Death of my estranged father

My estranged father died 5 months ago. I last spoke to him 7 years ago and 6 years before that. He was an alcoholic and even though we both loved each other, I began to resent him and his addiction as it was always me making the effort in our relationship. I wanted to feel wanted by him, so I made the decision to step back and let him make the effort (which was one phone call in 13 years). Even though he didn’t reach out to me as I had hoped, I still loved him and understood that his addiction was an illness, but I decided that psychologically I would be healthier without him or having to chase him to be in my life as I felt rejected by him. The time apart from him actually made me into a more positive person and I still look back on our time together as positive, even the bad stuff I had turned into a positive. So when I found out he had died from being terminally ill with lung cancer, I went into shock. The shock of losing him forever, the shock of him not contacting me to tell me that he was dying. Ten weeks before his death, my maternal grandfather passed away, but as he was always in my life, the grief was much more simple. My grandfather’s death broke my heart, I sobbed, I was hurting, but it was uncomplicated grief. With my father, the grief was so messy. My head was and still is all over the place. Within minutes I could go from angry, sad, accepting, shocked, hurt, guilty, happy, empty and resentful. There was so many emotions to deal with at the same time and even though I felt exhausted, I couldn’t sleep properly because my brain felt so wired. What made matters worse was and still is that my step mother (of 20 years) has been very cold and unkind towards me (I’m my father’s only child). She has never liked me and is treating me as if I have no right to grieve his loss. It doesn’t help that she is also an alcoholic but unlike my father, she gets quite nasty when she’s drunk and is prone to verbal abuse. She didn’t give me an opportunity to be involved in the funeral, but said I was welcome to attend. At the funeral, only my name was mentioned and a huge chunk of his life with me was left out, which actually gave me the strength to stand up and speak. It gave me closure and I was able to yes acknowledge that he had a drinking problem, but he taught me so much and him being who he was made me the person I am today, for which I am thankful for. After the funeral I decided that was my goodbye as I didn’t want to chase my step mother about scattering my dads ashes, as I knew she would somehow try to hurt me in the process. However around 2 months later my aunt called to say she had spoken to my step mother and she had agreed to give the ashes to me and that I could arrange the scattering of them provided I kept her informed. I of course agreed, firstly because his ashes still hadn’t been collected from the crematorium after 2 months and I knew that with me his last wishes would be fulfilled (he wants them scattered in Scotland, we live in England). It was all fine, I was so thankful to her and was looking forward (if you can look forward to such a thing) to planning a lovely day whereby everyone could come together to share their experiences with my father and finally lay him to rest. However I recently went to Scotland just to see where the ashes could be scattered so I could start making plans which would involve everyone, but my step mother while drunk thought I was there to scatter them and has turned nasty. I did assure her I was just visiting, but she is now saying things like it’s not your place to make plans, her son was a better son to him than I was as his daughter and that my father didn’t even want me at his funeral. I have now had to block contact with her, but when I organise the scattering I will not stop her from coming as this is the right thing to do. But it has now made a complicated grief process even harder. I don’t know what my point is, but even writing this is helping to bring a peace of mind. I know she’s grieving but she doesn’t understand that so am I. It’s only through the love and support of my family that I have recently found the strength to acknowledge my right to grieve as well. Grief is a personal thing and whether my father loved me or not in the final years, I’m trying my best to stay strong and not let my own love for him be affected by anyone’s negativity, but my step mother isn’t making it easy! I think once the scattering is done I will finally be able to have some closure.

Hi Owl,

I just wanted to say hi and welcome to the Online Community, although I’m sorry you’ve had to join us here.

I’ve read all of your story and I’m so sorry for the loss of your father and all the difficult issues that are complicating your grief. You have written so vividly about the difference between the straightforward grief for your grandfather and the ‘messy’ grief for your dad.

You are right when you say that grief is a personal thing - there is no right way to grieve. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling at any one time, even if those emotions are surprising or contradictory.

I hope that it’s helped a little to have this space to get all your feelings out there honestly. I thought you might be interested to read this post from a little while back by community member Charasi - although her story is a bit different to yours, she also had a difficult relationship with her late dad:

Do you have supportive friends that you can talk to? Are you getting any other form of support? You could think about asking your GP if they can point you in the direction of some counselling to give you a neutral person to talk through all of this.

Hi Owl,
I hope you don’t mind me replying to your message.
I am so sorry for the loss of your Dad. I too lost my Dad - almost 6 months ago now. He died from lung cancer as well. Before he died he devastated me with a secret from his past which I still struggle with on a daily basis. He swore me to secrecy and I have raged against him and the reasons why he told me ever since. He was selfish and had no need to do it.
But I’m not here to talk about me. I’m here to offer my love and support to you. Your story really resonated with me - probably because of my personal experience, and I found it very moving and sad.
I really don’t know what to say to you that might help you, but I have found that sometimes just writing things down helps. Maybe writing a letter to your Dad explaining how you feel about everything could help. Put it to one side and read it when you feel low or grief stricken. Could be worth a try. Maybe not - you might think - what a daft idea lol :slight_smile:
Grief is SUCH a personal thing, and people expect you to be getting “over it” by this stage, but actually its round about now that I feel reality sets in that this person is actually never coming back.
I miss my Dad so much but I loathe him for what he did to me - that’s horrible isn’t it. Does it make me a bad person - I hope not.
We are scattering my Dad’s ashes this week and I’m dreading it. Once again - I will be the one with the big secret and it’s horrible.
May be you could try some bereavement counselling. Do you have a hospice nearby? I have had amazing support from the Family Support Unit at the Sue Ryder Hospice in Leeds - not sure if you are able to access anything like this.
I’m not sure if any of this has been of any help at all but I hope that you realise that everyone on this wonderful site cares.
Take care and stay strong. Sending you love xxxxxx

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Thank you for that. Although just to clarify “straight-forward” grief isn’t any easier, it’s just this “messy” grief is a new experience for me. Yeah I have a very supportive family, I just felt I needed to connect with people that have had a similar experience, it’s a different kind of comfort.

Hey Charasi,

Really good to hear from you. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and the situation around it. The death alone is a bombshell enough, but with this secret on top of that? That must have your mind all over the place, going back over things and seeing everything in a new light, you must be knackered! I hope the scattering goes well. I might try the letter idea, can’t hurt to give it a go! I can relate to feeling angry and missing your dad, I’m just annoyed with mine more now. My dad was self centred and self pitying, which I think is why he didn’t tell me he was dying, although I try not to see it that way as what’s the point? I can’t change it. I have a very supportive family, but felt I needed to connect with others that could relate on a different level. My family are also biased of course toward me and I just needed reassurance I suppose that I’m not alone in feeling an entitlement to grieve for my dad even though we didn’t make contact with each other for so long. Did you write a letter? I’m not near any of the hospices, but it sounds like a wonderful support xxxx

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Hi Owl,
Lovely to hear from you.
You certainly are entitled to grieve for your Dad and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. At the end of the day, he was YOUR Daddy and you need to be able to mourn.
I truly believe that unless you have experienced personal loss and bereavement, you have absolutely no idea what it’s like. The rollercoaster of emotions, the apathy, the sense of nothingness. I still feel like I’m wading through mud a lot of the time and my mind plays tricks on me.
I did write a letter on the advice of my family support worker. I raged at my Dad and told him exactly how I felt and yes it did help even though obviously he would never read those words. It might help to work through your annoyance with your Dad to get some of it off your chest.
Some days I feel eaten up by what my Dad told me and I detest him for ruining my image of him and my thoughts of who my father actually was. But on good days, I cling to the fact that no matter what he did, he was still my Daddy and he always loved me.
I’m sure your Dad loved you, but clearly had his own demons to deal with. You must not let yourself feel guilty about anything - it’s a wasted emotion in my opinion and serves no purpose.
Phew - take care and be kind to yourself.
Everyone is here for support and love.
Sending you love and hugs xxx

Hi Owl,
If only everything was straight forward, but it never is. Really sad to hear how your step mum made it so awkward for you and yes your right she is grieving but that shouldn’t mean she has the right to be horrid to you.
I would take what she says with a pinch of salt, you don’t know if she is telling lies about what your father felt or wanted. She sounds very bitter, and almost jealous?
The one thing I learnt about death since my mum and dad died this year is that it’s personal to everyone. Nobody hurts more or less than yourself, and just because you don’t cry it doesn’t mean you are coping with it better than a person that does.
I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my Mum until about six years ago, and I always thought she disliked me. It wasn’t until my dad died nine weeks after mum, that I finally got what the problem was. It wasn’t that she loved me less than my brothers; it was because dad loved me just a little bit more. He was always very protective, and I guess she was jealous. Although I have no idea why? He loved her to the moon and back. I swear he didn’t want to live without her and gave up.
Grief is so strange, I’m not sure anyone feels the same as another person. Im sure your dad loved you, but he obviously had his demons. Perhaps by not keeping in touch he thought it was protecting you? Who knows? But there is one thing for certain, we can’t change what happens so we deal with it as best we can. Never let it push you under, because its so easy to let that happen.
Thinking of you X

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Hey Charasi,

Yes you’re right there, my dad was a tortured soul, he’s at rest now at least. Hope it goes well your end, let us know how it goes xxx

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Hey Candy1960,

Thanks for that, I’m so sorry to hear of loss, both so close together as well and yes he must of loved her to the moon and back, as it sounds like he had a broken heart.

I always believed my step mother was jealous of me and my family, she just wanted nothing to do with any of us and it does feel like shes wanting to compete in terms of grief, I kind of feel sorry for her. I couldn’t agree with you more though, there is no less or more, it’s completely an individual process, which should occur without judgement from anyone.

I’ll get there, will be glad when the scattering is done next year though.

Take care xxx

Hi Owl, Yes as my friends all tell me “its all milestones in the first year”
I have to pick up mum and dads ashes on thursday, then next weekend I am dreading, because on the 17th it would have been mums birthday and then on the Sunday its fathers day…Its going to be really hard! Its nice talking to a person that understands x x

Hi Candy,

I noticed that you mentioned Father’s Day. I’m sure you are not alone in dreading this day, so I’ve started a new conversation where people can talk about how this is affecting them. If you want to talk more about Father’s Day, you can add your reply here:’s-day

Just wanted to share this. May help.