It’s been two years since my father passed away from cancer, and it was the hardest time that I have ever experienced in my life. At 24, I was completely lost, unable to express what had just happened to my family, and refused to allow the process of healing begin by closing myself off from everyone around me.

For My Father | Grease & Glamour | Pisa, Italy

In November of 2013, my younger sister noticed a bald spot the size of a dime in the back of my head. A month later, that bald spot had tripled in size, and another dime-sized spot had formed at the top of my head. Within three months, I had seven bald spots all over my head, and the very first one that I had found (originally the size of a dime) had grown over five inches in diameter.

That was the moment that I realized that my father’s death wasn’t just affecting me mentally, emotionally or spiritually. It was also affecting me physically and I absolutely had to make a change in my life.

Dealing with death is a process – one that may very well continue until my later years in life, and one that is constantly evolving. I took a moment to reflect on the past two years (My father passed on August 24th, 2012) – here are a few things that I’ve learned about dealing with death during that time.

1. Realize that everyone deals with death differently.

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My brother is younger by me by only three years, and the way he processed the death was completely different than mine. Yet he was the only one that knew exactly what I had been through, from the time that my father got diagnosed up until his death. I often tried to compare my situation with those of others – sometimes just to measure my level of grief to gauge if I was overreacting, or set a potential expiration date of when the pain I was feeling would go away. Was it okay that I was crying myself to sleep every single night a year and a half later?

I’ve realized that everyone processes death in a different way. Knowing this means that you don’t have to second-guess your thoughts, feelings and actions. This is your personal journey, and you’re allowed to feel, think, say or do whatever it is that you need to heal.

2. Open up and talk about it, but only when you’re ready.

Although I appreciated the messages, emails and voicemails from friends saying “sorry for your loss” and telling me to let them know if I needed anything, every message I received was also a stinging reminder that it had happened. I was in denial, and didn’t want to face the fact that it had happened – I hated checking my phone only to see constant reminders of my father’s death. I thus closed myself off from everyone I knew. I didn’t talk about it. I internalized all of that pain to wake up, put a plastic smile on my face and go on about my life, going through the motions and never truly processing the event.

Opening up about my feelings allowed me to start the healing process. It took me over a year and a half, but it was on my own time, and when I was ready to open up, I did. I completely threw up everything I had been feeling while my father was sick with cancer on a blog postwhile on a bus from New York to Virginia Beach to go visit him. After he passed, I took a lifesize cutout of him with me all across Europe and accidentally told his story to the world through a photography project.

Whether it’s to a parent, best friend, sibling, professional therapist, counselor or complete stranger, opening up about death does not mean you are weak – it means you’re strong enough to be honest with the world, but most importantly yourself.

3. Let yourself be vulnerable.

For My Father - Dad Travels the World - Photographer Jinna Yang

“Jinna, stop crying. Be strong for your family.” – This is all I’d ever hear from cousins, aunts, uncles and/or friends. So you know what I did? I pretended like everything was okay because I didn’t want to appear weak and vulnerable to my mom or brother. I couldn’t make them worry about me. I couldn’t cause them more pain or anxiety by letting them know I was in the midst of an extended marathon of an emotional breakdown.

And you know what happened?

I kept everything inside and never showed them how f-cked up I was, consequently building an emotional dungeon around me. I didn’t even give them a chance to be there for me, and that only started a chain reaction. Supporting your loved ones is about give and take. When you let yourself be vulnerable, you invite others to be vulnerable around you. One day when you’re feeling like complete sh-t, they’ll be there for you. Then when they have a day when they feel like complete sh-t, they’ll come to you and you’ll be there for them. Close yourself off and you’ll always feel alone, and that’s not how it should be.

4. Allow your friends to be there for you.

Let your friends be there for you.

I had always been the person to feel uncomfortable asking for things from my friends. If I needed something, I was hesitant to ask anyone. Even though all I wanted was for someone to listen while I vented about my frustrations and pain, I never picked up the phone and called my friends. I didn’t answer when they called. I went into my closet, closed the door, turned off the lights, and cried until I passed out from a migraine. This happened every single day for eight months.

One day, my good friend Sherri sent me a text message right in the middle of my fit. I responded back to her for the first time in weeks, and aired out everything I had felt at the exact moment. It was the first time I had allowed my friend to be there for me, even if it were only sending text messages back and forth.

Since then, I’ve slowly reconnected with my friends, and whenever I’m having an issue I allow my friends to be there for me by opening up to them. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve got people in your life that will have your back – no matter what it is that you’re going through, but you’ll never know that unless you let them in.

5. Know that you’re allowed to be f-cked up.

When my father passed and my family struggled, I was more lost than I had ever been in my entire life. No one could answer my questions, I thought I would never get closure, and I lost all hope in my future. A year and a half later, I was still asking myself the same questions over and over again: Why did I still feel so much pain? When am I going to get over this? Why can’t I just get back to “normal?”

It wasn’t until I realized that I was never supposed to go back to normal that I took back control of my life.

You’re allowed to be completely f-cked up. This is not only the hardest thing that you’ve ever been through, it is also the hardest thing that you will ever go through. And that should bring you some form of peace, knowing that anything else that’s thrown your way will be nothing compared to what you went through with the loss of your loved one.

Dealing with the death of my father changed me forever, and the second I accepted that was the second I found the strength to live the life I had always dreamed of. Don’t ever be ashamed of your past, don’t ever forget that it’s what makes you beautiful, and don’t ever give up.

6. Put down the drink.

Wine | Grease & Glamour

A year ago I was in my bed at 2 o’clock on an afternoon weekday staring at the ceiling for hours with half-finished bottle of vodka in my right hand. All I could do was cry, and all I wanted was a drink to mask the pain. Alcohol or drugs – they make you temporarily numb to the pain you’re feeling, but spending your time masking the pain is only pushing back the healing process.

Put the drink down, and pick up the phone. Call a friend, or …

7. Book a ticket to a place you’ve never been.

Colosseum, Rome | Travel | Grease & Glamour

When you’re grieving, it feels like nothing else is happening in the world, and all you seem to do is focus on the negativity that’s happening around you.

You forget that the world is filled with beautiful, positive, inspiring things because you’re in your own immediate environment, which at the moment – kinda sucks.

Traveling helped heal me – actually, it saved my life. It opened up my eyes, expanded my perspective and inspired me to continue to fight to find happiness (READ: 10 Ways Travel Changed My Life Forever).

Getting out of your immediate environment to experience a new place reminds you that life is worth living – that the world is worth exploring.

8. Do what you love.

IMG_2884 copy

Losing a loved one is a painful reminder that life is way. too. short. And that loved one would want nothing more than for you to be happy – not the watered-down, half smile, day-to-day getting by content happy, but truly happy.

People used to tell me, “Keep yourself busy.” I agree, but don’t keep yourself busy doing something that doesn’t make you happy. I went to a job every single day to keep myself busy, but it only made me more miserable. It didn’t make the time go by faster – it made each day seem more and more meaningless.

Keep yourself busy by taking the time to figure out what it is that you love. Set goals and build a plan to make your dreams become a reality.

Is this not the perfect time for you to live with purpose? To motivate yourself, embrace your newfound strength and take a chance to wake up every morning grateful? What makes you happy? Focusing your energy to go after a dream is a positive way to give back to yourself, for yourself. Because you DESERVE IT.

9. Cherish the memories of your loved one.

For My Father | Grease & Glamour
There was a time when I couldn’t focus on anything other than the sight of my father in the hospital bed. I closed my eyes at night and I didn’t see his smiling, loving demeanor, or hear him laughing at his (mostly) corny jokes – all I saw was him in the hospital bed right before his last moments. It broke my heart every single day, so I tried to forget.

I was so wrapped up in the idea of his death that I didn’t give myself a chance to celebrate his life. I couldn’t even cherish the memories we had during his time in the world because I filled my mind with every facet of his death.

How selfish was I to overlook 24 full years of his life and push all of those wonderful memories away for two measly hours?

I realized that my father will never truly be gone. He is still here with me in spirit. Yeah, yeah, but what does that even mean?

My father taught me how to love selflessly – he sacrificed his life for our family, and he will live on through me. His legacy will continue through my work, and because of him I will know how to love my family selflessly – the way he loved us. He was and always will be my motivation to fight through struggles, work hard, act without fear, smile through the pain, to dream bigger and make those dreams come true.

Celebrate their lives, don’t focus on their death. Cherish the memories, continue their legacies. They’re never truly gone – they are always here with us in spirit, and be grateful for the opportunity to learn from and experience life with them.

10. Give yourself time to heal.


There’s no magical, invisible wall clock that’s ticking, pressuring you to get over and “deal with” your loved one’s passing. There’s no one telling you that you need to fly past the ‘angry’ or ‘confused’ stage by next week, month or even year. You’re allowed to take as much time as you need to heal.

Don’t think that you have to get back to “normal” – that will never happen, and it’s a damn good thing. The pain you feel when you miss them is never going to go away, but that’s okay. Because you’re stronger than you have ever been in your life, and you’re capable of doing things that you were never capable of doing before.

You are not expected to be perfect. Your struggles build your character. Your experiences make you unique. You are intricate, complicated, seasoned and beautiful. Don’t ever be ashamed of your past. Just remember that the decision to start the healing process is entirely up to you. So when you’re ready, get out there and take a chance on yourself to find peace past the pain.

Thank you so much for reading this post and for sharing your stories with me. You all inspire me more than you will ever know. Follow me on instagram for my day-to-day thoughts and photos: @projectinspo.

With love,


47 COMMENTS ON "10 Things I Learned While Dealing With the Death of a Loved One"


2 years 2 months ago
What you have written here is so beautiful (she says with tears in her eyes). I’ve never really gotten emotional over a blog post before. I’m sorry for your loss, and although I’d like to say ‘I know how difficult it must be for you’, the truth is that I don’t. Like you said, everyone deals with death differently, especially of someone so close to you. I am taking this moment to appreciate my parents more right now because I can only imagine how tough everything must’ve been. I’m glad you opened up and found your way out of this… READ MORE »
2 years 2 months ago

Ayesha, you are wonderful and so kind. Thank you for your comment. It’s so amazing to hear that you are taking the moment to appreciate having your wonderful family because family means the world! I know they are so proud of you! :):) sending you guys so much love! ♡

2 years 2 months ago

this post is beautiful and necessary. thank you.

2 years 2 months ago

Thanks for reading Corey!

Queenie Lee
2 years 2 months ago

Thank you so much for sharing this. Such beautiful, constructive advice xx

2 years 2 months ago

Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment Queenie!

2 years 2 months ago
I’m not even sure why I got this post… But, I just lost my husband very unexpectedly. We would have been married for 45 years, had he made it to August 2nd. He died July 20th. I read your post and hope that I can go on with my life in a positive way, as you have. I have never lived alone! I lived with my family through high school, had roommates in college, then got married! I need to let others help, but it is difficult to share these feelings. Adjusting to this stage of life will not be… READ MORE »
2 years 2 months ago
I want to firstly thank you for being strong enough to open up to me and tell me your story, PGBeav! I’m so sorry for your loss and I can only imagine how difficult this time must be for you. How shocking and confusing and yes it is difficult to open up about it especially (in my case) to those closest to me. When my father passed I went through a stage that I resented some of my friends because I felt like I was being punished, and I couldn’t understand why I was the only one going through this.… READ MORE »
2 years 2 months ago

This is beautifully written. I just lost my father to cancer a few months ago. Your lessons are powerful and a poignant reminder of how I can grieve and mourn his loss. Thank you!


Abra b
2 years 2 months ago

Thank you for your post. My Dad died Aug. 3rd, somehow I signed up for this and accidentally happened upon your blog. I still can’t believe he’s really gone, and I know I have a long road ahead. Thank you. Your honesty makes me feel less isolated in the world.

2 years 1 month ago

I’m sorry to hear about your Dad. Sending love your way x x

2 years 1 month ago

Waaaaw you have amazing
pictures. In case you are interested in belts, check out

2 years 1 month ago

This is a beautiful and wonderfully written post. I lost my father 7 years ago and I really struggled with #4 because I felt like none of my friends had any idea of what I was going through, and even though they totally didn’t, I finally realized that someone doesn’t need to share your experience to help you through it. I recently discovered your blog and really admire the courage and honestly you’ve shown. Keep up the amazing work!

2 years 1 month ago

This was a great article. Easy to read and understand and helpful, too. Hope you feel better everyday.

2 years 1 month ago

I’m crying. That’s really evocative what you have written. Thank you!
PS I’m from Poland, so be understanding for my English. I’m still learning (I’m 17).

You are amazing, your blog is amazing! Once again- thanks!

2 years 1 month ago
Such a beautiful post! I lost my Aunty to cancer nearly three years ago and it’s still something I struggle to deal with. Like, how can she actually be gone? That’s a question that will pop into my head every now and then. At 53, she was far too young to pass away. It was also around the same time a friend of my sisters, only 27, committed suicide, so it was a horrific time. I wish I had read this back then, so much of it makes sense – drinking WILL NOT help, yet at the time that’s all… READ MORE »
2 years 1 month ago
Dear Jinna I am 68 and lost my Dad 43 years ago and still can cry when I see my son and grandchildren knowing that Dad would lovd to have shared with me. My daughter was 3 and the love they shared was just beautiful to see. She was so lost and angry that her Georgie had not taken her. My Mum wanted to talk about Dad but I didn’t want to listen, same with friends. It is the hardest thing you will go through. My Mum died in 2012 aged nearly 95 and I accepted that better as I… READ MORE »
Susan Vallem Emmons
2 years 15 days ago

I just read this post today, and it brought tears to my eyes. I lost my daughter in January 2010 from cancer, at your age, and I miss her every day since. What you have written is right on, true feelings, though my journey has lasted 4 and half years, and I am just coming out of the mist. I’m proud of you for sharing your journey, it will help a lot of people. I love your pictures too, keep those memories close to your heart. Hugs young one, you will go far.

2 years 14 days ago
Thank you for such a beautiful post. I found it through Huffington Post Women. I lost my aunt who I had grown up with like a sister very unexpectedly in 2007, my life just spiralled out of control. I wish I had let my family and friends in, instead of trying to be normal and I wish I’d put the bottle down. As I began to emerge from all the desperation I would emotionally beat myself up about how stupid and selfish I’d been and all the time I had wasted. But now I just let it be, I realise… READ MORE »
Lynn Schauer
2 years 13 days ago
i am so glad i read this. one of my friends shared it on my facebook wall. i lost my dad to cancer almost two years ago now…and i feel very lost. every day. im always angry. and reading your post, going through almost exactly the same things you did and are going through…the terrible shit job day in and day out, drinking to ‘make myself forget and be happy’, closing myself off from friends…. but reading this has made me feel a little more at ease. and knowing that and reading your words, even though i will never go… READ MORE »
2 years 11 days ago

I too am still waking crying and going to be crying. It’s been two years and people do not understand. It seems that you have one year to “grieve” and that date expires. Enjoyed this entire story.

2 years 11 days ago

Kay, I am so sorry. Grief doesn’t have an expiry date…you should do what works for you, you will heal naturally but you have to hurt first…and its ok to be hurt.
Sending prayers and love your way x

2 years 9 days ago

I discovered your wonderful blog by chance on Bloglovin Weekly and it’s been an absolute pleasure to read it and share your journey. I admire your honesty and wisdom. Your ability to state the obvious and the not so obvious in such an inspiring and humble way is admirable. Your photographs are beautiful.
I look forward to following your blog and your journey as both unfold in the future.
Kia kaha

1 year 9 months ago
hello your story totched me. im not very good at reading it takes me so long to read something so so lost inside its been 3 years the hardest 3 years losing my dad 27 nov 2011 im 46 now dad was my world to me i never left home just me and my dad . my dad had cancer from 2006 he knew he had it and over the years he never was sad allways kept a smile on his face im trying to write but keep holding it inside of me to much i want the pain to… READ MORE »
1 year 8 months ago
Thank you for sharing this. I stumbled upon your blog and I’m so glad that I did. My dad was diagnosed with cancer in December, and since then, I’ve made arrangements, packed my bags and moved from LA to where my parents currently live. We’ve been told he doesn’t have much time left and I know he hasn’t gone yet, but I still feel confused and sad. I have only told a few friends because I just don’t know what to say. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but it’s still very inspiring to read this and know that… READ MORE »
1 year 8 months ago

Thank You so much for this read. It helped me so much . I’m 26 and just lost my dad 3 1/2 weeks ago, I feel bipolar, shocked like i’m in alternate reality. I just got back to my life in NYC and it feels bizarre such a huge void. Your words have brought so much comfort, its such a profound pain that I feel I will never recover from but now I know its okay and time will make things better. xo

Trisha Ilarde
1 year 8 months ago
I stumbled upon this post because of my grief. My older brother just passed away because of brain aneurysm last Jan 12 and life has been too painful ever since. He had a previous brain aneurysm last 2003 but he survived it. This time, it was a bigger vein that popped 🙁 I can totally relate to all that you went through – I am currently going through it now. Like you, I can’t erase the memory of my brother in the hospital bed, and I feel so bad for not being able to help him 🙁 he is my… READ MORE »
Trisha Ilarde
1 year 8 months ago
I stumbled upon this post because of my grief. My older brother just passed away because of brain aneurysm last Jan 12 and life has been too painful ever since. He had a previous brain aneurysm last 2003 but he survived it. This time, it was a bigger vein that popped 🙁 I can totally relate to all that you went through – I am currently going through it now. Like you, I can’t erase the memory of my brother in the hospital bed, and I feel so bad for not being able to help him 🙁 he is my… READ MORE »
1 year 8 months ago
It’s 20 days since my Mum died. I say that, I sob, and wail and scream, but I don’t believe it. I saw her in the funeral home today. That’s some pretty weird shit, right? I saw her a couple of hours after she died, she looked like Mum. Today, well yeah. I thought seeing her in a coffin, properly dead, would make it hit home, but it hasn’t. I’m quite happy to spend forever pretending it hasn’t happened ta very much. Especially as the justified guilt I have is making it hard to breathe. What you have written is… READ MORE »
1 year 6 months ago
I´m 26 now and cant tell you how much I can connect to you and your story. I lost my father more than five years ago and sometimes I still just burst out in tears thinking of him. He always wanted to travel just like yours and he never managed visiting these places he was longing for. I know from our talks that he regreted some more choices in his life, because he listend too much to other peoples opinions and what society expected of him. The thought, that he might have died in regret, drives me mad. Until now… READ MORE »
1 year 4 months ago

thank you for sharing. my dad died a year ago today.

1 year 4 months ago

I lost my father to cancer two weeks ago and I cannot still believe this is happening. We found out about the cancer two months ago and now he gone. The fact I will never see him again kills me I feel that part of me is gone.

Andy Olsen
1 year 3 months ago

Thank you for this and sharing your heart. My Dad died on April 23rd. I miss him daily. He and my Mom were going to celebrate 50 years in August. I could not agree more that he lives on through me and my brother and sister. God bless you.

1 year 3 months ago

Hi Jinna. Though your blog was posted a year ago, your thoughts and emotions vividly depict what I am feeling at the moment. My father passed away just 3 months ago, and I can’t seem to focus on anything other than remembering the sad moments towards his death. I am messed up now but I know I will eventually get up. Thank you, Jinna. You are an inspiration how you dealt with your loss. — Eunice

Lorna Canistri
1 year 3 months ago
Thank you Jinna; this piece resonates with me SO much. I lost my father due to metastatic stomach cancer in March 2015 and have been, and continue to be, devastated. We had only known of his diagnosis 2-3 weeks before his death and never envisaged that he would pass away so rapidly (due to various complications of his condition). I cannot imagine ever feeling different to how I feel now – that part of my identity is missing and that life is changed forever. Some weeks I feel relatively ‘ok’ yet other weeks – like this one – I’m back… READ MORE »
Debbie Adame (A Dame's Gifts)
1 year 2 months ago

Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts. I lost my dad last month, the day before Father’s Day. It has been tough trying to get myself into a new “normal”. Your article is such an inspiration. I am going to share this with my mom.

Andrew Yirenkyi
1 year 2 months ago

Thank You for your article. I lost my Mother to cancer two and a half years ago and its by far the worst pain i have ever known. But reading your article has helped me realize that somebody fully understands what im going through. i haven’t really spoke to anyone regarding my feelings because i just think no one understands not even my family. Your article has helped me realize that i need to live for my mum and honor her legacy the best way i can and keep my head up until things come good. Thank You so much.

1 year 1 month ago

i lost my uncle he died suicide and a long time ago my dad died so both of them o my gosh its just shocking

11 months 4 days ago

Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for
your site. You have some really great posts and I think I would be a good asset.
If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back
to mine. Please shoot me an email if interested. Regards!

11 months 3 days ago

Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It iin truth was a
entertainment account it. Glance advanced to more added agreeable from you!
However, how could we keep iin touch?

11 months 3 days ago

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10 months 9 days ago
This is a wonderful post. I also lost my father to terminal cancer a little over four years ago. I had a different experience from yours in terms of your grief timeline. I spent so much time trying to handle damage control with my mother’s grief for several years following my father’s death that I didn’t deal with my own. I got married last year, and moved to the UK and it was only then (over three years later) that I started to feel the weight of my father’s death crushing me. I was able to work through it, and… READ MORE »
8 months 20 days ago
Like most of the people here, my dad had to say goodbye to his loved ones cause of stage 4 cancer. The sad realizations comes in waves, and when it does it feels like you’re suffocating. It sucks, what can I say. The majority of what I’ve found online unfortunately say it doesn’t go away, but hey at least take comfort that they’ll always occupy a special little corner in your heart. When the fateful time comes, we’ll get the opportunity to reunite with them. Love transcends time and space as we know it, so stay strong till you’re back… READ MORE »
6 months 18 days ago
I feel this so hard. My mom died from cancer a little over 5 years ago, when I was 19, and I had no one to turn to and was horribly isolated and became very frequently and severely ill. (I think the extreme isolation is partly just East Asian culture.) I wound up in grad school right after, when what I really wanted was to travel and do new things and grieve in intentional isolation. And it wasn’t even grad school for something I enjoyed so much as something I felt obligated to do. I have spent the last 5+… READ MORE »
6 months 12 days ago
First of all, thank you for putting together this post. After losing my father to Cancer around 2 years back, it is one of those nights when you sit there and wonder when is this pain going to subside or if it’s ever going to be okay? And I randomly find this post. This aptly captures the remorse, anger, helplessness, loneliness that anyone who has lost a parent feels. Yet, it gives immense courage and hope to anyone who feels lost and abnormal. A big thank you for pening down these emotions and experiences beautifully when a lot of us… READ MORE »
Karen Fleischman
5 months 5 hours ago
Thank you for such a heart felt post.After losing my younger sister to a aneurysm I was devastated.My family is British and have the stiff upper lip ,Don,t talk about it and get over it attitude .My friends were very supportive in the beginning but where not use to seeing me fall apart all the time and I felt like they started avoiding me.I also deal with an enormous guilt of how I wish I could of been a better sister and visited her more and hung out and spent more quality time. I now realize that life is short… READ MORE »
Joe Caruthers
1 month 11 days ago
I want to thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for this post and the amazing words of wisdom that you have shared. I’m very sorry for your loss, even MORE now that I have lost my father in a fatal car accident a little more than a month ago. That man was my Rock, my Soul, and half of my existence! I spent the last 37 years soaking up his vast amount of wisdom, gaining speed and strength so that I can one day work as hard as he did, and condition my heart so that… READ MORE »