Losing a Parent

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

As you know, my grandfather passed away at the end of August. My mom has what some would say (for a 50-something year old woman) is an unhealthy connection/devotion/obsession with pleasing her parents. As in, if my parents had a financial decision to make, my mom valued her dad's input more than my dad's. To me, that is a huge disrespect of my dad as the leader of our family, but...that is how my mom has been ever since she left her childhood home, and my dad is too much of a pacifist to force the issue.

Also, for the last 30 years, my mom (our family) has lived hundreds of miles away from her parents, which was/is a constant source of resentment in her life, that she can't see her parents every day, etc. (Also, to me, unhealthy, but that is beside the point.) We visited for holidays and they visited us, too, but it was never enough. When my grandpa got sick, she felt overwhelmingly guilty that she couldn't be there 24 hours a day to take care of him. She felt like she was letting them down by not being there to help her parents out. God, in His immense mercy, allowed her to be at my grandpa's side when he passed away.

Fast forward to earlier this week, which was my grandpa's birthday. She was full of tears, and she told me that she felt bad that she had missed so many of his birthdays. She told me that her aunt had told her that grandpa had said the saddest day of his life was when my mom left town after getting married. (Side note: Who tells their niece something like that!!!)

If you can't tell, their family has alot of guilt issues.

SO, I have just been trying to rack my brain as to how to help her with this. Can I even help? I assure her that grandpa would not want her to be sad that she missed his birthdays or worried that she let him down by doing so. But it doesn't seem to help. She said "well, you might feel the same way someday."

I love my dad aLOT. I think we have a great relationship, "even though" I also live hundreds of miles from him. We talk about every other day on the phone, and I feel no guilt for not having been with him on his birthday a month ago. Should I?!

This has been on my mind alot lately, but I can't think of anything I can do that I haven't already tried. Her dad is with Jesus, and she is still worried about pleasing him and doing what she is supposed to so he will approve and being afraid she did not do enough when he was here!!! Any suggestions??


Coco said...

Wow, I'm so sorry. Not sure what to say. There are a lot of true things to say that could bring comfort, but I'm afraid they'd end up sounding like all the horrible "reassurances" that fertile women use on me to tell me why it's okay that they have thirty four kids and I don't. So, I'd say just support her and love her. Validate her emotions (even the crazy ones)and help her feel like she's not so alone. Grief is anything but logical. There are grieving support/therapy groups that are very helpful as well. But mainly, she needs to turn to the Savior to find healing. He's the only one who can do it. Also, if you could find any old letter, or audio tape, or anything from your grandfather... that might help her??? I know right now we're having my dad write little notes for my mom for after he dies. Anniversary, Christmas, and Birthday cards, etc. I'm hoping that will help her adjust, but I just don't know. Also, guilt is generally about not wanting to lose control. (sorry for getting all psychological and stuff) But if you're feeling guilty about something, it's because you think you could/should have done something different to change things. Sometimes we choose to feel guilty because it's easier than feeling helpless. As long as you're feeling guilty, then there's something you COULD have done, therefore you're not helpless. Maybe she needs to let go and realize she's not in control, only God is. Or find something she doesn't feel so helpless about. Like maybe have her go in and serve someone else's father who's in the same situation. She is feeling guilty about not being there fore her dad, and other people were there to help him. Maybe it would help her to feel like the "angel" to someone else's father, when his family can't be there? No real answers, just ideas and they might be lame but it's all I can come up with. Sorry, this is a long post to say "I don't know but good luck." Will pray for you guys. *hugs* Just keep loving her, you're an amazing daughter and God will help you know what to do for your mommy. My friend always used to say, "No matter what the question is, Christ is always the answer." I'll be praying for you.

the misfit said...

Wow. That does sound unhealthy to me. I don't think you should feel guilty for missing your father's birthday (if you didn't call him and ignored it, maybe). If your father loves his kids, then he wants them to be healthy and strong and happy enough to be independent and live their own fulfilling adult lives. That doesn't mean he would want to be abandoned when he was sick or needed help, but I can't really imagine you (or your mom either) letting that happen. Obviously I don't know the people, but...I'm sure her father would have wanted your mother to be independent and healthy and happy living her own life, too. It's too bad she doesn't see that :(.

T said...

I do not think you should feel guilty at all. It actually sounds like you have a very healthy opinion on your situation with your father. Just because you move away from your parents does mean you love them any less.

My best and really only advice that I ever offer anyone anymore is just to support your loved one. You will never know what another person is going through or how it makes them feel. Just listening to the person can go a long way.

Good luck! By the way your mother is very lucky to have such a kind and considerate daughter.

Hillary said...

I'm so sorry :( I'm sure you are all grieving the loss of your grandfather, but then to add this complex family dynamic to the mix must be extra tough. Honestly, I don't know if there is much you can do to help her but pray for her and try to support her in healthy ways. ((hugs))


Anonymous said...

I don't have any adivse, but wanted to say I'm thinking about you. I don't think you or she should feel guilty either.

Jessica said...

Both of my parents have passed away in the last 5 years and I sometimes feel guilty about things that I did or didn't do while they were alive. But I always remind myself that everyone makes mistakes and I can't change the past. I also realize that they would want me to be happy and continue living my life even though they are no longer alive.

Journal writing has helped me and the unconditional support of my family and friends.

Your mom will be in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure there's anything you can do. I come from a long line of obsessive people who feel guilty about everything and so from that perspective I say you could try (if you haven't already) attacking it from a different angle, which is to tell her to forgive herself. The guilt will never end until she does. Whether she should actually feel guilty is kind of irrelevant because in her mind, she did something wrong. Unfortunately, he's no longer around to tell her it's OK, so she needs to somehow make amends. Perhaps doing something in his honor or that he'd always wished she had will help. It's one thing to be sad and upset, it's another to carry around all that guilt. It's just not healthy. In the end though, she's the only person who can get herself over this.