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Five Years Later, But It's Taken Until Now For Me To Feel Like It&


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*like it's okay to grieve. Sorry, I can't figure out how to edit the thread title shorter, haha.

Sorry to type so much, but I feel like writing up pretty much everything at once will make me feel better.

I'm a female college student (19) and over the course of my life I've lost a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an estranged grandfather, an uncle, two great-uncles (one of which was like a grandfather to me), a great-aunt, a friend, a cousin, and a father, most of those being since 2005- the only ones this past year were the grandfather and great-aunt and the only one besides those after 2005 was the friend, and the one I've had the most trouble with is my father.

The hardest year of my life was 2005. I was still in middle school and in 2004 we'd moved to another county and a very different way of life (from the suburbs of the big city to out in the country). I had no close friends, and a lot of the other people at the school rejected me (it took until midway through high school for me to make any real, long-lasting friendships). Late 2004 and early 2005 my great-grandmother was dying, and in January of 2005 she passed away. In March my little sister and I were out with my father and he had a sudden and unexpected heart attack and died later that day. While he was in the hospital I kept thinking that God wouldn't do this to us, especially to my mother, who had had a very close relationship with my great-grandmother, and I remember the car ride to the hospital huddled and terrified crying with my little sister, when a stranger had been kind enough to drive her and me there. About a month later a local doctor basically misdiagnosed me with lymphoma, and I remember imagining myself just as dead as my father was. I don't mean this in a suicidal way or that I'd given up on life! I just remember the terribly sad and bleak and cold feeling of everyone worrying about me and my mother desperately trying to put up a good front despite her fear and grief and just drifting through a few days before I found out I'd only had mono. It was a relief too tremendous for words, but it had just been another trauma on top of what we were already going through.

Midway through the year my great-uncle, a recent addition to the family through marriage who had cancer, died. Towards the end of the summer, my cousin died, and for a while (really, to this day) the entire family suffered terribly.

My mother and sister were suffering as much as I was, and while we supported each other, we were all still grieving tremendously. As the year went on we lost some familial support due to the shattering effect of my cousin's death. He was much younger than my father and a lot of the family's time was spent helping his parents. This was understandable, but I felt I had no one to turn to. Because of my having recently moved, very, very few people knew of my loss. Nobody from the school attended my father's funeral. I was out for a week, and the secretaries apparently forgot my mother's informing them of what had happened and we received a phone call asking if I was sick. A few weeks prior a popular boy's father had died in a car accident, and it had seemed the entire school was brought to a standstill. Many people talked sadly about what happened, and many people attended his father's funeral. When I returned, the few people who noticed me asked if I "felt better" after being out ill for a week, and in one case a boy asked me if my father was feeling any better. Eventually, a few of my teachers raised some money for me, and while it was an incredibly moving and kind gesture, people got the impression that we were poor (my father had made sure that we wouldn't be) and the total amount covered only one or two week's worth of groceries.

All of this happened back when I was 14, and I don't think I've ever fully recovered. During that year I became terrified almost every time the phone rang, and grew to expect the worst in many situations. I'm not as bad about that anymore, but I still lost a lot of faith in my new community and in people in general. To this day I put on a show of optimism, but deep down I feel embittered and cynical and always assume the absolute worst if there is an accident or if I get news of a situation that could have ended terribly. I hide a lot of my grieving and worrying as not to burden the people around me, but I have so many unresolved issues and painful memories that I feel haven't really healed or been taken care of.

I feel like I never got to be a teenager and spent most of my middle and high school careers trying to hang on rather than live. I've had issues with loss and depression since I was 10 or so, and I feel like I never really got to be a child, either. I don't cry at triggers (most of the time I don't react at all), but inward they're excruciating. Just typing the phrase "I love you, daddy" can start me sobbing, but I'm only allowing myself to cry because there's nobody else in my dorm room.

This contradicts my outward self, though. Very few people are even aware I've lost anyone, and I'm known much more as someone to turn to than someone who needs assistance. I like this view of myself- people telling me I'm wise or helpful or strong or dependable or what have you, even though I'm also told I'm cold and clinical and humorless. How much either of them have to do with my losses, I'm not sure.

It's not that I'm humorless, it's just that I'm quiet and I don't get excited and I laugh at things other people don't. A critic described one of my favorite movies as "funny and flashy, but... you know you've been laughing because it truly hurts." That's how I feel about life sometimes. I want to live it to the fullest, but sometimes the weight is tremendous.

I've dealt with what I have because I've had to, but I feel that that's inadequate. I'm tired of repressing my sadness and day-to-day trials in favor of pretending that nothing is wrong. Again, sorry that this is so long! I'm just glad that I decided to come to a place that seems like it will help me and will allow me to help others.

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It irks me when somebody posts their story here, and nobody replies for days, if at all. Our community here is better than that.

Nor did I properly grieve my father. I don't entirely know why. Only when my mother died last year did grief hit me with full force. And now I think back to my father.

I agree with you that there is something particularly difficult about the loss of a parent while we are still children or adolescents. As an adult, I can think through issues, but I'm not sure kids can figure things out. Perhaps grief gets internalized and delayed, I'm not entirely sure how all that works. Marty, our onsite grief counselor, would have some understanding of this.

I do know that grief needs to be expressed. Expressing grief doesn't necessarily mean having to vent negative emotions - anger, anxiety, sadness, etc. I've discovered that finding our parents' legacy really helps, and that's a positive thing. I created a cook book of all my mother's recipes that she gathered over her lifetime. I passed out about 50 copies to family and friends. Feels great to have done that. Memorializing our parents is such a positive way to go. Simple things like photos of our parents in our living space remind us in a dignified way of who they were and who we are.

I hope you find ways to memorialize your father, and other family members that you have lost. The painful side of loss will still be there, however, so sadness and even anger may need to surface. Crying can be cathartic. Anger can be constructive; so long as we are clearly focused on something we can change.

I think it's remarkable that you have been able to identify your own delayed grief; most people would internalize it and end up with longer term psychological problems. Your healing is already underway. Don't worry too much about your style of expressing yourself. So long as you are honest and caring you will prosper.

Ron B.

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Hi Window,

First I want to say welcome to this site, I’ve said it so many times but it’s been a lifeline to me during my last 9 months of grief since losing my Dad suddenly.

I am so sorry for all your losses and for the pain you now have. From what reading I’ve done on grief it’s always said that it is never to late to begin. Some people just can’t go there right away but I think it will always surface at some point and I’ve no doubt it can be so confusing and difficult to understand feelings when time has passed. It does not matter how much time has passed, you have the right to grieve, you have the right to feel the sadness, express the sadness and not feel like you have to pretend everything is ok.

I think you’ve already taken a HUGE step coming here and telling us your story because it means you are aware of how you feel about everything. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose your Dad at such a young age, I am 35 and I still feel like a little lost child. To have this happen when life is supposed to be fun, you are not supposed to have any major worries is just so unfair.

I know there are no words to take away the pain, no words of real true comfort when it’s simply your Daddy is all you need. I hope you will find though that people here may be able to just relate to some of your feelings so you know you are not as alone as you might think.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose your Dad in your teenage years but I can relate when I see your write about losing faith in people in general. I find that now, for me I feel like my Mom and myself are the only 2 people in the world I can truly 100% rely on. I do have some close friends that I can be completely honest with about how I feel and although they may not understand they are good for just listening and being there. Do you have any friends or family that you feel you could open up to ? Maybe for now this site can be the start for you.

I also relate to some of your fears. We got the phonecall at 3am and although I didn’t actually know the extent of what had happened because my Mom simply said we need to go into the hospital (later I realised they had told her on the phone that they were already 20mins doing CPR on my Dad when they called). Now when the phone rings at odd times, we get a fright. My Mom used to have my Dad call her in the mornings from work when she needed a wake up call. She asked me few months back to do it but now she can’t deal with it. The phone rining while she is asleep is simply too much. Without the security of my Dad we too often fear the worst in many situations, sometimes it feels like nothing at all is going right for us.

Just know that you can open up to us knowing there will be no judgment whatsoever, everyone here is so kind and caring and I wish there was more like them in this world. Keep sharing with us whenever you feel up to it.

We all walk this lonely road and it’s nice to bump into someone along the way and realise that although we go in different directions, at different paces, we are still on that same road.

Sending lots of love and hugs your way hun,


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Window, dear ~ The topic of Delayed Grief has been discussed many times in our forums, and I encourage you to read this particular response. (Be sure to click on the links listed at the end of my post, and read some of the threads you'll find there):

Anniversary Date of Brother's Death

You might also be interested in reading this very helpful book: Never the Same: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Parent, by Donna Schuurman, Executive Director of The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families. Click on the title to read Amazon's description and reviews. The book is written for anyone who, as a child or adolescent, experienced the death of a parent, and it is filled with practical information. You can also read from the book itself here: Never the Same

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Dear Window,

I just read your post now (explaining why I am writing now instead of days ago when you wrote this). For being only 19 years old, you are an excellent writer. You have obviously done very well for yourself if you survivied all of these horrors and made it to live in college dorms. Your father would be and is very proud of you. I think you spent so much time pretending that everything is ok is because your body/brain were using all of their energy just trying to make it through day to day life as a typical teenager in junior high and high school. Those places (junior high /high school) tend to label kids who have an outward depressed demeanor as "the weird kids" and since everyone already thought you were poor (from the teacher's fundraiser) you probably just wanted everyone at school to consider you normal and "ok". Just getting through childhood with a decent self esteem and feeling normal takes enough from your mind/body... let alone go through the entire due grieving process. You haven't done anything wrong or disrespectful to any deceased loved one because you denied or delayed grieving them. You did what you needed to do at that time to get through that particular time of your life.

I also think that because there were so many deaths in such a short period of time during your childhood (and very identity forming years) you don't know yourself outside of being depressed. I am 37 years old... spent many happy years .. until about 3 years ago when I graduated with my Master's degree and couldn't find a job (while everyone else in my class got jobs)... and then my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer (and then died) and I pretty much went into a downward spiral that I feel like I am only starting to come out of 3 years later. In that 3 years I: got engaged, married and had a baby (all happy things) and I am only now starting to come out of a general funk that I realized had taken over my identity. My husband (who was only my boyfriend when all of this started happening) has made several comments about how "I was" when he first met me vs. how I have been over the last 3 years. I am finally starting to feel like I was 3-4 years ago. (more optimistic, not crying all the time). My old identity of normal/functioning/happy is returning. My life will never be the same as it was when my mom was alive but I do things now with the experience of having gone through what I did and I'm more ok with her death and I can function and be happy and optimistic and believe that there is a reason why things happened the way they did. It will take a very long time for you to get to know the happier more optimistic side of yourself but I believe that it is in there and will come out someday.

You are so young. You have gone through hell and yes, you did not really ever get to be a kid. But you have done very well for yourself, like I said and your dad is so proud of you. You have so much adventure and possible happiness ahead of you and I hope that you embrace every opportunity to be truly happy...and at the same time think of your dad and how he would be so happy to see you happy. Really, parents just want their kids to be happy.

sorry such a long post.... i guess i'm a type-a-holic too.

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