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Unexpected loss of my dad, my best friend. Feel I should have done more.

Community Member

Hello, I feel vulnerable typing this but the words seem to be flowing as fast as my tears.

A few weeks ago I found my father passed away in his bed at only 69. He was always early to rise and seize the day, yet that day I rose from my slumber before him, it immediately felt wrong, and as I knocked on his door reality hit me like a brick. There, before my eyes I saw my father, a man who's strength, patience and generosity made him 11 foot tall and bulletproof to me, laying on his back in bed, so still, so still... far too still.

I immediately tried to wake him by shaking him, then breathed into his mouth before beginning CPR, but as I compressed his chest I heard one of his ribs or bones make a sound which terrified me and caused me to panic, knocking over his table before running outside to call the police.

I have been in denial, and keeping busy has kept a lot at bay, but in the past 6 or so days it has felt as if my entire body has caved in, I have broken down multiple times per day drenching myself in tears and searching for reasons to stay on this plane.

His death was such a shock, I still recall his final words 'I'm off to bed, goodnight' I never thought in a million years, that goodnight would turn out to be goodbye.

I have felt so much guilt owing to my circumstances for the past few years.

See as an adult I had to go back to him for help in rebuilding my life, so he was my beacon in the dark world, raised me as a single father from a child, and now too as a man.

I cannot repay what I owe to him, he sacrificed everything for me, yet only ever asked of me to be happy and live a good life.

Other guilt stems from the thought that I did not provide CPR for long enough, once I heard his rib I felt as if I were hurting him and fell apart, I know that I did not hurt him, yet I cannot shake that remorse, I also regret the few days before he passed as he was so tired and lethargic, he was recently recovering from a bout of shingles and a slight chest infection so we both assumed that was the reason for his tiredness, but I feel I should have done something, forced him to go to the GP or something...I never thought he would go to bed Monday night and never wake up, I don't think he did either.

I have been talking to his photo and recording myself on his phone, have asked him to take me away too, yet I know he gave too much of himself for me to throw it all away.

I put on a brave face for others but his phone holds my truth, miss you man, I am trying dad.

98 Replies 98

Hi pl515p1,

We're so sorry to hear it's been an especially rough few days. We understand that you must be feeling so exhausted by all of the paperwork and responsibilities you've been doing as well as dealing with the depths of your emotions in this time of grief.

We hope that in time you are able to let the facade slip with your counsellor. If you find it easier to open up through the written word, you may find some relief in chatting with a Lifeline counsellor via webchat. Their webchat service is available 7pm-midnight AEST here - https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat/

You might find some tips for sleeping on our page "Sleeping well" - https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/staying-well/sleeping-well

It's good to hear that a friend will be visiting you tomorrow and that she will take care of you. Warmest wishes for the night - please reach out here any time you feel up to it.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi pl515p1

I so wish I was there with you as you go through this heartbreaking challenge. I feel for you so deeply.

Do you feel you can trust your counselor? Has she proven herself to be trustworthy, in your opinion? Is it possible to be honest with her and say 'I'm not sure I can trust you to guide me through this in a way that won't break me'? She may appreciate the honesty. If you've come to trust her as being someone who is sensitive to your feelings, this is a good start.

Not everyone is sensitive, as you well know, given the experience with the workers in your dad's room. Perhaps more sensitive people would have said, to begin with, 'Is there anything you'd like us to be careful with?' I'm wondering, if you can learn to trust yourself more. In the case where these people came into the house, is what came to mind beforehand 'I don't think I can manage this alone'? Do you have a couple of key people in your life you can trust to manage those kinds of moments with you?

In recalling my mum speak about the loss of her mother, she said there were a lot of initial 'trigger moments' after her mum's passing. Perhaps this could be something you could speak to your counselor about, how to manage those moments. A couple my mum had difficulty with were 1) Christmas day and 2) whenever she felt compelled to share something exciting with her mum. With other trigger moments, you may not recognise them until they come. Grief can be cruel, in this way.

If there's a part of you that is so desperate to vent, when you're with your counselor, could you consider trusting that part of you to help you manage through your grief? While I have not experienced a loss as enormous as yours, I have found that within the breakdowns in my life (that have led me to where I am), I look back to recognise them as the moments where everything was let out and broken down, so as to be fully understood and managed with great care. An overwhelming challenge has many facets, not all obvious.

Be kind to your self

Community Member

I apologise for nor responding sooner, things are becoming more heavy now, I am having difficulty trying to focus.

I had to go myself to pick up dad’s death certificate on Friday, because Services NSW are hopeless, once I had this paper in my hands I have lost much of my inner strength, I still try to do the many things I need to but seems like every little thing takes so much out of me.

I constantly dream of dad, I guess that's why I have not slept since Friday, have spent the last few days trying to write a eulogy and put together a small collection of stories about dad, and some of his and my writings. Trying to edit a video as well, highlighting some important dates with some relevant imagery of the time.

These memories serve only to kick me further down, a sharp reminder that I have lost something so special. A brief smile is met with a tsunami of sadness.

I am weary of all the obligations, I feel as if I am being pulled apart, like a pack of Hyenas are salivating over my scraps. Having to explain my story each time I hit another roadblock is draining. I had to explain to Ambulance NSW, who sent me a bill, that I was taken to hospital for trauma and shock on the recommendation of the police after finding my father deceased, explaining that over the phone just took me back several weeks to that day all over again. Having to tell ISP providers, bill collectors, contractors etc.

All of this is just stabbing at the sore that hasn’t even had the chance to scar.

Thank you therising, I appreciate your compassion and concern, you radiate humanity and warmth.

As for my counsellor, sadly, the last two sessions have been taken up with my immediate concerns, so we haven’t had the chance to share deeper yet.
I listened to my recordings from last night and they are far more intense now, incoherent at times, just pure emotion flowing so much my shirt becomes drenched. I will see her Saturday, she deserves to see the real me.

Funeral is on Monday, I have never been to, or organised one before, I feel like I am letting dad down because I haven’t contacted everyone yet, but so many calls all day take their toll.

I am tired, but I must put on a good mask because everyone keeps telling me how strong I am, and going so well, people keep telling me that I am almost through it, as if somehow his funeral will close the chapter, they don’t understand that the chapter only concludes when both him and I do.

I wonder when it is over how many people will stay around.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi pl515p1

It's so wrong you're having to manage so much on your own on top of having to repeat the same depressing things to people over and over. The world is filled with insane people who really don't like to make things too easy, hey.

My mum never went to her mum's funeral. She knew it would be too overwhelming for her. Still, to this day, she doesn't care about what people think or thought of her not going. As she says 'Funerals are for the living (to mourn and pay their respects), why should the living have to suffer through them?' She mourned and payed her respects to her mum on her own terms.

At the moment, I imagine you're near exhaustion, having vented so much emotion. Emotion is such a physical experience, sometimes incredibly draining. Even though you may be feeling so drained or numb at times to the point where you can't feel much, I'll suggest anyway considering how you feel about going to the funeral. When you think about going, what feelings do you experience? If you feel being there will be too overwhelming, make a decision to put yourself first. Send someone to represent you. Let go of the need to please others. The sensitive people will understand if you don't go. The insensitive ones...well...doesn't really matter about those sort of people. Of course, if you feel the need to attend, trust those feelings.

Not sure if this will help but it may pay to write down a standard verse you recite to people who challenge you to explain yourself at length over the phone. Could go something like 'My father's passed away and I need to tend to his banking (for example). At the moment I am completely exhausted and deeply depressed, so I'm relying on you to make this easy. If you can't, let me know. If you can't, I need you to find me someone who can make this easy'. Yes, direct but sometimes you have to be direct when people just aren't listening. If they're not listening (it will be more than obvious), repeat 'You're not making this easy'. Say it as many times as you need to. Sometimes we need to manage people who can't manage to do their job efficiently or thoughtfully. You deserve respect and compassion. Anything less is not good enough.

Wish there was something I could say that would make all the difference, I really do. Sometimes, a challenge can be so personal, so impacting that no one can make the difference we're seeking at first. Sometimes the difference is gradually found throughout the process we're going through.

Take care

Community Member

Thank you therising, you are incredibly generous, caring and thoughtful.
I appreciate your clarity of thought in the middle of this fog I find myself.

I have shut off my phone fore the last few days, perhaps a temporary solution, but the relief has allowed my mind to focus on what truly matters, my father, and myself.

I have been fortunate that my counsellor has spoken on my behalf, she solved one major financial burden for me, though the ambulance fee is still ongoing, hopefully we can sort out some hardship policy to defer or dissolve the fee, as after all that has happened with the funeral etc, I cannot afford it anyway.

I have thought about not going to the funeral, however, because of the way dad passed suddenly forensics were involved, he has been alone far too long, for all he has ever done for me, he needs me now, and I need to be by him.

I don't know how, but I managed to complete a book about dad including some stories I recalled, some poetry I wrote about him this week, and some of his photos he took of nature. I am so tired that I accidentally stapled the wrong way, but I feel this flaw gives it character ha.

Some people have told me that I am almost over it, as if somehow the funeral makes it all go away, I tell them this analogy.

Close your eyes and think deeply about the person you love the most.
Can you see their face? hear their voice?

Okay, now picture them and yourself on a desert island, beautiful blue seas, bright white sands, and lush green trees.

Oh it is so wonderful hey?
Okay, now keep the picture of the two of you in your mind, still have it? good.

Now imagine yourselves both living on that island , only the two of you, for 10 y, 15 , 20 years.

Just imagine the growth, challenges, changes you both have to go through.

Now imagine one day you wake up and stare out to that beautiful sea, you sleepily get up rubbing your eyes, and you walk over to that special person who has been with you all this time, you tell them to 'wake up sleepy head' but the do not wake up.

They pass away, leaving you alone on that island.

Is that island still a paradise to your eyes?

Imagine all that, and then think, how long, if ever, will it take to ever get over that loss.

I told this analogy to someone who told me I should be moving on because it has been several weeks, after I told them that, they cried and finally began to understand that grief and loss are not under an off/on switch.

I take it day by day, I'm still here, dad is still there.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi pl515p1

That is definitely a powerful analogy. The sadness and loneliness it conveys is powerful.

Grief is such an intense process. Many people grieve in many different ways for many different reasons. It is the reason we grieve that relates to the intensity of our grief. I recall, about 17 years ago when my husband and I were looking forward to having our second child. Some weeks into the pregnancy, I experienced a miscarriage, which devastated me but I did not give up on that 2nd child. Again, pregnant some months later, the signs were there again. At around 12 weeks into the pregnancy, off to get an ultrasound we went. The technician looked at me with such compassion as she told me there was no heartbeat. The next pregnancy, an ectopic. Long story short, that 2nd child eventually came along. I have 2 amazing teenagers now, 2 truly incredible human beings.

I can recall people telling me 'It's time to move on', after the miscarriages but I couldn't. I had to make sense of what had happened. I had to make sense of losing my dream, more than once. I had to make sense of the overall loss, a loss that no one could see but one I could feel, with such overwhelming emotion. It felt like people were telling me I was exceeding the time period for grieving over a loss, as though there is one, a time frame. It is a process unique to every individual. I believe it is not time that heals wounds, it is the process we move through that heals them. Finding the people who can help raise us and help us raise our self through this process is so important. Don't let time or people dictate your process. it is yours, not theirs.

Take care

Community Member

I don't understand what I am doing anymore.
I have been trying to find myself for several weeks now, feels as though I am treading water searching for land, land I thought I would have found yesterday, but I am still adrift at sea, struggling to stay afloat.

See, we held dad's funeral yesterday and people told me that all this time of trauma, suffering, fear, anger, sorrow and regret I have endured has been for a purpose, I had to keep going for dad, I had to honour him, which I felt absolutely I must.

The week leading up to the day I did not sleep, each moment I was fixated on writing every expression of emotion, every moment of love, every gesture of gratitude that I could think of.

I tried my best, I managed to create a book in his honour, his face on the cover, containing stories of his life, moments of bliss between us, and writings of his and mine that I wished to share.

I also managed to finish a video tribute trying to highlight how much dad achieved in his life, how much I admired him, and how proud I am of him, and how proud I am to be his son.

As I was placing the wreath I placed my head upon his coffin and did not want to leave, I closed my eyes and truly felt as though nobody else existed in this world, we were both alone in the darkness, I felt at peace for a brief moment until I was tapped on the shoulder and told that the service was to begin.

The service seemed so surreal as if an outside force was guiding my way, it also felt far too brief, it felt like the blink of an eye or the beat of a heart.

After the service I nearly stumbled but held onto the wall, one by one dad's friends reached out to me to tell me that my father would be so proud of my words, both written and spoken. A few told me the video was beautiful.

At that moment I felt a connection to them all and dad, finally, dad was not alone, I hope he felt the warmth and love of us all, and I hope he heard the music play, I hope he liked what I chose.

After I came home I started to feel so empty, now the emptiness is becoming a yawning chasm in my chest.

That moment of peace when my head was above dad's was the best I have felt since this happened, I wish so much that I could stay there with my eyes closed forever.

These past two nights since the funeral I have just been sitting alone staring into the abyss, I have not answered the phone because I know that if I open my mouth only pain will depart it, pain that seems to grow with each heartbeat.

Half my soul is gone.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi pl515p1,

I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. From what you have described, it sounds like your dad was a wonderful man and it seems that you were really able to honour him at his funeral. You clearly put a lot of thought, care and love into it, I'm sure he feels that warmth and I am sure your dad's friends are right - he would be so proud.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is no time limit. Grief can be so consuming and painful. Be kind to yourself, give yourself time. There is nothing that will fill the space in the same way that your dad did, and there are no words to describe the pain. Finding something to process and fill some of that gnawing emptiness you are experiencing may help. Do you feel that the counsellor you have been seeing has been helpful?

Take care.

Community Member

Hello sunnyl20, thank you for your words.

My counsellor has helped me a lot, but mostly with practical problems that require immediate attention, such as bills and other paperwork.

I have written down some of my feelings and regrets and will bring them up during our next session. I will tell her that I have prayed to go to sleep and not wake up as dad did, I am no longer afraid to tell the truth, this is how I feel, and she will have to see that this is me right now, I am no longer whole, I want to be with dad, and this is the truth. She seems wise, she can see me and perhaps she can guide me.

I am still living in the same home I found dad in, and this has been such a heavy burden upon my shoulders, I have finally finished all the paperwork to transfer the lease into my name, now I have to go through many more hoops before I can hopefully move away from one of the major sources of sadness I have had to survive in for several weeks,

Being here is a prison, I am free to walk outside but I am imprisoned by walls that were once filled with love, but now filled with despair.

Being constantly reminded of the worst day of my life, keeps me in the worst day of my life. Hopefully soon I can release myself from the restraint of this and actually try to come to terms with my loss.

I cannot fill the void of dad because he was such an important, looming figure in my life, no matter what I do every time I think of him I cry, but I have felt the need to reconnect with the other half of my family recently.

My Mother and Brother are separated from myself and dad, I have not seen them for years but I feel the need for family healing right now. I have begun the process of trying to initiate contact with my brother, I have heard that in recent times my father may have had contact with mum.

As I do not have contact numbers this task seems monumental, but they say nothing worth doing in life is ever easy. This is occupying my mind a great deal recently, especially since the funeral, family is family, years and cities may put distance between us, but I believe that to see the two other people I share blood with will help me.

I can only take it a day at a time, it is so hard, and it takes so much from me, I am tired, and I wish I could just close my eyes and the world would go away, but I still have things to do, I just have to put one foot in front of the other and march through each checkpoint that I need to cross off my list.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi pl515p1

In thinking of you, I decided to speak with my mum more in depth about her experience with having lost her mum. Although it was 46 years ago (I was 4 at the time), talking of the experience still brings a tear to my mum's eye.

She described it as a truly surreal experience, mind altering, like reality changes. Like the reminder you experience (your dad's room), my mum had the bungalow in our back yard. Hanging out the washing in the back yard felt like a form of torture as did looking out the back window every day, facing that empty structure. Every time she imagined she could hear the buzzer that connected the bungalow to the house, she'd break down. I asked her how she moved through such overwhelming grief and she said that she was lucky that she didn't have a choice: She had us 3 kids, a husband and a household to manage. She had to occasionally shift her focus toward us. When I asked her 'Would you say that what feels intolerable at first becomes less intolerable?' She said 'I suppose you could say that'. She said that what got her through the most was imagining her mum telling her how to manage. For example, with her mum's funeral, she could hear her mum saying 'Sweetheart, I don't want you to go to my funeral if it's going to upset you'. This is why it was so easy for her not to go.

It sounds like the shift in focus for you involves reconnecting with your family. it sounds like a soulful quest, beginning with finding those numbers. I wish you all the best on this quest. Imagining what your dad would say to help guide you through it may make it a very unique quest. If you imagine him saying at times 'You're being too hard on yourself, go easy'. Take this as good advice. Also, if you can imagine your dad saying in your counseling sessions 'Tell it like it is, be honest', go for it. Vent, tears included.

While I try to teach my 15yo son and 18yo daughter the ways of returning to their natural self in this conditional judgemental world, at some stage I had the thought 'One of the most important things I need to teach them is how to live without me' (if something was to happen to me in the near future). It's never been a sad conversation. We even joke at times. I've set them up with a basic plan with which to begin moving through overwhelming grief, including directing them toward certain people who will make the difference they'll need. I believe, in every challenge I may have failed to address, they will still hear me guiding them.

Take care