What would you do if you learned your beloved father unexpectedly collapsed in his sister’s bathroom? What would you do if he spent a week in coma three weeks before your scheduled nuptials? Beatrice Dorcena, a patient services manager from Pennsylvania recently experienced all of the above. Just three weeks before her scheduled Memorial Day 2012 wedding, not only did she learn her father collapsed, but after a week of praying for his recovery, was forced to accept she’d have to bury him after he went brain dead.
She went from finalizing details on her wedding, to buying funeral clothes and writing a eulogy. However, with the unwavering strength of her mother, Beatrice found the resolve to continue and marry her fiancé, Michel. In an intimate conversation with Assistant Editorial Contributor, Laura, Beatrice reveals what it takes to accept the death of a loved one while wedding planning, how not to get labeled selfish and where brides can find the strength to carry on with one of the most important milestones in life. Check out the conversation below:
Laura: What was the first thing that ran through your mind when you learned your father collapsed?
Beatrice: “I was shocked. My mother, who’d been trying to reach me, finally got me on my fiancé’s cell phone and I immediately knew something was wrong. When she told me my father had collapsed at my aunt’s, I thought about the stroke he’d already had and knew it wasn’t going to be good. That very night my fiancé and I drove straight from [Philadelphia] to New York. In tears the entire ride, my fiancé kept trying to comfort me, but I just knew everything wasn’t going to be alright.”
Laura: Wedding planning tends to be stressful at some point for most brides, what was your experience like and how much did your father contribute to the process?
Beatrice: “I’ve planned many weddings before, including both of my sisters, so I was ready. But my dad never went a day without asking me what needed to be done. We spoke daily and he would always ask if I’d handled the spiritual aspects like taking care of the church location, or had we spoken to the priest for classes and licensing. He was very supportive and would always remind me to pray about everything.”
Laura: At what point did you realize things were not changing for the better and that you still had a wedding to plan?
Beatrice: “I had stopped dealing with the wedding entirely. I canceled fitting appointments and even put on my Facebook status that if anyone from the bridal party needed help, they should talk to my fiancé. I wanted time with my dad [because] doctors had informed us that he was going brain dead and there wasn’t much else that could be done. But when I got a call from the [reception] venue, I realized I had to get back to reality. Decisions had to be made.”
Laura: And just how did you come to that decision to continue on? Did you feel any emotional conflict?
Beatrice: “My mom was my greatest strength. She encouraged me to realize that my dad only wanted my happiness. His life was based on his children’s happiness. So getting married was completing my joy and she reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone. Of course I initially felt selfish thinking about planning this while my dad was fighting for his life. At one point I went back into planner mode and mapped out how I would get dressed the morning of my wedding and go to the hospital so he could feel my dress and I could get his final blessing. In my mind, I wanted him to feel like he was still a part of the big day.”
Laura: How can other brides avoid feeling guilty or being labeled selfish for making the decision to carry on with a wedding in the midst of such a tragedy?
Beatrice: “People may call you selfish, but the thing to remember is your loved one will love you beyond death. Your loved one would want you to carry on and make them proud as if they were still alive. You grieve as much as you need to, but then you get up and ask God for as much strength as you need to carry on. I know my dad was with me every step of the way and I wanted to make him proud.”
Laura: Sometimes when there’s so much going on, it can help soothe the pain of losing a loved one, but how can brides and (grooms) handle the emotional circumstances once the festivities stop?
Beatrice: “Don’t fight any emotion. Accept each as they come. I remember being on my honeymoon and telling my husband how lonely and sad I felt. I remember looking up at the stars and asking my dad if he was still around. You will feel moments of intense sadness but the key is to get through them. My husband told me something very important, as he has lost his dad also. He said ‘you never get over it; you adjust to the loss with time.’ So I’d say you have to find a way to adjust and my way is prayer. I’ve never stopped praying.”