Question: How do you cope with losing your Dad suddenly?
I remember the day before my dad died. We were hanging out at the dining table, talking, laughing and reminiscing about the past. My dad was so very much alive, as alive as I am right now.
I often wonder how his life, which was filled with plans end so abruptly. It initially felt impossible that a heart full of love could simply just stop beating, but it somehow did.
The loss of my Dad left me feeling adrift and exposed to the forces of nature. Knowing that someone, who loved me unconditionally, was no longer around left me distraught. I was an adult before my dad died, I had a baby, a career and a mortgage I had to pay. But I now realize that part of me hasn’t really grown up because I had the protection of my dad’s love.
Coping with your Dad’s sudden death isn’t entirely impossible. You will think about your dad all the time. Sometimes it brings you to tears, while other times, it gives you the strength to move forward in life.
If you’re the eldest in your family, you’ll need to take initiative to settle your dad’s funeral, organize occasional reunions with the family, take care of your widowed mother, etc.
Not Being Able To Experience Joy
The first few months after your dad’s death will be tough. You may not be able to experience joy and even if you do, you’ll feel extremely guilty for it. I used to question myself “what kind of daughter am I, enjoying myself and being happy when my dad just passed away”.
It took me some time to realize that if my dad knew how much pain I was in whenever I enjoyed myself, he would be upset and unhappy. I am sure he would rather I stay happy and move on with my life.
Moving on with life, doesn’t mean forgetting him. And the truth is, that can’t happen. You’ll never forget him. He is that angel who is always by your side, watching over your.
Learn To Take Care Of Your Own Well-Being
Losing a dad usually brings about significant impact in your daily life. Your state of mind and mood can change rapidly without any warning. You may also experience sleep problems, less appetite or even alcohol / drug abuse. At times, you may also find it hard to work or take care of the household. There will also be times where you’ll feel overwhelmed – particularly during situations where you have to handle family matters alone.
For some people, they find comfort in the distraction of work. They try to avoid facing reality by forcing themselves back to work even before they feel ready. They throw themselves into work, taking on more than they can handle to avoid experiencing the painful emotions that comes with the loss of a father. While it might seem difficult to dedicate time for self-care, prioritizing your health becomes more important as you recover from the loss. Finding a balance is key, some distraction can be healthy, but avoiding reality completely isn’t going to help.
Here are some tips you should be mindful of:
- Getting enough sleep: Try setting aside at least 7 hours of uninterrupted rest each night
- Avoid skipping your meals: If you don’t have the appetite to finish a proper meal, make sure you graze on nutritious snacks throughout the day
- Stay hydrated: Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily
- Stay active: There are many ways to stay active. Whether it’s a daily evening walk or hot yoga classes, these activities help with mood elevation
- Learn to Reset: Rest and recharge by engaging in your hobbies, it can be as simple as gardening, painting or even reading
- Explore mindfulness: Meditating or keeping a grief journal can help your process your emotions
- Get professional help: Speaking to a healthcare provider can help with grief recovery
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Lessons That I’ve Learnt After Losing My Dad Suddenly
Losing a dad is one of the most heart wrenching events in life. Your grief will overwhelm you. If you squirrel it away, it will rot out your guts.
Don’t run from it. Dive into it headfirst. Getting over this kind of loss is an ongoing process, forever.
Here are some tips that have helped me so far.
- Family comes first
- Allow yourself to feel the sadness
- Seeking professional help
- Penning down thoughts and feelings
- Reliving memory with Dad
- Reflecting on life
Family Comes First
The best thing you can do for yourself is to prioritize your family first. If you’re the eldest in your family, the center of attention will be on you after your dad dies. But do remember your whole family experience this loss too. Stay connected with them. Share stories about dad and talk about how you feel.
Personally, I found comfort in making myself available for mom, who needed more support than I do. During the funeral preparation, I was shocked at the amount of work that needed to be done – funeral arrangements, changing of account, execution of dad’s will, etc. I was glad that I didn’t let my mom handle it alone.
When you lose a dad, you will realize that you have no control over anything in life. Keeping yourself busy by helping out with the funeral arrangements, writing a eulogy, etc. is a healthy distraction away from all the painful emotions.
Allow Yourself To Feel Sadness
It is a natural inclination to wall off your emotions inside you. You’ll feel the need to be tough. Or maybe, it’s just too painful to deal with that you’re trying to not talk about it to avoid the pain. The reality is that grief is only too painful if you try to deal with it alone.
Allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, depression and guilt as all these are normal parts of a grieving process. Experience them and express them. The important part about dealing with trauma is to move the pain out of your system. While the unfortunate has happened to you, but you’re not alone.
All of us will experience the loss of a father at some point in our lives. What this means is that there will be people who have felt or are feeling a similar loss to yours. Join a grief support group and reach out to others who have had similar loss with you. By sharing your experience with death and loss, you’ll make others feel better while they do the same for you. It is a powerful feeling.
Getting Professional Help
Sitting down to speak to a professional therapist as soon as things in your family have calmed down might be a good idea. I found that speaking to a therapist helped me articulate my grief and allowed me to carry on with life without feeling guilty. Give yourself a chance to recover even if you want to only attend a few sessions, or even if you don’t think you need it. By giving yourself a neutral space to experience grief, you’ll be able to learn more about yourself in the process.
The beautiful thing about speaking to a therapist is that they have no stakes in the outcome of the sessions. You are allowed to say whatever you want, whether if it’s in a room or via an online session.
You may even find yourself saying things that were buried deep in your heart that you weren’t even aware of. This awareness is a form of cleansing that will help you move forward in life.
Pen Down Your Thoughts And Feelings
While it is important to share your feelings with others, no one will truly understand how you feel except yourself. As you grieve your dad’s passing, you’ll definitely encounter some emotions that will surprise or frighten you.
At times, you may feel guilty about these emotions. You may have regrets about how you approached your relationship with dad. There could possibly be issues or problems in the relationship that were unacknowledged. These feelings can be dangerous but there is no reason not to address them. Instead of sharing these thoughts and feelings with others, explore them in a private setting. Keeping a journal and penning down your deepest thoughts helps you understand your feelings rationally.
Reliving Your Memory of Dad
Don’t avoid thinking about your dad. When I was setting up my dad’s funeral, my mom and I would spend hours going through old photos. We would talk and reminisce about the past, these helped us bond and appreciate life.
The truth is we’re all going to die. Death is a sad episode because it ends all the goodness that came before that. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you dwell on your losses and ignore everything that made the relationship worthwhile. The best way to honor and remember your dad is to think of them regularly. A good idea may be to get together with the family on dad’s birthday or death anniversary doing the things he loved.
Using this Chance To Reflect On Life
You’re going to hear this a lot, but life is short. Life will seem even shorter after the death of a parent. Over time, you’ll start to feel more comfortable with your grief. But you’ll realize that it’ll never feel okay. You’ll always feel like something important has been taken away from you. The best way to fill that void is to start living life to the fullest. Use this brush with death to create whatever inertia you need to take the next step forward in your life.