Life Lost
July 12, 2016 8:45 AM   Subscribe

How I see myself has changed forever, since my dad passed away unnaturally. I don't feel like I deserve goodness. I am sure my relatives, his siblings may feel that way too. How to deal with this gruesome grief?

Myself in late 30s, never married, no kids. Dad was in late 70's and was in lot of physical pain due to ailment, degenerative bone loss, life long stress from marriage - my mom suffers from mental health issues, Dad was although never bed ridden, severely severely suffered in his last stage from physical pain, refused to take pain killers. He checked out from this world, when he voluntarily chose a speeding train as his choice of impact. My choice of words here are intentional, as he was the best person I know in this world - very independent, amazing character, confidence, morals, ethics, how he helped people around him etc. he excelled in every spectrum. Now my hero is gone, although I remained his best friend till my I turned 30.

There was a gap of 5 years we had a falling apart, we misunderstood as I was in depression and exhibited anger issues. We were in regular (3 times a week) touch although communications were unkind at times, even though we spent time together. Last year relationship was getting a lot better, we visited each other a lot. I have a decent job and paychecks so money was never an issue. I feel no purpose to flourish or start a family on my own. I realize I could have helped him more and may be forced him or talk him through to take pain killers to alleviate the pain, depression etc. He was my hero, I failed to protect him in his last stage. The way he left how his remains was collected all that have a heavy sad feeling in my mind quite often. I am not gonna take my life. How I see myself has changed forever, I don't feel like I deserve goodness. I am sure my relatives, his siblings may feel that way too. How to deal with this gruesome grief? How to deal with the feeling that I could have done more? Is the aversion I feel towards the expectation of the society to create family unjustified? Grateful for reading, your time and thoughts you share. I am getting by.
I have a decent job and paychecks so money was never an issue. I feel no purpose to flourish or start a family on my own. I realize I could have helped him more and may be forced him or talk him through to take pain killers to alleviate the pain, depression etc. He was my hero, I failed to protect him in his last stage. The way he left how his remains was collected all that have a heavy sad feeling in my mind quite often. I am not gonna take my life.

How I see myself has changed forever, I don't feel like I deserve goodness. I am sure my relatives, his siblings may feel that way too.

What is the point of planning a life, family, excelling in career, saving money, raising kids, having fun, living a good life if my dad left the world with so much pain even though he lived an admirable life given his simple background where he started? Or is that the life - sacrifice your own so the next generation continues?
posted by daveg02 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry.
I do not have any answers for you.
Grief brings us face to face with what feels like complete unfairness of life. It brings us so close to the dark side of life that we just can't see or maybe even remember the good parts.
The one thing I can offer is this.
Immediately after the death of my father all I could think of was how much he had to suffer. I felt like all the joy was forever drained from my life, like I had no right to be happy.
Now, after two and a half years, I remember more and more of the good parts, and I can feel gratitude for the good things he had enjoyed.
Please be gentle with yourself. Spend time with people who treat you well.
If you ever want to talk, feel free to message me.
posted by M. at 10:43 AM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am sorry for your horrific loss. It is no wonder you are reeling, anyone would be in your situation.

If you aren't in therapy at this time, I would strongly suggest it as a first step. Time will help, but talking about your feelings and your fears will help more. No one can know why your father made the choices he made - and he took away your chance to ask him. So he left you with not only a loss, but a vacuum. That is a hard thing to fill on your own, and intelligent people tend to fill a vacuum with projections and fears rather than facts. You absolutely should not blame yourself - in any way - for his actions or decisions.

Are you in contact with your siblings and other relatives? Have you talked with them about this? You may find that not only do they not blame you, they are also blaming themselves. Blame is a way of exerting a small amount of control, which can be emotionally satisfying in a time of crisis, even if it's ultimately unhelpful. Coming together as a family to remember the good parts of his life, and to acknowledge that your father alone was responsible for his own actions, could help you all move forward.

I can't tell you what the purpose of life is, or whether anyone deserves goodness. Those are questions people have wrestled with for as long as there has been philosophy. Many people turn to religion for those answers, but if that's not an option for you, a therapist can guide you toward books that might help give you some direction.

I'd also recommend the book When Bad Things Happen To Good People - it's not an all-purpose answer, but a lot of people find it helpful to deal with moving forward in the face of inexplicable tragedy.

Best of luck.
posted by Mchelly at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are saying to yourself, "This was my fault. I did not protect him enough." The reason you are saying that to yourself is because when we experience this much pain, some part of us deep inside WANTS to make it our fault. You see if, if it was our fault, then we control the pain. If it was our fault, then the pain is not something inflicted upon us, it then becomes something we inflicted upon ourselves.

That your father was in pain ... was not your fault. That your father chose to kill himself ... was not your fault. In fact, your father probably was happy in the last year that your relationship got a lot better. You didn't fail with your father. You probably brought a lot of happiness into his life by virtue of your improved relationship.

This feeling may feel like it will last forever, but you are still reeling from the emotional wound, so it's natural you feel like the pain will last forever. Just like our bodies heal from a physical wound, our mind and spirits heal from an emotional wound. Just like we ask doctors to help us heal from physical wounds, we ask therapists to help us heal from emotional wounds. You need to talk to someone about this. Just like physical wounds may heal wrong without a doctor's care, you need a professional's help to let this wound within you to close right. Think about your father. Would he want what he did to have a permanently negative effect upon your life?

Finally, what is the point of all the life events you outlined? I don't mean this brusquely, I mean this honestly: life isn't fair. And by that, I mean that if you go out there expecting good deeds to be rewarded by good fate, you will be disappointed. To me, where the truth lies is in finding appreciation in everything you can - sunset colors, baby giggles, the reflection of sun off a beautiful girl's hair - especially the small things ... and in simply increasing the amount of wellness and happiness amongst the people in the world however you can.

I hope some of this helps. And I wish you healing.
posted by WCityMike at 11:04 AM on July 12, 2016 [10 favorites]

Wow, this is tough. You're in the middle of the grieving process. Not to minimize this at all, but what you're going through is normal.

I'm not a therapist but I can see that you are:

in a lot of pain and shock from his loss (this is your trauma)
missing your dad a lot (this is loneliness, grief, adjusting to not having him there)
feeling awful about the fact that his death was a suicide (that's another shock with unique implications)
feeling that you somehow failed to protect him (guilt)

All of these things are par for the course when someone you love dies. Your situation, though, is complicated by the suicide especially. This extra trauma is a real one-two punch. It's always more complex when a loved one dies through violence, whether external or self-administered. When someone you love dies by suicide, it's utterly devastating.

The part where you draw conclusions about YOUR OWN life, as if these follow logically after what has happened to your father, is where I want to stop you and ask you to reconsider. Here are some examples of the misconceptions you're struggling under right now, according to your post:

I could have protected my father from death (false)
If I had protected him, he wouldn't have died (false)
If I had done x, y or z, he wouldn't have died (false)
It's somehow my fault that he died this way (false)
My father got a raw deal. He did everything right, was a wonderful person, and yet he was struck down in this horrible way. That's so unfair (true)

The last statement is true. But there's no such thing as fairness in life. Death is something that happens, and good people die. We all die. You'll get used to this, and it may take years before you begin to accept it. I do understand how much it hurts right now.

Okay, here are some additional distortions you have regarding your own life that have been thrown into relief by your father's death. Of course you feel the way you feel (especially now), but I doubt most healthy people would agree with these statements:

Life isn't worth living, because it all ends in death anyway (debatable)
Sickness and the inevitability of death invalidate any joy one could possibly get out of life (debatable)
I can't find a good reason to keep living (this is a snapshot of where you are right now, but it's not a permanent place. As others have said above, this is the unique burden every person must confront -- the necessity of finding the thing that gives meaning to your time on the planet)

I think you're in shock and going through grief, and there's a good deal of depression in the mix too. Be careful of drawing conclusions that don't follow from these horrible events you're going through, because your thinking is distorted right now (and that's normal).

Many people have written about the difficulties of finding meaning in life. Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is one of them. And here's a wonderful encapsulation of what you're going through that I found on the Mayo Clinic site.

It might be helpful to find a therapist to talk with. Nothing you're feeling is wrong, by the way, and you don't need to be cured of anything. But you do need a smart and compassionate guide and listener, who can also provide a reality check when you start engaging in distorted thinking that could have a self-destructive effect on your behavior.

This will get better!
posted by cartoonella at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

[This is a comment from an anonymous answerer.]
I have a fairly similar situation in my family, although I am one generation removed from it. My grandmother decided to end her life messily (although much more privately) after a long period of physical and mental suffering. My mother has been very affected by it, and I know she struggles with carrying some of the stigma of mental health issues and feelings of abandonment, as well as the shock of suddenly losing her own mother.

I have worked things out with my own self by knowing that I have a more sophisticated and scientific understanding of mental health than my mother does. My grandmother was very, very sick. The brain that led her to place the shotgun against her temple was not her own brain, it was a sick brain. The person who shot herself at her dressing table was not my grandmother, it was a very sick, very sad woman. The sickness shot my grandmother, not the grandmother who was warm and caring and deft with a sewing needle and expert at arranging flowers. I keep the quilt that she made me, knowing that her love will outlast any negative feelings about the way she chose to write her final chapter.

I wish my mom would try therapy, even fifteen years after the event. I hope that you consider it, too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:13 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

It might help you to connect with organizations and support groups for suicide survivors. Alliance of Hope is one such group.
I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by SyraCarol at 2:55 PM on July 12, 2016

Please consider seeing a therapist/grief counselor ASAP. If you aren't able to make time for one, there are websites and iPhone apps that offer email/text/video chat with qualified licensed therapists and are usually cheaper than in-person therapy with more flexible hours. I strongly, strongly recommend therapy.

It wasn't your fault. There was nothing you could've done differently.
posted by a strong female character at 7:00 PM on July 12, 2016

First, your father was your rock. That hasn't changed. He did that for a reason. Second, you cannot make choices for others. Third, the end of life is hard and it does end. So forcing him to take pain killers, how much does it add?

Finally, and most importantly: you are not in any way responsible for your father's death.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:06 PM on July 12, 2016

I'm here to recommend the book When Things Fall Apart to you. It is a non-woo book with a Buddhist take on to continue living when the world around you (and you) feels desperately broken.
posted by samthemander at 9:56 PM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dave02, this is completely understandable considering the terrible things you have gone through, but to me it is very clear that you are way overestimating your own role in this tragedy.

Your father made a choice. He was in pain and in a desperate situation and he used what little agency he had to make a decision. It is a tragic decision, but he was sick, and he made a choice a lot of people are actively trying to recognize as a legal right all over the world. Suicide is an option in desperate situations. Sometimes those situations are not as bad as we perceive them, in which case we need to do everything in our hands to prevent suicide, but sometimes the problems are real and they are not going away (like illness and severe pain).

A man I knew made a similar choice to leave this world on his own terms. He was in terrible pain (stomach cancer), and of course it's possible and even likely that his presence of mind was impaired, but the impairment was part of his reality. It is easy to say well, if he had been able to think clearly he would not have done it, but of course, if he had not been so sick that pain made him consider suicide then the whole issue would not exist in the first place.

I find myself wishing your dad had been more clear on why he made the choices he made, but again the answer is he could not. He was in such pain that clear communication was probably not a priority, and depression made things even harder. Not to mention the fact that 99% of people would not react in a supportive way to this conversation.

It is clear to me that you love your dad. You spoke to him three times a week, and even disagreements are valuable human interactions. There is no way he did not know you love him. You have not failed him. You were a good son, and a human being who sometimes made mistakes, like all of us.

My mother had a stroke in 2014, and she was in a comma for a month. She is now bed ridden and very sick. My relatives and I have wondered many times if the decisions we made to keep her alive were actually worth it, and inside I sometimes think it was selfish of us to prolong a miserable life just for the sake of not dealing with her death.

You are grieving because your dad is gone. You really don't need an extra layer of unfounded guilt. Your dad sounds amazing and being independent, confident and ethical, I can totally see that the decision he made makes sense. I can come up with a million very rational reasons why a person like him would make the choice he made. Massively diminished quality of life, prolonged pain, practical and financial implications, being a burden to those you love, realizing that you will never have your healthy body back.

I really think reading about voluntary euthanasia will help you understand your dad's decision. That he had to chose train simply speaks to the fact that we as a society like to prolong life as much as possible even against people's will and offer no alternatives for those who want to end things on their own terms when their situation is verifiably inhumane.
posted by ADent at 7:50 AM on July 13, 2016

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