Struggling with Dad’s Death

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

my dad passed away two months ago after being diagnosed with COPD 5 years ago. we were not very close but i still stayed with him every weekend until last year when i wasn’t able to go down as much due to work. when it happened i was given 2 days off work then i was back to normal 10 hour shifts so i haven’t had much time to grieve. everybody has been constantly telling me i am fine and to cheer up, but i don’t feel fine. all i ever want to do is cry, but i feel like i am doing something bad by crying because i never visited him as much as i should of, there for i have no right to be hurting now that he has gone. i have self-harmed a lot in the past and can feel myself slipping back into that state but i don’t want to be that person, i just don’t understand how i am suppose to just carry on as if this has not happened.

A: Of course you want to cry. The possibility of your dad dying has been hanging over your family since you were only 14. Please give yourself more credit. You did your best to be with him as much as you could. Because he was sick, you probably spent a lot more time with your dad than most teens do. When you weren’t with him, you thought about him.

The truth is that no matter how ready we think we may be, when we love someone, it’s a shock when they are gone. Here’s the truth: It generally takes three years or more for people to move beyond a big grief. That doesn’t mean you’ll be crying all the time for the next three or more years. It does mean that every once in awhile, the feeling of sadness will come over you. It’s often kind of mysterious what sets it off. It can be an anniversary event, seeing something that reminds you of him, or doing something you used to do together. Sometimes it’s as simple as eating a chocolate that the loved person liked. It’s important to understand that these moments of sadness that seem to come out of the blue are normal. It’s also important to know that grief takes as long as it takes for each of us. We all grieve differently and on our own timelines.

Please ignore your well-meaning friends or co-workers. They don’t get it. Until they also experience a truly meaningful death, they aren’t likely to. Give yourself permission to cry now and then. And please remember that your dad wouldn’t want you to self-harm as a way to honor his memory. If you think about it, I’m sure you can think of something else you can do that would make him feel well-remembered and loved.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Dec 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Struggling with Dad’s Death. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/12/18/struggling-with-dads-death/