Difficulties You'll Face When You Lose a Parent

Monday, 4 May 2015
Today has been the first day in a long time I’ve cried because I miss my dad. Most days I can keep it together, but some days, it genuinely sucks. I hate the feeling that three years later I have to question whether my reactions to certain things are “normal” grief responses. I may be alone in this situation. I may over analyse my feelings because of my psych background. But what if I’m not alone? What if others fear the same thing? Losing a parent SUCKS! I haven't always coped with my grief in the healthiest of ways. Maybe others have gone through similar situations/feelings as me. I decided to share the ways my father's life has negatively impacted me:

  • Everything He Will Miss: This is probably the most obvious. There’s weddings, graduations, the birth of grandkids, moves, promotions, etc. The list could go on forever. The first number I dialled when I decided to move to Australia was my dad's old cell number. Right before hitting dial it hit me if someone did answer it wouldn’t be him. This is sometimes the hardest concept to wrap my head around. How is it that a man, whom I’d never known a day of my life without, will miss so much? Special events, such as holidays, are also still hard. People are really great about keeping in touch the first couple weeks after a death. Slowly, the world goes back to their normal lives and slowly, so did I. But there are still times that hit you like a semi truck. Especially when I started taking over for holiday cooking or decorating. Christmas this year was harder than I expected. I did ok the last two years but being away from all my family and not having my "Twas the Night Before Christmas" book my dad made as a joke one year, made the holidays rough. 

  • The Random Times: You expect holidays, birthdays, and the anniversary of the death to be painful but no one prepares you for the random times you’ll be overcome with sadness, anger, etc. It happens at the most random times, in the most random places, and normally, with minimal triggers. When I first moved to AUS, I was sitting on the tram and BAM! I started balling hysterically because I realised I couldn't share this with my dad. It gets better with time, but I’m not sure it's something that entirely goes away.

  • Fear of Loss: After my dad had passed away, I developed an extreme fear of loss. This manifested itself in some ways. Before his death, I was in a relationship that had reached its end point. About the time I was going to end it, he passed away. I decided I would wait to terminate the relationship until after the New Year because I couldn't deal with any more loss (I lost my grandma and dad within 45 days of one another). How messed up is that statement? I was willing to stay in a relationship I knew wasn’t functional for the sheer fact that I was afraid of loss. Over the last 3 years, there have been other situations where similar proceedings have followed. It’s happened with friendships, school, and minuscule day-to-day functions. I still struggle with this one a bit, but I’ve come a long way!

  • Isolation: I became very isolated after my father's death. I do not mean that I isolated myself from others but that I became insanely focused on what I wanted. I did not care about how my actions would affect anyone else as long as at that time, it protected my sanity. I did this in some ways, but mainly it was just completely shutting down. It became very challenging to correct this maladaptive behaviour.

  • The Broken “Helper Gene”: This may sound completely contradictory to the previous comment but after my dad passed my “helper gene” was broken. I’ve always tried to help others. I realise I’m only human, and there are times I’ve failed miserably, but for the most part, I try to help whenever I can. After my dad passed and I got out of my selfish rut, I became overly fixated on what and how others were feeling. I often put way more effort into a situation if I thought it would save others from some sort heartache in the future. You know what the biggest problem with this is? I’m not sure I was helping for the right reasons. The few situations this happened, it just created tension between myself and the people I didn’t want hurting. I tried to maintain toxic friendships to save other friendships; I invested heaps more into my clients instead of matching the client's effort, etc. I became obsessed with the idea of making sure someone wasn’t suffering. Basically, if I couldn’t help myself, I would try and help someone else. How was this healthy? IT WASN’T!  I wasn’t working on my own grief. I was merely bypassing it for a period of time.
  • The Loss of Understanding: It isn’t a secret to those close to me that my father and I both suffer from familial hemiplegic migraines. These types of migraines basically mimic stroke symptoms along with all the other awesomeness that accompanies a migraine and is passed genetically within families. It’s incredibly difficult losing the one person who actually understands what you’re going through.  I have people in my life who try to understand and empathise, but it’s not the same. I see the worry, concern, pity, annoyance, stress, questioning, etc. in a lot of people. It’s comforting to have at least one person understand what you’re going through. That it’s real and is as much of a headache as Godzilla is a tiny lizard.

The list could truly go on forever. Every day something occurs that I think “I should call my dad” or “Dang I wish he was here so I could tell him about this story. He’d love it” or some other reason to reach out to him. I often wonder if he would be proud of my decision to move across the world. I often think back to all the times we discussed diving the Great Barrier Reef and how I really need to get up to Cairns so I can FINALLY do that. No matter how many times I tell myself that death is an inevitable part of life it still sucks. It will always suck. I’ve lost some amazing people in my life way before I was ready to have them leave. And it’s not fair. Not in the slightest. One of the only comforting thoughts I have is that those we love, never truly leave us. This may sound cliché but I’ve had too many experiences that tell me otherwise, and this is incredibly comforting.