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November 18, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Help me understand his death


I lost my beloved father 16 days ago, someone I loved and cherished all my life. It's the one and only tragedy I've always been afraid of. After living abroad for over 16 years, I moved back home just for him a little over a year ago. I wanted to be close to him, and to help him deal with a big problem that the government had created for him about 30 years ago. He had a heart attack, and has left me and all of our dreams behind.

Please help me understand his death. Why did he leave? How do I stay connected with him? How can I accept that he is in a better place?

Shadi, 39-year-old woman


Dear Shandi,

Death is a part of life. We all die, sooner or later. What counts is not how long we live, but how well.

The fact that you love your father so much says good things about him. He must have done well in the journey of life. Also, your great pain says good things about you. Being able to love is wonderful. Grief is the price we pay.

Here is a thought that helps many people: He passed on. You, his child, are still here. How would he feel if you had died, and he survived you? What would you rather have, him grieving for you, or you grieving for him?

Your loss is very new. It is a little like a broken bone. It hurts, but if we do all the right things, it heals, and the once-broken part of the bone is actually stronger. In the same way, your grief, once processed, can leave you a better, stronger person.

It is necessary for you to feel this pain, but it is not necessary to feel it 24 hours a day. For the next few months, set aside two hours a day, not too close to bedtime - 5 to 7 pm suits many people. During those two hours, give yourself permission to feel whatever comes and do whatever you need to: cry, rage at the unfairness of the world, pray, anything that's necessary. When a thought of grief comes at any other time, say inside your mind, "Go away, dear Father, I'll see you at 5 pm." This actually does work, as long as you conscientiously keep the appointment.

Later, you will be able to reduce the time you need to devote to your grief, and eventually it will only be needed on special days like his birthday, anniversary of his passing, and a few other days that were special to the two of you. Even those times will be bitter-sweet: you will enjoy looking at old photographs, laughing with tears in your eyes about funny events in your past, and so on.

When you are ready (now or later), read a wonderful book by Elizabeth Harper Neeld: "Seven Choices: Finding daylight after loss shatters your world."

With caring,


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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