Why Can’t I Grieve For My Dad, Is This Normal? | Feeling Numb

Why Can't I Grieve For My Dad

Why Can’t I Grieve For My Dad, Is This Normal? | Feeling Numb

Question: Why can’t I grieve for my Dad, Is it normal not to cry when your Dad dies?

Many wonder if the way they grieve is normal. When you’re not crying, you may feel that you’ve not been grieving as much as you should. The lack of tears makes you feel uncomfortable.

But the truth is, grief can be surprisingly unpredictable. You’ll feel emotions that you hadn’t expect yourself to feel. It is also important to note that your relationship with your Dad was unique, so the way you grieve his death will also be unique.

If your Dad died of a terminal illness, it is possible that you’ve already experienced what some call “anticipatory grief”.

Anticipatory grief is an emotional response to death of a person before it actually happens. During those periods, you’ve probably have accepted that your Dad’s death is inevitable.

If this has happened to you, where you’ve felt some grief before the actual death of your Dad – then this may ease your sense of loss at the time of his death, and affect the way you respond to grief.

The Calm Before The Storm

Some people feel numb after the death of a loved one, and then feel intense grief much later. These intense moments of grief is usually triggered by celebrations, anniversaries, surroundings or even people who remind you of your loved one who died.

There may also be no trigger at all, it is very hard to predict whether grief will come eventually.

I Can’t Grieve For My Dad, What Should I Do?

Grief is a very private matter and people tend to wonder how their feelings stack up and compare with others. You’ll find that sharing some of your grief experiences can help you understand what you’re going through or have been through.

You can try speaking to your friend about your Dad’s death, joining a grief support group or even seeing a grief counselor to talk about your feelings.

I found that keeping a journal helps you work through grief. We all find our own unique way to cope with the feelings that come with death. It is always important to remember that if you ever feel overwhelmed, there are people who can be there to help and understand what you’re going through.

How To Kick Start The Grieving Process After Your Father’s Death?

The finality of your Dad’s death can feel almost unbelievable. He has always been the pillar for the family, someone whose presence in your life may have never wavered.

As you grow older into adulthood, you still need your Dad’s presence and guidance for years to come. The loss of your Dad’s support, guidance and love can leave a large void, emptiness and pain in your life – something that seem impossible to heal.

Yet, everyone around you may expect you to recover from your grief quickly. Typically, its 3 days bereavement leave, with a couple of days of extra time off, then it’s back to business.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve over the loss of your Dad, but here are some strategies that can help kick start the grieving process.  

Acknowledging Your Loss

You can first start by acknowledging your loss.

Sadness is usually felt after the loss of a father, but it is also normal for other feelings to take over. You may not feel sad, and that is OKAY! In situations like this, you’re probably feeling numb or relieved that your Dad is no longer in pain.

After such a significant loss, it’s only natural to struggle or experience difficulties when it comes to grieving over your Dad.- coming to terms with this loss is never easy.

You may experience emotions like:

  • anger or frustration
  • guilt – if you haven’t been contacting your Dad frequently or not being present enough before his death
  • shock and emotional numbness (a common sign when you’re in denial)
  • confusion and disbelief
  • hopelessness or despair
  • mental health symptoms, including depression or suicidal thoughts
  • relief that they’re no longer in pain
  • Allowing others to comfort you
  • Joining grief support groups
  • Speaking to a therapist

Understand The 5 Stages of Grief

As you navigate the weeks and months following the loss of your Dad, you may experience a range of emotions and feelings. These feelings may change and evolve over time.

People tend to go through the five stages of grief, they are:

  • Denial: Denial is the 1st stage of grief.  This is when you feel like being in a state of shock or confusion surrounding the death of your Dad. A person who is stuck in this stage may tend to feel busy all the time, and continue to do what they can to avoid dealing with the loss.
  • Anger: Anger is the 2nd stage of grief. A person in this stage may feel frustration or resentment.  They get angry at the doctors for not helping their Dad, they are angry at themselves for not doing anything to help their Dad, etc.
  • Negotiation: Negotiation is the 3rd stage of grief. During this phase, a person who try negotiate with God to let his/her Dad live another day, in exchange for doing a good deed, etc.
  • Depression: Depression is the 4th stage of grief. During this stage, people may feel hopeless, sad, disappointed and overwhelmed. They may experience changes to their sleep pattern and even appetite. They may have a lack of interest in social activities and prefer to isolate themselves.
  • Acceptance: Acceptance is the last stage of grief. People in this stage of grief may feel a sense of self-compassion and courage to carry on living. After they have accepted reality for what it is. This is the phase where they start to adapt and cope with the loss of their Dad.

Share Memories Of Your Dad

Talking to family members and other loved ones around you, about what your Dad meant to you and sharing stories about him can help keep your memory of him alive.

And if you have any children, you might want to tell them stories about their grandfather or carry on family traditions that were important to you during your childhood.

While at first, it might feel painful to reminisce, but soon you may find that your grief begins to ease as the stories that you share unfolds.

If you have difficulty talking about your Dad at the moment, give yourself some time. What really helped me was to browse through old photographs of Dad while as I reminisce about the past. Alternatively, you can consider writing him a letter, expressing your grief about his passing.

I understand that not everyone have had positive memories about their Dads. And it is common to have people who avoid sharing negative memories about their Dad – especially if they have been abused, neglected or hurt in anyway. Sometimes, you may even wonder whether there’s any point to digging up old wounds.

If you have never discussed or even mentally process what happened in the past, you might actually find it harder to heal and move forward after your Dad’s death. Opening up to a therapist or someone who you can trust can help lighten your emotional burden.

Do Something In Memory of Dad

Personally, I found that doing something that honored my Dad offered some form of comfort for me. If you’re in a similar situation, you can consider:

  • creating a small home memorial with photos and mementos that belong to your Dad
  • planting Dad’s favorite tree or flower in your own backyard
  • adopting Dad’s dog (if any) or take good care of his plants
  • continuing the work that Dad found meaningful while he was still alive (eg. Volunteering at an animal shelter or doing other community service work)
  • donating to Dad’s preferred charity or organization

Forgive Dad And Letting Go Of The Past

If you just received news that your estranged Dad has passed away, you might feel lost, numb, speechless and angry. In fact, you might even feel cheated and betrayed that you missed the opportunity to address your past traumas and unresolved hurt.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always give us the solutions or answers that we seek. Many times, we just have to accept the inadequate resolutions and conclusions, however unfinished of painful the conclusions are.

While some things are truly difficult to forgive, harboring resentment only do us more harm than good.

Writing a letter to your Dad can help express your feelings that were previously left unsaid. This will help you take your first step towards processing the painful and complex feelings left after your Dad’s death. Working with a therapist can help you begin the healing of your painful past.

Allowing Others To Comfort You

Many friends and family members may not know exactly what to say or what to do, if they haven’t faced the death of a loved one. But, their presence can help you feel less alone and lonely.

While it is normal to feel the need to mourn privately, but at the same time, completely isolating yourself from the rest of the world doesn’t help! Companionship and support from those around you can help keep you from being too overwhelmed by your Dad’s passing.

Beyond proving supportive presence, your friends can also help out with meals, household chores, running errands, etc. Tell them exactly what you need help in – they will be more than happy to help.

If you want to talk about your Dad, you might want to ask if there are inclined to listening.  If you need a break from thinking about your Dad’s death, you might want to ask them to join you in activities that can take your mind of your Dad (eg. Watching a movie, hiking, yoga classes, etc.)

Consider Joining Grief Support Groups

While friends and family members may offer comfort, joining a grief support group can help fulfill a different kind of social need by connecting with others who have had similar experiences – in terms a loss of a loved one.

It isn’t uncommon to feel irritated or frustrates at friends who haven’t experienced the loss of a loved one, during their attempt to console you or express messages of concerns. No matter how kind or well intentioned their words and efforts are, they just simply don’t understand what you’re currently going through.

When you join a grief support group, you’ll be able to find a common understanding of the loss of a loved one, along with the validation of the emotions you feel unable to express to anyone else.

Speaking To A Therapist

There is no shame in needing extra help and support as your begin to process your Dad’s death. In fact, many counselors specialize in providing grief support. A therapist can offer validation and guidance as you begin working through the complex emotions that accompany grief. Grief therapist typically teaches you strategies to cope with grief as you adjust to life without your Dad.

Speaking to a therapist also offers a safe space for you to release any guilt, anger or resentment around your deceased Dad’s toxic or hurtful behavior. This helps to give you some level of closure. Additionally, if you want to forgive your Dad for his past behaviors, but feel unsure how to begin, a therapist can help provide you with compassionate support.

Therapy also offers a safe space to unpack any guilt, anger, resentment, or other lingering emotions around a deceased parent’s toxic or hurtful behavior, and to achieve some level of closure.

Other Challenges With Grief & Changes In Family Dynamics

Grief is a complex process and it takes time to recover from it. Everyone experience their own journey of grief differently. Some people may take much longer than others to fully grieve the loss of a loved one.

The feelings of grief may come and go, which sometimes make you feel that you haven’t made any progress with your grief.

Personally I have observed that my grief worsens around the holidays or significant dates (eg. Dad’s birthday, Dad’s death anniversary, etc.)

While the pain associated with grief may lessen over time, it is still possible to feel emotionally connected to your deceased Dad even after he has passed away many years ago.

There may also be challenges around changes in family dynamics.

Your Mom is still living; she may now look to you and your siblings for support. She will change. She may even start to date again.

Your siblings are facing the same loss and their unique relationship with your parent can mean they experience the loss differently than you do.

It’s not unusual for siblings to fight or slowly drift apart, especially if there is a disagreement over your parent’s end-of-life care.

If you cherish your family relationships, you’ll need to make an effort to strengthen those bonds and draw them closer together.

This might mean reaching out to your siblings more often than in the past or inviting them over more regularly to visit.


Grief after your Dad’s death can drain you and leave you feeling exhausted, no matter the kind of relationship you previously had with your Dad.

Remember, grieving is a normal and healthy process.

 And this process looks different for everyone. Treat yourself with kindness, compassion and embracing patience as you take all the time you need to work through your loss.