Jump to content
Grief Healing Discussion Groups

Nearly 22 years on without a father.

Recommended Posts

I wonder every day whether I have the right to be grieving. My father passed away of a heart attack in September, 1996. He had been married to my mother for a mere two months. I was born two months afterwards. I think of memory as being the perpetually present act of the intellect that distends itself outward to encompass past experiences and expectations of future ones, forming a unified thread present to me throughout my whole life. I keep images of my family and my loved ones stored away in the recesses of my memory, and I can call them back to my mind's attention whenever I want. I know what I know, but I know that there are some things that I will never be able to know. I cannot make and recall an image of someone I never knew. If I am grieving, then, I'm grieving for a non-entity, a person of whom I can make only faint, inauthentic likenesses off second-hand report and photographs. This has been a constant thorn in my side ever since I was born, and I don't know if it will ever go away.

I have no reference point for this kind of grieving, and I'm terribly afraid that it's self-absorbed and self-serving in the extreme to be so fixated on it. What, then, am I actually grieving? I can't be grieving someone I never even knew; that's dealing in the worst kind of counterfactual. Am I grieving for a childhood I spent with one less parent? Am I grieving for the self-loathing, aimlessness, ineptitude, and lack of social conditioning that come from having no male role model in my life? Am I grieving for my mother, being perpetually conscious that she suffered the worst kind of loss, the loss of a man she needed at that time more than any other? I feel as though my coming into the world at all is cursed, because of what happened a short time before I was born. I am responsible for that, in some twisted, inexplicable, entirely irrational way. It's just a matter of proximity, a death coming so soon before the beginning of a new life. I was left behind to grow up stunted and inwardly deformed and as less than a whole person because of a loss that had everything to do with me. I know that's ridiculous, but I can't help but feel that way. 

I apologize if this seems to be a strange angle to take on the issue. I don't really know what I'm even looking for here; my grief is not debilitating. It isn't something that throws my life into haywire, it's more an underlying bedrock of pain that provokes the odd sleepless night, the occasional fit of weeping, and a consistently negative outlook on life. It comes in waves that grow worse the more cognizant I become of what could have been. I don't really know what to do about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No apology required, my friend. You are mourning the loss of the father you never knew, and I can assure you that your loss and your grief are just as real and as legitimate as anyone else's grief. You can call it Unresolved Grief, or Delayed Grief, and it could also be labeled as Disenfranchised Grief ~ that is, a significant loss that is (according to grief expert Kenneth Doka) "neither socially sanctioned, openly acknowledged or publicly mourned." 

I encourage you to do some reading about any or all of these different types of loss, so you'll have a better understanding of your own reactions. Here are some suggestions:

The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father - Book by Maxine Harris

Losing a Parent: Passage to a New Way of Living - Book and Website by Alexandra Kennedy

Coping with Hidden Sorrow  - Article by Ken Doka

Delayed Grief by Craig Moberg

Mother Loss: Years Later, Still Can't Cope - Article by Marty T (Addresses mother loss, but its content is still relevant for father loss as well)

Finally, my friend, it's important to recognize that you're not crazy for feeling as you do, and you are not the only person to sorely miss a parent you've never known. Your post reminds me of a quote I just took (I love to collect quotations) from an article I read just a few moments ago, by Bryan Taylor:

You are not alone. No matter what you endure in this life, you never endure it alone. Those are the four most important words in all of grief support – you are not alone.  ~ Bryan Taylor

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You most certainly have a right to grieve...as does anyone who feels loss.  I'm sorry you didn't get to know your father and establish memories of him.  The memories your mom has shared, take hold of them and make them your own.  The things she's told you about him...tuck them away even as you lament you didn't get to know him firsthand.  You asked several questions about what to grieve...the answer would be all of those things and more!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...