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It's That Time Of Year Again.

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Excuse me if this post is a bit rambly, but I'm having a hard time collecting my thoughts.

I know that the holidays are supposed to be a time when everybody's happy and with their family, and I wish happiness for these people. However, I really can't seem to find any degree of happiness in my life, and especially during the holiday season.

My father died two days after my 14th birthday in 2006, due to complications from leukemia I am going to be 21 in two months from tomorrow. My biggest regret is going upstairs to play with my friend rather than sitting with him longer that night. The loss of my father is something that always stays with me, and it's definitely formed my views of the world, but it's not often something that's debilitating.

I went out for about 20 minutes today to pick up something at a local store with a christmas tree lot in the front. I saw a younger couple with a 3 or 4 year old kid going around through the trees. It was like a stereotypical christmas commercial, with the kid between the parents holding both of their hands. I remember thinking to myself how nice it was. As soon as I got home and sat on my bed, I started sobbing uncontrollably, with no warning or any previous indicators of sadness. There's just this overwhelming feeling of guilt I have, like "what could I have done differently" or what I did wrong that could have this happen to my father. I know everybody says that "they wouldn't want you to dwell on it" or "well you just have to make new memories", but I'm terrified that I will forget the old memories. Remember the last scene from "a christmas story" where Ralphie's Dad and Mom are sitting in the dark looking at the lit up christmas tree when it's snowing outside? My father and I used to do that exact same thing when I was growing up, and it's one of those memories that I dont want to forget, or let another memory take precedence over. I almost feel guilty for trying to move on with my life. And I have thus far been unsuccessful. I've had many people tell me that I "hide in my work" or try to hide from my life, but I feel very uncomfortable confronting it, I suppose. I feel very guilty for feeling bad or discussing my problems, because I know many people have it much worse, and I dont want to bother anybody.

Frankly, there's nothing more I'd like this christmas than to spend the day with my father, even if I could never see him again. I rarely ask anybody for anything, and I don't think that this is too much to ask for, regardless of how unrealistic of a wish it is.

I really just feel like i've let my father and grandfather down somehow, and it just kills me inside.

Anyway, I'm sorry if this is whiny, I'm sure plenty of people here have experienced much worse. Have a good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.


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Hi Michael. I just want to give your post a quick and supportive response, though I may be inclined to babble on, for there is rich content in what you have written.

I think losing a parent in childhood or early youth must be particularly difficult. As adults we can be more deliberative about how to deal with loss and grief. We can read about it, talk with others, go in for therapy, and so forth. But as kids, how are we supposed to comprehend the loss of a parent? It's just too colossal an event. I think some of the trauma gets buried and emerges later.

Many other people here have had issues with guilt. We replay events when we lost family members, rethinking the things said or done that could have been handled differently. I don't know why we become so hardened and unforgiving of ourselves. Perhaps it helps to realize that all of us are faulted not just in little ways, but sometimes in big ways, and that none of us are perfect. We can only do our best from this day forward. That my parents themselves had some deep faults helps me accept some of my own less-than-best features.

You mention that you are sensitive about the memories you have of your father. I can relate to that. After I lost my mom 3 years ago, I didn't want my pain and desperation to contaminate wholesome and good memories. But something began to happen with me, maybe because I'm approaching 60. I have experienced a lot of memory flooding. While dreaming, while working, or while going somewhere, memories will just pop into my head out of the blue. I get transported back to times and places of my childhood or early youth, and relive some small event of my past. The legacy of my parents runs all through these memories, and I feel like I'm recovering something important. So I wouldn't worry about preserving wholesome memories, your mind will do that automatically for you in years to come.

Glad for what you posted, and hope my own rambling here makes some sense.

Ron B.

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Michael, my dear, my heart goes out to you as I read your story, and I'm so sorry to learn of the death of your father when you were so young. This is an enormous loss for you, and I can assure you that no one here will think you are whining. Don't ever think your loss is somehow less important than someone else's, because for any of us, the most difficult loss is the one we are experiencing now. Clearly you're still experiencing the loss of your father, and sometimes you'll be more in touch with that loss than you are at other times. That's one reason "the holidays" are so difficult for those who mourn, since these days are all about gathering together to celebrate traditions and share memories with family members. There is no time in the year when we're more acutely aware of the person who is missing than on special days like these.

There is so much I'd like to tell you about what you are experiencing. Mostly I want you to know that whatever you're experiencing is normal. You are not crazy, and you're not being whiny. I don't know what you think you've done that leads you to feel as if you've let your father or your grandfather down, but I can assure you that feeling guilty is very common in grief. It is only human to engage in that sort of magical thinking, to go back over all we did or failed to do, and wish with all our might that we could re-write the ending of this horrible story.When you feel overwhelmed with guilt, it is wise to remember that feeling guilty is not at all the same as being guilty as charged.So much of the guilt we feel in grief is irrational and groundless ~ but it's there, nonetheless, and so it must be addressed. In order to rid ourselves of it, we must find a way to express it, expose it to the light of day and evaluate it, so we can work through it and find a way to forgive ourselves. Usually that means finding someone to talk to, someone who will listen to us without judgment, and who will help us look at the facts more objectively. You don't say what, if any, outside support you've received since your father died, but I hope you have someone you trust with whom you can talk about this. Bear in mind that it's never too late to do the work of mourning, because grief doesn't "go" anywhere ~ it just lies there, waiting for us to pay it the attention it demands. As you yourself have said, you feel guilty for trying to move on with your life, yet you also feel guilty at the thought of talking to someone about all of this. That is why you're feeling stuck ~ and I'm afraid you will continue to feel stuck unless and until you seek the support of a trusted friend, a relative, a clergy person or even a professional grief counselor.

I'm going to point you to some articles I hope you'll read, in hopes that you will re-think your position about "bothering" someone by discussing your problems:

When Grief Seems Insignificant by Comparison

Teen Coping with a Father's Death

Voices of Experience: Delayed Grief

Guilt and Regret in Grief

Are You Reluctant to Seek Counseling in Grief?

Finding Grief Support That Is Right for You

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Grief

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  • 2 weeks later...

hi Mike,

First off nothing at all whiny about your post. I am truly sorry for the loss of your Dad. I love the way you say the loss of your Dad forms your views of the world, I totally agree. I lost my Dad 17th Dec 2009, it's still tough.

The holidays are definitely an extra struggle for me & why wouldn't they be for anyone missing someone they love. Seeing others happy and having fun doing all the Christmassy things is so so difficult, it's such a slap in the face for what you are missing out on now.

It's easy for others to say not to dwell on something but you feel what you feel and there is nothing wrong with it. I too have moments of guilt, wondering if I took my Dad to a different hospital, if I fought a little more when I was concerned about the level of monitoring when he was in hospital......those feelings come and go and there is nothing at all wrong with them so please know that. Nobody has the right to tell you what or how to feel. I too fear I will forget things. My Mom & I (I'm an only child) still do not sit and chat about memories of my Dad as it's too hard for us. I find it hard to think back but then I fear if I don't think back will I forget everything. But at the end of the day I don't think we will or can forget anything, the memories are there and will stay with us ALWAYS. New memories CANNOT replace old ones, we have more than enough room for them all.

When people say others have it worse I honestly believe that everything is relative so however bad you are feeling, if you are feeling sorry for yourself.........YOU ARE ENTITLED to that, just because someone else may have it "worse", this is your worst and that's all that matters. You are already acknowledging so many feelings here, that's a big step and I bet your Dad and Grandfather are so very proud of you.

Hang on tight to this roller coaster Mike and your Dad will pull you through it somehow.

sending you lots of best wishes during this extra tough holiday season and know there's always someone here to talk with who can relate to you.



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Hi Mike,

I also lost my dad when I was 14. It was his birthday 2 days ago, and as I stood looking at his picture I said wow It's been a while that I looked closely and felt his gaze upon me and I probably did not understand his needs then, but I sure think he understands me. I feel your dad just as anyone's here will always let us grow and they will understand as we stumble and stand up again and feel them closer to us closer and closer.

Take care,


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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...


My condolences on the loss of your father. It sounds like your father did a great job with the time that he had, and I'm sure you will pay it forward when the time comes that you start a family of your own. My father has been gone for over 30 years now, and trust me, you don't forget...my memories with him are indelibly etched in my heart and brain. We may not be promised a certain number of years with our dads, but we get them for a time, and you are and I were fortunate enough to have good caring dads.

I hope this new year brings you salve for your heart and help you through your grief and all of the adjustments that brings.

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