Father Loss and Grief: 3 Common Questions

My dad died when I was 25 years old. I miss him every day and sometimes I can scarcely imagine how wonderful it would be to still have him in my life. Losing any parent is difficult but father loss comes with its own set of challenges. Whether your loss was recent or years ago, you may find yourself feeling as though there is a hole in your life and something missing.

Here are 3 common questions about father loss and grief with my answers. We will explore much more during my Understanding Father Loss 6-week live online course, starting April 29th!

1. Will you address what it means to grieve for an absent father and what does it mean to do so?

Yes, I will be addressing absent fathers in my online course. There are many similar aspects of grieving an absentee father and a deceased father. The loss of a father figure is a permanent reality for both, but there is also frustration and a feeling of abandonment that comes with an absentee father. Sometimes there is also a hope that the relationship could yet be healed. But the feelings of isolation, grief, and insecurity are all common for both losses.

Both losses will see struggles in their ability to be in romantic relationships – they will either find themselves avoiding relationships or seeking them out but feeling deeply insecure in them. However, both losses also tend to create profound independence and resilience in those who lose a father. Losing a father to abandonment is as profound as losing one to death, but it does come with its own particular set of issues that must be recognized and explored. Educating yourself and processing your loss with the help of a therapist or support group is incredibly healing.

2. Am I just remembering an idolized version of my dad?

I think we all do this to a certain extent. It is natural for us to idolize the people we lose. When we miss someone and the promise of a lengthier relationship is gone, we tend to cling to the best version of the person we remember. I think what’s important to remember is that our relationships with the people we lose continue to evolve. We may go through periods of time when we idolize them and other periods of time in which we find ourselves coming to new understandings about our fathers. As we age and move deeper into life we will continue to understand our fathers and our relationships with them on different levels.

I’m interested in how we distill memory – what is it that becomes important after someone is gone? What it is that was important about that person and that relationship? Taking a look at that can be very revealing. But remember that these relationships and even the memories themselves continue to change. If you are yearning for more truths or more stories I think it’s always a wonderful thing to do a little research, no matter how long ago your loss occurred. Reach out to people who knew your dad. Ask them for new stories, anecdotes, descriptions. Grief and the relationships we had with the people we loved are an evolving process. Be open to this and you will find a lot of healing.

3. I find myself wondering what my dad would say about people I’m dating and success at work.

This is such an important topic! For a long time in the grief world the emphasis was on letting go and moving on. We have more recently made a pivot and realized that what is more healing and healthy is when a person finds ways to stay connected to their loved one. For people who have recently lost a father, the goal should be to find ways to stay connected to him – either spiritually or by cultivating an internal relationship with him. For those of us who lost a father a long time ago, it’s never too late to find ways to reconnect and to open up that relationship again.

I know that even though my father has been gone for 15 years I can still conjure up his responses to various questions. For instance, I can imagine what he would think about my career or my husband. I can ask him advice in my head and usually hear the answer, simply based on how I knew him. I tend to lean into this. I continue to consult him, ask him for advice, and tell him things I hope he’ll be proud of. It feels good to do this and I think we can all do a version of this with the people we have lost.

If you are looking for support and understanding of your loss, I hope you will go here to learn more about my online course. Email support@clairebidwellsmith.com if you have any questions.