The loss of a father for a girl can be a traumatic and life-altering event. Just like the five stages of grief as described by well-known psychiatrists David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there is a process to coping with a girl losing her father and understanding how to deal with some experiences that contribute to working through it successfully:
1. People will say the wrong things
People try their best in these types of circumstances to be amateur therapists. They try to give what they perceive as empathetic advice to assuage your anger, fear, denial, and sadness over the loss. But what they tend to do instead is to say something that is more hurtful, even offensive, than was actually intended. It can leave a girl in even more of a state of confusion than she was before.
It is better to just sympathize with you as opposed to trying to be empathetic which is metaphorically like trying to “walk in your shoes” when they can’t.
2. You can’t get “the moment” out of your mind
A father’s duty for his children, especially a girl, seems to be always exuding a demeanor of strength and security. As anyone ages, they tend to lose that façade and begin to look more vulnerable, fragile, and mortal. So, to be there and witness the moment when your father is at his weakest and unable to control what is happening is not only a reality check, but it can be something that stays with you forever. It also makes you question other things in life that you count on for security and stability.
3. Your heart breaks for your mother
Any marriage that stays together for 30 years or more is one where spouses have become integral parts of each other’s lives for most of their adult life. It also means they have gone through the majority of life changes together including maturing together, experiencing trauma together, and important milestones in each other’s lives have been shared with one another. So, when you lose your dad, a big part of who your mother defines herself as will go with him.
This feeling of being left incomplete can also make you feel sad as well since you love your mother as well and will have to deal with her loss as well as your own.
4. You might be angry.
As you process your loss, one of the stages of grief is anger which happens almost immediately with some people who are coping with grief. As the reality of the loss sets in, transcending this stage into anger can happen suddenly, but it is also a natural part of the healing process. Why? Because it is only natural to feel like you have been abandoned by someone that you loved very much even though death is a natural part of life. You will sometimes take your anger out on others unnecessarily as misplaced emotion until it becomes toxic. This is when you have to consciously embrace the anger, move through it, and move on to accept the loss.
5. There may be some quarreling among siblings
Even though we all mostly experience the same stages of grief, we also all go through them at our own pace in our own way. That means not every family member, including any brothers and sisters, will handle the loss of their father in the same way you do. They may become obsessive about objects associated with him, fight over possession of these things, and turn it into a flat-out family fight. This is when you need to remember that the memories of your father are far more precious than the things that he possessed and left those quarrels go.
6. You could be forced to grow up quickly.
If you are relatively young when you lose your father, you may not necessarily have the level of emotional maturity to handle such a great loss at such a young age. You could also be asked to take on responsibilities like making legal decisions before you are able to handle these types of things. You can either turn to your mother for the best advice on how to get through it, legally and emotionally, or you can consider meeting with a professional therapist and talking it out.
7. You might crumble under the “what if’s”
In some circumstances, a death occurs unexpectantly through accident occurring. Or maybe you had a few harsh words with your dad before he passed and never had a chance to say “I’m sorry." The guilt that you add to your grief with this type of thinking only makes the grieving process that much more difficult to get through and definitely is unnecessary.
Trust that everything happens for a reason and going back over “what was” is not going to change one single moment of the past. You have to believe that your love for each other usurped anything that may have been said or done in the past, and you also did what you could for him when he was alive as he did for you.
8. You will have to learn how to fix things yourself
More often than not, girls will turn to their father to help with the little things around the house that need fixing. This could be installing a ceiling fan, changing the oil in the car, and figuring out why the heat just won’t turn on in the dead of winter. A father tends to drop everything when his daughter calls for help, and when that handyman is no longer around, it is time to start figuring the little fixes out on your own as well as find a trusted group of professionals (usually from word of mouth) to be at your service when you need them.
9. Holidays will be the worst (for a while anyway)
For longer than it may seem, you will begin to feel the holiday blues weeks before the actual day of celebration. Even though many people will remind you to remember your father warmly at these special times, just the act of shopping for gifts or seeing Father’s Day cards in a store can bring you to tears. This can go on for several years with a heavy heart and then begin to dissipate year after year even though there may a tinge of remembrance and still a tear or two of longing for our father to fill the empty seat at the holiday table.
10. You will eventually get through it.
Maybe not when the loss is fresh, but in the coming years as you begin to reflect more on the good times and memories of your father, you will be reminded through your own life experiences of the same moments you had with him. Instead of going into crying jags over these moments, at some point you will begin to smile instead and embrace the feeling of warmth you get at your gratitude for having the time you had with your father and the luck of having such a great parent to call “dad”.
It will eventually give you a new perspective on how precious life is and how you should not waste even a moment of it on negative feelings. All of this is also the greatest gift that your father can give you even when he is gone.
Based on the materials from APost