use the bathroom last Christmas. My brain knew last Christmas was my father’s last Christmas, but my heart refused to accept reality. Maybe you too are experiencing a holiday without your father. Maybe it was months ago, maybe it was years ago — but there might still be moments when the pain is so intense, you cling onto the nearest form of support, and it feels as if you are being gutted. That’s my story, and if you were to come to my house, I would pour you a cup of tea or maybe eggnog for the holidays and we could cry together and comfort each other as we spoke of the unbearable loss of our real-life superheroes. This entire holiday season is just another agonizing reminder that my dad is no longer here. But as much as I would like to fast forward through the ho ho ho’s and holiday cheer, this holiday season is also an opportunity to honor my dad’s legacy. The month of December was a big deal in our home. December 1, my birthday, kicked off the holiday season in our household. Immediately following Thanksgiving, my parents raced to put up the tree and lights in time for my birthday. For as far back as I can remember, my parents made a point of throwing a grand celebration because of little ol’ me. When I was younger, my father would rush home with mini roses for me and long stem roses for my mom. I remember one particular birthday my father waking me up, kissing me on the forehead and holding a beautiful bouquet of Mercedes roses. I was only 5 years old but will never forget the magnificent bouquet of roses and the ear-to-ear smile on my father’s face as he said, “You will always be my baby, even when you meet your prince. Happy birthday, honey.” I am choosing to spend this holiday season reminiscing about when I was younger and believed my dad was a real-life, living, breathing Superman. As a child, there was nothing my father could not do; in my eyes, he was the strongest man in the world. As I grew up, he continued to prove to me that he was in fact a real-life Superman. Throughout my divorce he was my anchor, my cheerleader and my best friend. When I fell down, he was right beside me to pick me up and wipe away my tears. As an adult, I watched him bravely battle cancer, proving time and time again he was the strongest man in the word. I remember when I thought there was no better man in this world than my dad. And there still isn’t. Even in death, my father will never leave my side as long as I keep him in my heart, where he will forever stay because love never dies; it only evolves. So to you, my friend, I hope you find peace and joy as you honor your father’s legacy this season and throughout your grief journey. Follow this journey on Love Is Infinite. Image via Thinkstock Images