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How to Get Over the Death of a Father

Updated on October 5, 2012

The Grieving Process is a Natural Process

In my nearly 55 years on this planet, I have experienced the loss of many loved ones including my own beloved father. It seems the day your father died will always be memorable. Some folks even mark the day in a special way like lighting a candle, reading a favorite book or visiting places that were meaningful to our father.

If you have recently experienced the loss of a father, take heart. I do not know how you personally have reacted to the death of your father or what stage of grief you are currently experiencing. I do know one thing - the situation will get better with time. I know that may be difficult to see at this particular point in time, but tomorrow will be a bit better.


There may be no suitable words of sympathy over the loss of a father, but healing is possible
There may be no suitable words of sympathy over the loss of a father, but healing is possible | Source

The Inevitability of Death

Death is one of those things over which we as humans have little or no control. As the good book says, "it is appointed for a man once to die." And so it is. With all of our science and technology, mankind can at best only add a few years.

We don't like it, we wish we could change it - but death is ultimately and finally inevitable. So what are we to do with death, in particular the death of a father? The only thing we can do is learn to accept it and then deal with it as best we can.

The good news is that many people around you have also had to accept and learn to deal with the death of a loved one. That means those folks can be a tremendous help to you in your time of need.

I want to tell you about my journey through the stages of dealing with my father's death. I really feel that you may take something from this story and use it in your journey...


The Loss of My Own Father

My father died on a Christmas morning, the sad news delivered by his hysterical second wife over a static-filled long distance telephone connection. I still remember how shocking that news was to me in that moment. I thought to myself, "Why did it have to happen on this day of all days?" It would be a few hours before the realization of his death actually sank in and I could cry.


The Night Before Christmas...

Just a few hours before that fateful call, my father and I had been conversing over the telephone. both of us so glad to speak with the other. That sort of enthusiasm and jovial spirit was a rarity for my father.

It just so happened that our family's Christmas gifts to my father and his wife had arrived at their door via FedEx at the very moment we got on the phone. We continued to talk as he and his wife sorted through the packing, pulling out several gifts from my young children. It was a wonderful conversation, the best we had experienced in a long time.

It Wasn't Always Like This

For 17 years prior to this Christmas Eve phone call, my father and I had not spoken a word to one another. It was just in the last year or so before his death that we had reconciled over things in our past, things that had long been the cause of too much pain. Those things that happened in our past made for a hard and sometimes uncomfortable journey, but we were both determined to leave all that "baggage" in the past and rebuild a new father and son relationship.

Both my father and I were so happy that we had come back together - dad and child reunited once again. The future did indeed look bright for us both, that is, until that fateful Christmas morning.

Whether I was ready for it or not, the grieving process - and healing - was about to begin for me.


The Titanic, which took so many lives when she sank in the North Atlantic, became a symbol of my own father's death. The motion picture was actually a cathartic event which forced me to deal with the first stages of grief. .
The Titanic, which took so many lives when she sank in the North Atlantic, became a symbol of my own father's death. The motion picture was actually a cathartic event which forced me to deal with the first stages of grief. . | Source

My Father's Death and "Titanic"

I realize that is sort of an odd subtitle, but it has deep meaning for me. You see, my father died at about the same time James Cameron's "Titanic" hit the big screen. I can still remember the exact place and time that I saw this movie, especially one particular scene.

If you saw the movie, you will remember it - the scene toward the end of the movie when Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) slips into the water and slowly disappears from view under the surface.

As much as she tried, Rose (Kate Winslet) could not save Jack as much as she loved him. For me, Jack was my father and I was Rose, desperately wanting to hold on to my father but unable to overpower death.

Alone, I saw the movie at least a dozen more times in the following days after my father died, sometimes sneaking out to a movie theater during the work day. I purchased the soundtrack and would listen to the haunting melodies playing over and over for hours on end.

For me, this was all part of the grieving process. That movie was the last little piece of my father that I could cling to. I knew if I let go of the feelings I experienced watching that movie, I would be letting go of my daddy.

It was SO hard for me. I wept so severely at his funeral that i could no longer speak and had to leave the podium. I didn't want to let go of him. I was in total denial of the reality of his death.


The Grieving Process: 5 Stages of Grief

Stage 1 - Denial

Denying that your father actually died. This first stage helps you deal with the initial shock of the loss. Life makes no sense, everything seems meaningless and you are overwhelmed with emotion. As you begin to heal, you begin to question the denial. This is a sign that healing has begun.

Stage 2 - Anger

Although it seems deep and unending, anger is a vital part of the healing process. Anger serves to provide some structure and will help to alleviate those overwhelming feelings of meaninglessness and loss. It is important to let yourself feel the anger, let it vent outward. It's OK to get angry, even with those closest to you - they will understand.

People around you know that beneath all the anger lies the fresh hurt and pain of losing a father. Therapists call this anger a bridge that helps you connect with those around you. Anger is simply a sign of the intensity of the love you had for your father. Expressing anger is an important part of the healing process.

Stage 3 - Bargaining

This is also called the "if only…" stage. In this stage of grief, you may ask yourself questions like, "What if I had been a better son or daughter?" or "If only I had acted differently that time when…" I remember that I just wanted to step in a time machine and go back to when my dad was still alive.

I began to feel tremendous guilt over the things I had or had not done when I was with him. Eventually, I realized I could not change the past. It was time to move on and leave the past behind me. My Dad was gone and I had to learn to deal with it.

Stage 4 - Depression

Due to my type of personality, this was the most difficult and long-lasting stage for me. I had left the past behind, I was now ready to move forward. That sense of emptiness that I had felt immediately after my Dad's death was now back. This stage seems like it will go on forever but it will pass.

Some mistakenly label this depression as some sort of mental illness. My opinion is that people are just deeply sad - and need to feel that deep sadness for a time. During this stage you may feel like not going on, you may wonder if there is any point in living at all.

What you need to know is that being depressed is a perfectly natural and appropriate response to the death of a father. Depression becomes unnatural and may require treatment if it lasts too long. It's best to consult a professional if you have any doubts.

Stage 5 - Acceptance

The last stage is acceptance of your father's death. Acceptance does not mean everything is OK, it means that you have accepted the death of your father. There's nothing you can do to change it, no sense in staying depressed - you have a life, people who love you - it's time to get on with life.

For some people, acceptance means having more good days than bad days. For others, acceptance means a clean start, a fresh beginning or complete break form the past. It will be different for each person. For me, it came about 3 years after the death of my father. I can't really put a date to when it occurred - it's just that one day I realized that everything was going to be all right. You will get there, too.


The Grieving Process Begins

After a time, I was able to begin to leave the bad feelings behind. After all, I had a busy life and a family - and I needed to move on. But after being forced to accept that he was gone by the harsh, cold inevitability of death, I did what any cornered animal would do - I lashed out.

At first, I wasn't even aware of what I was doing and who I was hurting. Regardless of who I hurt, I forged ahead, destroying everything or everyone that proffered even the slightest provocation. I was angry at everyone.

Like a wounded animal, I was in pain. I then began to feel personally hurt by my father. I remember thinking, "How dare he abandon me again." I was just 16 years old the first time he abandoned our family and left us penniless. Now he as doing it to me again. I was enraged at him all over again. This deep anger affected every one of my relationships.


The Valley of Despair: Depression and the Grieving Process

It was many months before I realized that the anger over my father's death was beginning to take a heavy toll. This was especially apparent in those dear people who were closest to me - my own family.

I was ready to deal with his death and began to see that anger was a futile attempt at keeping him alive - at least in my mind. Acceptance slowly began to creep in and I reluctantly acknowledged its unwelcome but healing presence.

The next years were very difficult. I became depressed and it began to feel as though I was losing my grip on reality. The depression was so severe at times that I felt it would completely envelop me. I had dreams that I have never had before, strange dreams that seemed ominous and foreboding.

I even considered what it would be like if I took my own life. I thought about how my family would respond, what they would think of me if I did something like this.

Thankfully, I had the loving support of my family and some good friends with whom I could talk openly and honestly. Looking back on it, I have to say this support was very important to getting me through all the bad stuff.



The Stages of Grief and Your Father

One of the reasons the loss of a father is so painful is the "specialness" of relationship itself. No matter what the circumstances, no one else is your father. There may be others who have stepped in and acted as a substitute father, maybe even made a better "father" than your own. But the fact is, one man alone is your father and that is a very unique and special bond.

When I was just a little child of five years, I can remember many of the things that made my relationship with my father very special. My dad drove a gasoline delivery truck and mad local deliveries in the town where we lived. He would come every night at about the same time. I would be waiting for him and as soon as I heard that key in the door and my father coming into our house, I ran toward him.

He would kneel down as I jumped into his open arms, burying my face in his work uniform. The overwhelming scent of pipe tobacco and gasoline flooded my senses. To this day, when I smell a certain brand of pipe tobacco or catch the odor of gasoline when fueling my car - I am taken back to that happy moment in time. I smile but the wound is re-opened just a bit because I still miss him after all those years.

Now that I have made it through the stages of grief, and I have learned to live with my father's absence, I regularly visit those precious memories of him that forever reside in my memory. I hope that you, dear reader, will find peace and comfort in knowing the pain of your father's death will lessen with each passing day as you journey through the stages of grief.




If you have experienced the loss of your father, do you think knowing about the stages of grief could be helpful to getting through the difficult times?

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    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Texas

      novasctiamiss - thank you for your kind words and recommendation.

    • novascotiamiss profile image


      5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      What a warm and loving article. I haven't lost my father yet but as he has reached the ripe old age of almost 94 (and he's still amazingly well) I have to accept that one day soon I will receive that dreaded phone call. Living overseas, thousands of miles apart won't make it any easier. My husband lost his father (also 94) this year and he struggled to cope with it at first. It was a great comfort that we had still visited him a couple of months prior to his death and it was obvious that death came as a relief to him as he was very frail and senile. As we couldn't fly home again (due to high costs) we sorted through some photographs and assembled a slide-show for the family. Going through all these pictures was at first very sad and almost unbearable but it made us remember all the good times we shared together. Doing this little project helped us to get over his death and to heal. The worst thing about grieving is not accepting the truth and not wanting to let go. Talking about it and reminiscing about old times definitely helped us and I can definitely recommend this.

    • MKayo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      Dear justateacher - so sorry for the loss of both your parents but I'm glad that at least some days are better than others. I wish you the best as you continue through the grieving process. Best, M

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 

      6 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Mkayo , I lost my own father when I was just a little girl...I was eleven at the time...because of things that happened afterwards with my mom, we were never really allowed time to grieve...when my mother died two years ago the past came up again and I finally grieved for my father as well as my ifs a tough process and some days are worse than others...but I'll get through it...great information here!


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