Friday, November 03, 2006

On Losing a Father

A father will always be his daughter's first love. The man by whom all others will be measured against. One of the defining moments of my adolescence was when I lost my dad at the age of 16. His loss came at a crucial time in my development and left me with wounds so deep it took me the next 20 or so years of my life trying to heal them. It is always very difficult for a parent to lose a child. When a parent dies, a part of your past is gone forever.

Dad's death came so suddenly, literally like the proverbial "thief in the night" that many poets have used to describe death. I was 16, my younger brother was ten and dad was 49 - gone from a massive heart attack, his first, at the peak of his career. Dad died young when I think about it now. Yesterday, at the cementery, staring at his grave marker, I was hit with a realization - I couldn't help but mutter aloud, "Ang bata pa nga ni daddy namatay." (Daddy died so young!) 49 is just seven years from where I am now when I think about it.

Whenever a child loses a parent before the age of 18, he/she carries the memory of the loss way into adulthood and it is something that he/she processes with every milestone attained. Children's grief specialist, William Worden in his book " Children and Grief: When A Parent Dies" writes about the 10 signs warning signs to look out for in a child who grieves. The problem here lies when the signs last for a very long time and seem to increase in intensity with the passage of time:

1. Persistent difficulty talking about the deceased person, especially a parent;

2. Uncharacteristic aggressive behavior;

3. Anxiety about the safety of others, especially a surviving parent - normally, this decreases during the first year after the death;

4. Physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, etc. or the worsening of a previous physical condition - of course, in this last case, medical attention is called for;

5. Sleeping difficulties such as persistent nightmares and/or trouble falling asleep or staying asleep;

6. Changes in eating habits such as overeating, not eating properly, or signs of anorexia or bulimia;

7. Social withdrawal;

8. Difficulties in school, either socially or academically;

9. Persistent self-blame or guilt; and

10. Self-destructive behavior or a desire to die - a warning sign that adults should take seriously and act upon immediately!
One of most helpful ways I personally found in working out the grief over my father's death was through writing. Putting my feelings on paper has always been cathartic for me. I recently came across two blog entries by two popular and well-read artists - one is Butch Dalisay's One For My Father. Butch is a multi-awarded writer and author and his personal recollection of his dad's death left a major lump in my throat. Another piece was written by multi-awarded composer, artist and life-coach Jim Paredes' How Would We Find Each Other In Heaven. Jim's piece is insightful and wistful and explains the concept of "father-hunger" that is prevalent among children who lose their father very early on in life. Their writings struck a major chord in my heart, making me remember my own dad and reflect once more on how his early loss impacted the ways by which I eventually navigated the emotional terrain of my own life. Dad's been gone for 25 years now and yet, like Butch and Jim, his memory will always remain in my heart brief though the time we may have spent together.


Anonymous said...

I lost my father just recently, and I am 23 now. I had my first birthday without him, and all I did was sit in my room and cry the whole day, almost wishing he would call me. I am normally hardworking at uni, but this semester, I have been quite shockingly bad. I am also quite annoyed at people who talk about their fathers.

Life isn't fair, I spoke to my father the very day he died. he is my hero and there are days I don't know what I am doing on this earth.

Only thing that keeps me going is my faith in God and my believe system that whoever honors the lord, shall spend all of eternity with him. My father I truly believe is in heaven, he had a pure soul.

sek0513 said...

hi, i am 14 years old. my father has stage 4 cancer that is getting worse every day. by the way things are going he will most likely be gone by mid december. though it is unfortunate and heartbreaking, reading these couple of paragraphs helped me to cope with knowing this and bracing myself for the sadness that is to come with his passing. i still dont know how im going to be able to go every day knowing my father is gone from my life, and that i didnt know him for as long as i should have been able to. i believe that the writer(s) of this did an excellent job and i give them a great amount of respect. this was a bit more than what anyone expected as a comment im sure, but this truly is a helpful article. thank you for sharing your experiences and helping those in the same position.

Anonymous said...

I like your story. My little grandson lost his father Thursday and they buried him Tuesday, he and his dad were so close. I was truly afraid for him to view his father at the funeral, but as luck would have it, they didn't open the casket, and I thought well that was good, but then last night he came up to me, with tears in his eyes and said Nanna I wanted to say to good-bye to him, I just lost it, we cried and cried. I was thinking not seeing him in the casket would be best, but he wanted to see him. It is really hard some times to know what the right thing to do is, you think you are protecting them but maybe he felt he needed a closure by seeing him for the last time, his other Grandmother has already planned on not opening the casket because of the kids, and I didn't have a say in it anyway, but I just told him that his dad was in his heart always, he may not be able to see him anymore but he is still with him in spirit. Please remember my little grandson in your prayers when you pray..I know he is going to get through this with alot of love and understanding from all of us.
Thanks for listening ....A Grandmother who loves her Grandson.

cathy_bythesea said...

Thank you so much for visiting our site and for sharing your story Yes, I shall include your grandson in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

My Dad passed away two years ago. I had just recently turned 15, he was 49. Christmas day he passed away from a massive heart attack. I had spoken to him over the phone that morning. I was supposed to spend the first week of christmas holidays with my Mom and the second week with my Dad.

It was an absolute shock when my grandma had phoned to tell us my Dad had just passed away.

I didn't deal with my Dad's death until just recently. I pretty much just bottled it up, moved on, didn't think about it. Never really cried, I only cried at the funeral and maybe a couple times during the holidays. But really not that much. During the holidays I went to my cousins, to just get away. Then I went back to school, did my exams and such.

Not until this school year, my graduating year, did I start to deal with this. But things are getting better. I talk to a teacher I'm close with about everything. I can't really talk about my Dad, to anyone, except him. Even then, that took months to get used to.

My Mom and Brother seem completely fine with talking about him. Which bugs me, it also bugs me if any of my friends mention him. I just want to cry, I just become silent, say as little as possible and change the subject.

I also don't really like when others talk about their fathers, it didn't bug me really until this year.

I miss my Dad. I just want him back. I don't want to have to go through this anymore. It really sucks. It feels as though your never going to feel better. But I'm going to make it through. I know it will take time to get used to it.


cathy_bythesea said...

Hi Chloe,

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. Sometimes, it does take a while for us to feel the full impact of our loved one's loss so what you are going through is normal. If you can give me an idea of where you are, I might be able to refer you to a teen grief support group. There are also many site available online to help you through your journey. Just Google teen grief and you will be lead to many. Let me know how else I can be of help. You are in my prayers. God bless and grieve well. God will take you through this difficult time in your life. Believe that.

Sincerely, Cathy