So Painful

My dad died last Friday and I just feel so much sadness, anxiety and fear. He was ‘old school’ and only ever once told me that he loved me. I don’t remember any real sharing of feelings, as he perceived that as weakness. He was extremely independent, so as he became elderly it was hard for him to accept my help or advice. However I did try to do everything that he was willing to accept. During the pandemic I phoned his home several times a week, but most times spoke to my mum to offer support. I wish I’d asked more often to speak him and now it’s too late. I visited them regularly, but on the last occasion he was feeling angry and frustrated and wanted to be alone.

I have been told that when I was a young child, a relative told my dad that he was being too harsh with me. However I don’t think he took kindly to their intervention and it certainly didn’t change anything. The harshness was never physical, but it had a profound effect on me and is likely a contributory factor to my own deep seated problems with anxiety.

I feel awful even writing these things as he was also a man of duty and principle. He was a rock, who I knew would always provide for me financially and practically should I ever need it. As my brother and I discussed all that needs to be arranged following his death, we realised that this is the sort of thing dad would have done and known exactly what to do.

Despite this complicated relationship, I didn’t realise until his passing just how much I loved him. His death was so sudden with Covid that I had no time to tell him that or even to say goodbye. It’s now too late and I feel so guilty. Why oh why didn’t I force those conversations about feelings?

My partner has reminded me that it is not my fault that he didn’t treat me in the way that I needed as a child. In my head I know that’s right, but my heart says something else.

I am not sure why I’m posting this, perhaps just needing someone to reach out to me to help me find my way through this fog.

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Dear Pidg,

You certainly don’t need to feel awful about writing about what you did. Expressing how you feel in an honest way can only be helpful. Nobody is perfect, and even those we love the most have their imperfections. Recognising that and being open about it in the right place and at the right time should not make us feel guilty.
It is sad that your dad was unable to express his feelings and found it hard to reply to yours, but reading your words I have no doubt that his actions and your actions spoke volumes about the love you had for each other. He was there for you and looked after you in practical ways, and you put plenty of effort into staying in touch and helping him in practical ways. He must have known you loved him.
Try not to let regrets and false guilt burden you. Grief is hard enough as it is without that. Your partner sounds very wise and supportive. You cannot change the past, and even if you had tried to ‘force a conversation about feelings’ there is no guarantee that may have worked. It may have made things worse.
I am not sure of what I wrote was helpful, but I did want to reach out to you. Fog is a good way to describe how we can feel when we grief. I trust that you will find your way through. xxJo

When there is a loss I’m sure so many of us have moments of guilt, it appears to be part of the grieving process. It’s as though we have to torture ourselves in our minds about what was and how now we have no means to make it any different. I think you should try and take comfort, in you can, that when people are ‘ old school ‘ it’s the way they are and it can be hard to break down that barrier.
The fault doesn’t lie with you.

My mother in law and my dad are very ‘ old school’
When I recently lost my husband, my dad, although was upset for me was very soon quite matter of fact. He definitely isn’t my go to person when I am feeling low or what to have a good cry.
And I have seen no tears from my mother in law, her son my hubby was 60 when he died but still her child, her first born.
It’s not that they don’t feel, possibly the same with your dad, it’s just not their way of emotional display.
I guess what I’m trying to say is although you have a lot of what if’s ……. Some things are just as!! … nobodies fault.
And with my elders, I’m sure your dads love for you was there, just well hidden.

Take care xx

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Thank you so much for reaching out to me. Your message has made a big difference to my thinking, by making me focus upon his loving actions. Prior to that I was beginning to torture myself with the belief that perhaps he didn’t love me. I am really grateful for your wise words.
Pidg xx

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I feel moved that you have taken the time to respond. Thank you for sharing about your dad and mother in law, as there are certainly similarities with my dad. If I had been in your situation, he would have quickly expected me to ‘pull myself together’ and get on with life.

I am so sorry for your loss and do hope that you have plenty of people who can properly support you at this dark time.

Pidg xx