I’m 17 years old and my father died when I was 15 or 14 or so. I didn’t really know him very well or at least I don’t have many memories of him. He had been sick from cancer for several years so I always knew he was going to die eventually, but it still came as a surprise when he died. I was shocked, but not particularly sad.

Anyway, since then I still haven’t felt any sadness to speak of. I’ve always had certain mental issues*, but I don’t think they got any worse after he died. My mom is convinced that I’ve become “numb” to my sadness and that it’s all going to explode out of me later on in life, but I don’t see how that’s even possible.

Is it normal for me to feel almost no sadness at all after his death or is there actually some sadness that I don’t know about yet?

* I’m not sure why, but I’ve never liked to talk about them or get help for them. I also can’t find any easy-to-apply label for them like “depression” or “OCD” or “bipolar disorder.”

A. Generally speaking, most people grieve the loss of a parent. In fact, for many people it is the biggest loss of their lives.

In your situation, you did not know your father very well. If I could interview you in person I would want to know more about your relationship (or lack thereof). It would be difficult to grieve someone that you did not know well or who was not a big part of your life. That would be true even if it were one of your parents.

Another possibility is the one that your mother mentioned. It’s the idea that you are “numb” to your father’s loss. That is realistically possible. It is possible that your numbness is a psychological defense mechanism. Psychological defense mechanisms are not within your control. It may be that you are not psychologically ready or able to handle the loss of your father, at this point in your life. You may be better prepared to handle his loss later in life. If so, your numbness will disappear and feelings of sadness may emerge.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough information about the relationship between you and your father to know if your lack of grieving is appropriate. If this is something that you wish to explore more thoroughly, you should consider seeing a therapist. A therapist could gather many more details about your situation and better assess your lack of grieving. I wish you the best. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle