The death of a father is not something men generally talk about, leaving us at a loss on how to deal with it when it occurs. This article is a living and growing account from men who have lost a father or grandfather: what their dad was like, how he affected them, and how they dealt with, or are continuing to deal with, his passing. There’s no official counseling advice here, just men opening up and helping their brothers by sharing from the heart.
– If you would like to contribute, read this article then write something up and send it over. You might be surprised how much getting your thoughts out in the open will help yourself as well as others. –
Though I haven’t read it, the book Father Loss by Neil Chethik has been recommended as being very fitting to this discussion and may be of service to guys still working through this.
Michael D. – 6/18/2015
My father came to the US from Spain when he was 32. He finished med school in Spain then came to Chicago to working as a coroner. He married my mother, a nurse, and they moved to Florida.
Dad was a smart cookie – he read theoretical physics and played chess to relax. He was a great provider and took good care of the family. He was a little on the quiet side and liked his alone time. Which, as a kid and even as an adult, was sometimes hard to understand. He seemed disconnected. But there was never any doubt he loved life and his family.
Dad passed away last October. It was a slow decline that included dementia and a stroke that took away his awareness of us. Man that is a hard way to go. There were lots of times dad would just cry and we didn’t know why. I secretly thought he is crying because he knows he is losing his senses and doesn’t like it. Can you imagine going from being a genius to not knowing your children? He asked me on many visits what I did for a living – he always seemed pleased when I said I was an engineer. I guess I feel good that he was proud of me. Isn’t that want we want as men?
Dad taught me a lot of things and I am thankful. He taught me honesty. Taught me to just go to work every day without complaining! He taught me to love sailing, anisette, chorizo, a siesta at lunch at home from work, and my family.
Thanks, Pops. I miss you. Especially this Father’s Day.
Mark M. – 6/15/2015
My father died just before Christmas in 1998. At the time I lived in New England and he was in the Los Angeles area. I saw him 3 days before his death. We knew he would be gone sometime soon – there was nothing more that could be done to treat his cancer. But only 3 days after I saw him I didn’t expect. My brother reached me at work with the news. I didn’t know what to do – I think I was a bit in shock. As I told my boss about it I choked up, and she kindly encouraged me to go home.
It’s been awhile, so the details aren’t crisply clear, but I remember realizing that a corner had been turned. Though we weren’t especially close, now I could not call him even if I wanted to. I know I had moments of grief and tears, sometimes unexpectedly. The most intense of them came following his memorial service when my brother, sister & I went to clear out his storage unit. My dad was homeless, but he kept a few things in a small unit. When we opened it the smell of homelessness was everywhere. As we sorted through his belongings we found a few items worth keeping, but I realized that most of this stuff was frankly junk and was fit only for the trash bin. As this crept over me I felt a rage come up that I wasn’t sure why I was experiencing it. I had to walk away from things to try to get over it, but coming to some understanding of what that was about has taken years. Our relationship was not deep nor in many ways complicated, but that said, I’ve been working on sorting through the effect he had on me for nearly 20 years. That requires some explanation.
Because my parents divorced when I was 9, without meaning this to be melodramatic, by the time of his death I hade been dealing with his loss for 35 years. Looking back on it I realize that his death freed me to begin to heal. Just to be clear, my father was not physically abusive towards us. Rather it was his effectual absence from our lives that caused the damage in our hearts. In terms of how his death affected me or how did I deal with it, the lack of a healthy relationship with him I think it brought with it a certain confusion. It was sort of like, okay someone’s died, this is important. That someone is your father – even more important. But instead of a deep sense of grief I just seemed to feel the same confusion I’d experienced as a kid growing up.
In the time since his memorial service, I think I’ve figured out why I felt the rage I described. As best as I’ve been able to piece it all together there were two paradoxical reasons. First, I think I wanted to scream something like, “ This was my father, dammit! It’s not right that this is all there is to show for his life.” Mixed in with that there was also a sense akin to being kicked in the balls because just as my siblings and I weren’t important enough for him to stand by his wedding vows earlier, neither were we important enough to have driven him to do more with his life such that he might have had an inheritance to pass along to us. On this second point I want to clarify that the issue isn’t a financial one. Rather it’s about the message an inheritance sends to the recipient – you were important enough to me that I worked hard to have something to give you to help you when I’m gone.
I hope that helps someone. It’s not especially well composed. It’s kind of untidy, in fact – sort of like my life has been.