Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Things no one tells you about losing a parent in your 20s

by yogendra174 via Flickr
My dad passed away almost 4 months ago. He died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. Prior to this, the only people in my life who had passed away that I felt remotely close to were my two grandfathers, an uncle, and a great uncle. While I, of course, cared about all of these men and was incredibly sadden by each of their passings, the loss of a parent digs in much deeper, stings much sharper, and alters your world in unimaginable ways. I feel as though I either haven't seen or haven't paid attention to many accounts of grieving the death of a parent in your 20s. My experience will be much different from others who have had to endure the same heart wrenching experience, but here are a few things I've learned so far about myself and others from encountering my father's death at a comparatively young age.

Grief is not a perfect, linear process. After the first few days of barely sleeping or eating and bursting into tears at the slightest remembrance, I asked myself, "When does this end? When can I feel okay again?" I fooled myself into thinking that if I went through the steps, if I followed the stages, I would come out on the other end as a whole, smiling, fatherless girl. Yes, my dad died, but my future is bright! Instead, everyday is different. Somedays, I'm happy and productive and I think about my dad with a smile on my face. Other days, I wake up from having a dream about my dad and sulk all day. Somedays, I'm moody as hell. Other days, I nearly forget that my father died at all. Somedays, I'm angry that people who are twice my age still have their fathers. Other days, I silently cry at my desk at work while I hear a coworker talk to his father on the phone. Yes, I cry less and generally feel better about the whole thing than I did during month 1, but it's not a perfect, logical, point A to point B progression. It comes in waves; sometimes with tsunami-like force, but usually more like the daily tides.

Life does not stop. While asking myself when the painful grieving process will be over, I also asked myself when I could do normal things again. I thought that I could compartmentalize the grief. If I kept it in its own box, it wouldn't bleed over into the rest of my life and so, when I returned to the rest of my life, it would be exactly the same as it was before. When and only when I stopped crying all.the.time., I could then resume my life. While people are generally sympathetic to your loss, your bills still need to be paid, your friends still want to see you, your bathroom is only getting grosser, and the days keep flying by. If you wait until you feel 100% back to normal, you will sit out the rest of your life. Once I realized that I needed to create a new normal instead of wait for my old normal to return (which it never will), I placed pieces of my life back. I started reading again. I watched a movie. I started introducing my routines back into my life. I allowed myself to date again. Life stops for no one, no matter how much pain you may be in, no matter how much you wished you could stop time so you wouldn't have to live your life without your dad to share it with. Life goes on.

You learn who your true friends are. After being woken up by the phone call from my brother telling me that my dad was being rushed to the hospital, after the initial shock, after the first shouted "no," after the first cup of tear tainted tea, I reached out to my closest friends to put them on high alert, hoping that my messages wouldn't put a jinx on my dad. After the second call from my brother, starting with the dreaded, "Sarah, I'm so sorry," after the shouting of the repeated and pathetic "no," after the uncontrollable crying and shaking, after the shouting of the repeated and pathetic "why," after the dumbstruck silence and emotional exhaustion, I reached out again. After their brief dumbstruck silence, my phone blew up. Friends called me crying before they even heard my first whimper. My friends flocked to my dad's memorial service like it was a pilgrimage to Mecca. They came unasked- it was a given to them. When things needed doing, I could barely put the words together before I had multiple hands reaching out to help. When I needed to vent, I had an inexhaustible audience. When I couldn't remember to eat, my sister in law fed me. When I couldn't stand, my brother carried me. When I couldn't compose myself, my brother had unyielding resolve. When I couldn't find a light at the end of the tunnel, my brother lit a candle.

Unfortunately, there's a flip side to finding out who is really on your side. My dad's girlfriend turned out to be a thief, a liar, and an incredibly weak woman who was promptly thrown out of my dad's house and karma gave a good ass beating to.

No one can say anything to make you feel better. My first reaction to people telling me they were sorry for my loss was to say, "It's okay." My second reaction was, "I hope you never experience this." My loss was not okay and almost everyone will have to deal with losing a parent at some point in their lives- what silly things to think. I guess in some weird, backwards way, I was trying to make them feel better for feeling bad. Finally, I came to terms with just replying with a simple thank you. After talking to friends who sat in stunned silence after telling them how I was coping, after writing emails in the middle of the night about how I was feeling and receiving only a few words in response, instead of getting angry at their apparent disinterest or apathy, I realized that my friends were at a loss for what to say because they have no idea what it is like to lose a parent. The vast majority of my friends, and none of my closest friends, have not yet had to go through what I am currently going through. Even hearing stories about your dad or hearing how much he talked about you to other people aren't very comforting because you can't help saying to yourself, "That's nice, but it would be way nicer to have my dad alive and still creating stories and talking up his children." Despite the nonexistence of the right words, someone ignoring the fact that your dad is dead is way worse than them saying something that does not provide comfort. Sharing memories, asking questions, letting the griever grieve allows the parent to live on in the only way he or she can now.

I feel like an orphan most days. My mother still hasn't talked to me about my dad dying. She has little to no idea how I've been dealing with it all. To be honest, somedays, it's easier to pretend that she's dead too. My brother, his wife, and my friends have been absolutely wonderful, but, because I am not currently talking to my mother, did not have a significant other at the time my dad died, and live so far away from my closest friends and family, I felt, and occasionally still feel, incredibly alone in all of this. Mourning hangs on you like a shadow during your day to day movements. You don't have to talk about it or even spill tears to feel it. It's just there and can fill a room if you let it. Even though my brother and I shared our father and share our grief, he can experience that grief with his wife. He can be, or at least should be, happy knowing that his wife got to know her father in law for a few years and their son got to play with and be held by his pop pop. I don't have those luxuries. My father will not be there for many of the milestones I'm yet to experience- getting married, having kids, buying my first home. The man I'm to marry can't ask my dad for my hand in marriage; my father can't walk me down the aisle; if I have children, they will never know their maternal grandpa; my dad can't show me how to repair things around the house. When older people who have lost a parent reach out to me and tell me they understand, I appreciate the sentiment, but they can't possibly understand the full depth of what I'm experiencing. Unless you are a 20something, single female who has a bad relationship with your mother and you recently lost your father, I just don't think anyone can really understand this.

Dating is really hard. My first concern was that the guys I would start dating after my dad died wouldn't understand and would feel uncomfortable when I started talking about my dad or if I was having a rough time dealing with his death. They would think I was broken and give up on me. That fear was allayed when I met my current boyfriend, B. While he doesn't understand what it's like to lose a parent, he understands that things are going to bother me and that all I need is patience and open arms. I feel more insecure than I've felt in years and this causes me to react/overreact to things that I would have otherwise let roll off my shoulders. Because my mother was never very affectionate, reassuring, or encouraging, losing my dad meant losing the biggest figure in my life who told me without pause that he's proud of me, that he thinks I'm beautiful, that he thinks I'm great. This absence has caused me to seek constant affection; second guess silences, conversations, and actions; feel incredibly sad during B's family gatherings; and generally jump to the worst possible conclusion if there's a sliver of a doubt. While I rarely act out or start fights because of these things, I let it dominate my thinking and deflate me to the point of tears. B lets me get it out of my system, but builds me back up with the truth- that he thinks I'm great too.

Paperwork and possessions. In the midst of trying to mourn my dad's death, my brother and I have had to deal with an enormous amount of paperwork. Death is a very messy business. Since my dad was not married and he did not have a will, my brother and I had to go to court to become the legal administrators of my dad's estate. We've had to scramble to find account statements, passwords, assets. We've logged countless hours on the phone explaining that our dad has died and we need access, we need closure, we need our peace. We've had to go through my dad's possessions, trying to decide what to keep, what to toss, what to give away, what to sell. We have to remember to pay his bills on top of our own bills every month. We have to try to sell a house that's a day's drive and a day's flight, respectively, from either of us. Thankfully, my dad did have life insurance and that has made many, many things much easier, but I never in a million years thought that this process would be this stressful or drawn out. This is the one thing that has taken me most by surprise because I've never been this close to anyone who has passed away before.

You learn you're not the only one who thinks your dad was awesome. You also learn how much your dad would not shut up about you. Countless strangers have told me, "Your dad loved you very, very much. He was so proud of you." The stories we heard and continue to hear about my dad have confirmed what I've known all along: my dad was one of a kind. He will be missed by many, many people.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. My dad passed away 10 days after my 25th birthday from a brief battle with cancer, so I know at least a semblance of what you're going through- the 'non-linear grief' and 'paperwork and possessions' are hitting very close to home at the moment.

    Life feels unreal for a bit of time, but when you have people you're close to who are willing to listen, it becomes slightly more bearable. A majority of my friends, unable to understand the grief associated with losing a parent, tried to show respect by keeping their distance, but it unfortunately came off as unsympathetic. I know that they're good people, but it can feel so alienating sometimes, being around other people who won't know what you're experiencing until a later portion of their lives. I'm glad you have your brother and close friends to lean on during this tough time. Thank you for taking the time to write this article.

  2. Thank you for writing this. My mom is currently going through a long, losing battle with lung cancer and I am 25. I am having a very hard time thinking of the inevitable and what the next steps will be. I never thought I would go through this until I was much older. I am not ready for it, and I will be shattered when the day finally comes.

    Your story gives me some good guidance, especially what you said about creating a new normal. It's never going to be 'normal' again because you have a different life afterwards, and that's sounds like a good way to approach the situation.

    Your Dad sounds like he loved you a lot, and you are lucky to have been given such a wonderful person to be your father, even if he left before you thought he would. Not everyone is so fortunate. My mom is a truly amazing person, and I would never trade her for another person, not even if that person could be here until I'm old and grey myself.

    I hope you are doing okay.

    -Random Stranger

  3. Hey,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write down everything you have about the loss of your dear Dad. Whilst I can't understand everything about your situation, which is of course uniquely painful, I do understand a heck of a lot of what you talk about. I am 23 and I lost my Mum to cancer 10 months ago. She was only 57. I now live on my own as I was living with my Mum, having just graduated from college last year. My sister is wonderful, but she lives with her fiancé. My Dad lives abroad; I hardly see him and we've not had a good relationship for many years. My friends and my Mum's friends have mostly been my saviours. Even with the best people around, though, it's so, so hard and it just hurts so much a lot of the time. What you say about your Dad is beautiful; he sounds like a great Dad. My Mum was also 'one of a kind', my best friend, always there, a heart of gold. I miss laughing with her, I miss hugging her, I miss all the nice little things she did without ever being asked, like meeting me off the train home every weekend I came home from college, buying me a present just because she wanted to, waking me up at the weekend by letting the smell of bread or croissants in the oven just waft up the many more things, too....anyway, I just want to say, well done for being brave. It's very hard but as you've already figured out, sometimes you just have to try and keep going with life. I am sure all the great qualities in your Dad are in you, too. I wish you could have your Dad right here right now to hug you, as I wish I could have my Mum. They are irreplaceable and the hurt will never really go away, but somehow we must find the strength to carry on. I hope you do, and I send all my thoughts and prayers to you. Take care.

  4. You took the words right out of my mouth.

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom a month ago and can relate to much of this. There are no words to make you feel better. It's slightly comforting to know that we're not alone.

  6. Dear Sarah,

    A big hug to you. I can sympathize with you. I lost my father a few ago ago as well. Unlike yours, my relationship with both my parents has to rocky at best. In all his intention of doing right by me, my father has never really "done" anything to ensure that the family stands strong after his departure. On top of that is an illegal marriage to a woman with young children, whose emotional responsibility now falls on me.

    Our cultures are different. Here in India, I cannot afford to be practical lest I be alienated by everyone I know.

    While I felt bad for your loss, I also wondered what it would be like to have a father that cared. As for my mother, our story is the same. Acceptance runs thin in our family and though we are on speaking terms now, I can never tell when the bubble is going to burst.

    I'd love to talk this out. My friends have been great but they cannot really fathom whats in my head. And its getting very dark & negative.

  7. As a 23yo single and childless woman who moved across the country after college and unexpectedly lost my dad to a stroke earlier this month... I completely understand.

  8. This means so much to me and I can relate to almost all of it. It puts me in tears, makes me smile and all emotions combined into one reading this. Its so hard for me, wanting people to just understand. Half the time I don't, so I can't blame anyone. But anyway, I just turned 20. My mom passed away about 6 months ago from Breast Cancer. Thankyou so much for posting this.

  9. I am glad to have found this. I appreciate your story and input, and like you said, I haven't yet found much information about our age group and dealing with parents' deaths, particularly when they were single parents or divorced.

    As for me, my dad's dying of lung cancer, and I'm 22 and his sole care-taker and legal/financial everything. Since I've never done any of this, it's all a little daunting to say the least. And friends understanding is pretty impossible, as much as they try.

    Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your loss.

  10. I like what you said about creating a "new normal". It is so true, thank you for sharing during this difficult time.
    I lost my Father last month to cancer, and my Grandmother ( his mother) passed away four months prior. Even though I have a good support system of family and friends I still feel as though I was left behind.

  11. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you so much for writing this post. My 23-year-old boyfriend recently lost his father and I'm trying hard to offer him the best support possible. He has twin sisters who are only 18, and his mother is in her early 40s - they feel like such a young family, totally unprepared for something like this (although I guess you can never really 'prepare' for it at all).

    My boyfriend is very open with me about his feelings, but as someone who hasn't lost a parent, it's hard for me to fully appreciate what he's going through. We also live several hours apart; sometimes it's hard to gauge how he's feeling without being face to face. Your post is so insightful and helpful - the 'non-linear' aspect of grief seems to ring especially true.

    Thank you again for sharing this x

  12. My dad died when I was 26, I'm 34 now. Just now in the past few months; being at a university and seeing the younger men and woman, with whole families, has made me realize, two things, that I didn't realize losing a parent in your 20's is way you young, and ironically enough, I'm glad he is dead I really hated the pot smoking drunk, for holding me back most of my life when I was in my 20's

  13. My mom died 6 days ago from congestive heart failure. a few months ago she went into triple bypass surgery that we thought was a success at first but after a unsuccessful recovery that might have been caused by brain damage during surgery, she ended up getting pneumonia and then started going through heart failure and kidney failure. She stopped eating and after 8 days of no food (no matter how hard we tried to get her to eat) she died. There's so much pain inside us. So much regret. We tried so hard to help her and ultimately felt like we failed her even though we know we did all we could. I just wish i could have redone it over.

    This is helpful.

  14. I am so glad to have read this. My father passed away on New Years. He had to have had a heart surgery due to an infection to his heart. The doctor told him , my mom and siblings about the risks of a a poor quality if life. To an extent we understood the situation and thought that he would be strong enough to return back to us. Even though he talked as if he would pass, we brushed it off thinking, he's strong enough, he'll make it through. So the surgery happened and it went well. We went to see him the next day and he was breathing, but through machines. The doctors said that he was critical ill but stable. We thought, if he's stable enough, then he will make it through these next 72 hrs. However when we received the phone call that his condition was getting worse, I just knew something bad would happen. I didn't think of loosing my father until after the doctors reported that his liver was giving up on him and his chances of recovery were very slim. He was sent into a state of coma and that the machines were making his heart pump. Until the doctor explained everything, that was when we realize that no matter if he had the surgery or not, his chances of living was very very little. So, we had to let him go. I went to his bedside, I held his hands, no tears because strangly I couldn't cry. All I could do was wipe the tears in the corner of his eyes and hold his hand which was turning cold. My mother, brother and sister, my uncle (his brother) and his wife and her parents all watched my father take his last breath. He died quietly.

    I couldn't feel anything until I left the hospital.I couldn't eat, I couldn't think straight, I felt almost bi-polar. I'm crying...on and on...tears falling on it's on...and I'm in shock. I couldn't believe what happened. Writing this now, I couldn't believe it and I believe right now I'm still in shock. I cried this afternoon just thinking how I'd never see his tall figure, hold his hands, or hear his voice that rumbled through my belly. I'd never get to hear him trash talk our home football team or make us laugh with his corny jokes or spend holidays with him. He won't put my future boyfriends/husbands through his so called "test", or walk me or my sisters down the aisle or know about his grand children ot see his youngest boy become a football player.

    Everything you mentioned, I can relate to it all now. Being in my 20's, I never really thought about the day I'd loose my parent. My mom just lost her father a month before loosing my dad...and my Uncle and grandmother all left the same day (2011,2013) as my dad did on New Years. I don't understand why this happened. Even typing this....I don't understand it.

    But this entry makes me feel better because I know I'm not the only one who is going through this. It's so difficult, I hardly feel like I can breath sometimes. How do I live without my father?

    1. Death is the great unfathomable mystery, and how to live with it is our greatest challenge. Please see my comment below (#22, I think). Hope it helps.

  15. Thank you for writing this. It helped me so much. I am 17 and lost my mom to cancer on December 17th of this year. My father hasn't been in the picture since I was 4 so I lost the only parent I've ever known and my best friend. I've never missed anything or anyone so much. There's a huge whole in my chest that just won't close. I'll never feel whole again, but thanks to this I think I will be ok eventually.

    1. I know this is a while later, but my mom will have passed 6 months ago tomorrow, so Im feeling a little down. It was also my first birthday yesterday. I'm sorry about your mom. I don't have a dad either and haven't since I was 2. I know how you feel. Im glad I'm not alone.

  16. My mom was only 36 when she passed away

    1. On July 05, 2013 at 16:15 PM
      My Mother passed on its still so empty without hearing her voice or laughter help us all to heal. amen

  17. I'm a 23 year old, single girl who lost my Dad almost 3 months to the day unexpectedly like you. I also don't have the best relationship with my mother and it's only got worse since losing Dad.
    Everything hurts somedays, and somedays i'm ok. It's a rocky road.

  18. bless your spirit just remember there dead in flesh but not in spirit. I know the pain from experience.

  19. Thank you so much for writing this. I am 26 years old and my father died of a heart attack a little over 2 months ago. Your experience is very similar to mine and is comforting to know that I'm not alone in my pain.

  20. Thanks for sharing this. The dating thing makes sense and was very helpful. Thank you. And knowing more people are going though this brings a kind mutual understanding.

  21. To all of the above comments, to all of you who are in your twenties and have lost a parent, I feel deeply about your feelings. They are real. They say that every one is an individual, and when tragedy strikes, everyone grieves differently, but I believe that there are some very similiar experiences that this particular sorrow brings that is felt by anyone in their twenties in particular.

    Society seems to fail at understanding just precisely how vulnerable people in their twenties are. True...they are not children, nor adolescents, but in regard to the grieving process, late adolescence and the twenties can be the worst of all ages to deal with a tragic loss.
    When I was 17, my sister died at 22, and when I was 26, my mother died.
    I could not fathom a life without my mother. I did not want to live, although I had many loving people in my life...I was blinded by my grief and the fact that the one person who loved me unconditionally would no longer be alive for my future. It tok me a long time to accept this. Both of these losses effected me in profound ways and shaped who I became.
    For we are still developing as humans at these ages.
    Our peers are off to college, battling their own life's struggles, and cannot relate to the grief we are thrown into, over night. It is lonely. It is beyond sad. It is at times, impossible to feel like you will come out of it whole, and it is, due to the age, very isolating. There is no one but yourself to depend on.
    The only thing I can say to all of you is to make one choice...just one..and that is that you choose to survive. You don't or won't know how, or when...none of this matters, what matters is you make that first choice. Say it aloud "I am a survivor", and hold onto this no mater how rough the waters, no mater how hurtful and disappointing the friends, no mater how much time it takes to get through. You will get through, but not over, "it".
    How? Because you have committed to doing so.
    The rest will come in ways unexpected. And live like the person you loved and lost would have wanted you to live. At the end of an hour, day, a week, a month, a year, floods of tears...
    you can rise above and allow your feelings of sorrow to morph into wisdom, and love. A wisdom that can help others. You must chose to be a survivor, not a victim. If you don't make that one conscious brave choice and hold it tight no matter what, it will not come to you on a platter, and the darker side can easily take over. Making this choice will give you the courage to not feel sorry for yourself, the courage to know when to let go of certain people, the courage to cry alone and with others, and the courage to help others in the future.
    Pain like yours is both personal and universal. Try to make something meaningful from this. Live a meaningful, not a bitter, life.
    I am now 58 years old, with children in their twenties. Not a day goes by that I don't think about my mother. I know my life would have been very different had she lived to se me grow, marry, have children, etc. I needed her.
    But I SURVIVED, and I did it because she would have wanted that, and I made a point of never telling anyone "at least you had a mother." Because a true survivor gets much in return for having done so..grace, humility, and the type of strength that only courage can give.
    I hope your life's journey will bring you these riches in the face of what seems ow an empty, confusing and lonely world. You are still special. And only you can keep yourself special, because you can survive this and live a life that has pain and grace walking hand in hand. Good luck and love to all of you.

  22. Anonymous, that was absolutely beautiful. "Pain and grace walking hand in hand" perfectly describes how one continues living a meaningful life after losing your parents. Thank you.

  23. Thank u so much for writing this! My mother passed away 6 yrs ago, my father only weeks ago am 26! U have really helped me this is exactly how i feel it helps to know am not the only one

  24. I thought everything was fine in my relationship until he explained to me he wanted out and that it was him and not me. I couldn't understand because I thought everything was fine and that we were in love. Then I decided to look into this further and I looked at his Facebook account and then I saw the other woman that he was involved with, I was devastated and cried.The problem for me was that I still loved Joel and I believed in my heart that he was my soul mate. i tried to work things out but after 5 years in what I thought was the best and greatest romance of my life Joel didn't want me and in fact he was planning to leave and during that time there was a lot of arguing that made matters worse. I had no idea of what else to do and so i took a chance at with the help of a spell and to cut the long story short, he came back and set things right again and now we are living happily together. If you ever need help in relationship issues, contact him on, Prophet Mike is his name.

  25. Thanks for such a wonderful post! My dad passed away 2/7/2014 after battling cancer for exactly 2 years to the day that he passed, which was 9 days after my 24th birthday. I can relate to no end about feeling the pain of not having your dad to be at your wedding or see his grandchildren, for I do not have any children (or siblings to have children) and the realization of not having my dad around for the milestones of me getting married and having children is what hurts the most. Sarah, be of good cheer for you have your boyfriend in your life as close comfort and affection from a male outside of your family (which is something that I truly yearn for during this difficult time in my life).

  26. Heartwrenching story to read. I lost my mom 4 days before Christmas in '13, so a few months ago. Comparing with your story, it's the opposite of relationships for me and my dad/mom and you and yours. My mother had always been my best friend and number one supporter and my father has been always distant and awkward and non communicative. I feel like an orphan. And since I have three older sisters, I am jealous of all the extra time they have gotten with my mom, and all the things she was able to share with them, including weddings and children. Part of my soul is missing.

  27. My mum died 3 weeks ago, and i still cant believe it she was only 48 andf it came out of nowhere, im totally devastated i just cant imagine my life without her..we was so close i feel like a part of me has died.

    i was so looking forward to having children and her being a grandmother now i don't want to do it without her.

    feel like my life is over x x x

  28. I'm sorry for your loss and thank you for putting this beautiful piece of article. I can totally relate especially when you mentioned "No one can say anything to make you feel better."

    This post made an impact to me and I realized to make my own post regarding my own experience. I hope you don't mind if I share you what I've written.

  29. Sorry for your loss...

    These topics need to be more open in general. People can't deal with things they don't understand. If we never talk about death and grieving, especially parents, we're driving into the future without a compass.

    My father passed away last year, age 72, and I was 32.

    What you wrote about your mother really struck a chord with me that resonates in a way I never expected anyone else to be able to.

    My parents were married in 1965, they had 8 kids, I'm the youngest. Between us 8 kids there are 30 grandchildren, the youngest is my son who was the first born after my father died. My parents had fights, but remained "happily" married throughout.

    However, my mother has been very closed about all of this. She likes to pretend that bad things don't happen, that they didn't ever happen. She never talks about anything bad that ever happened. So, she's never talked to me about how she feels, or asked me how I'm dealing with it.

    My siblings have largely ignored us, but that's nothing really new. Still, it's a bit of salt in the wound when you can't even count on your siblings to talk with you after your father dies. They just "act normal", and when we have family gatherings I "put on my smile" and avoid talking about anything significant. "How's the weather?" "I see you painted the wall, how nice!"

    In the end I feel just as isolated as I imagine is possible. Most of my friends have largely avoided the issue as well. Many, including siblings, use the reason of "we wanted to give you space." and I'm just like, "well done! Now why haven't I seen you in 2 years?"

    I found this looking for a question that I don't know if anyone has the answer to, what is the average age to loose a parent? How unusual is it to loose a parent in your 20's, 30's?

  30. Dear Sarah,

    I'm terribly sorry for your loss - I lost my beloved Dad on Jan 2nd 2014 1 A.M. right in front of my eyes even while I desparately screamed my prayers into the middle of the night requesting Almighty's help.

    I'm unmarried yet and I really get what you're saying about the pain of not having a loving parent to beam when you complete your life's milestones.

    Grief of losing a loved one and how one handles it is utlimately a unique experience. Condolence and consolation are practically useless but it does make one feel thankful when the effort is genuine.

    Like you said, we need to really accept that "old normal" is gone - "new normal" is here to stay. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts - it helped me in a way I can't explain precisely. Thanks again. Hope that we would somewhat heal one day, if you know what I mean.

  31. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I just recently lost my dad and have been having a lot of trouble coping. My dad had cancer for 11 years and he always fought through everything, so when it finally took him, it left me in shock. He was put in hospice 3 days before he passed, and when my ma called me at 1:30 in the morning on Sunday, I can still feel the cold terror and shiver that went through my body and left me almost paralyzed. I'm also struggling with the final images I had. Him cold and distorted on the bed, them lying his bed down and wheeling him out on a stretcher. Just seeing him with no life was heartbreaking. The funeral home didn't help either, they put so much makeup on him in our final viewing that I thought they had the wrong person. It really doesn't feel real that he is gone. I think the neverness is the hardest part. I'll never talk to him again, or give him a hug or kiss. I'll never call him again, seeing his contact in my phone is a terrible reminder, but I just can't delete it. My friends and fiancé are uncomfortable around me, they've never lost someone and don't understand why I can't just get over it. I'm afraid that since I am so young I will forget him and the way his voice sounds. I'm also afraid for my mom, she has been with my dad for 40 years, and has been his caregiver for 11 years. She's never known a life by herself. My brother and sister live far away and aren't able to spend much time with her and it breaks my heart thinking of her all alone at home. I just want to thank you for sharing your story because it helps a lot to know other people have gone through this and made it to the otherside. It also helps to know that other people have a really hard time with all of this. It's completely life changing, and I love how you called it a new normal, because it truly is. I know he is watching over me and will always be in my heart. A good family friend that attended his funeral came up to me and told me not to try be so strong and to just feel my feelings, painful or not, her mother had passed away 2 years ago, and she turned to drinking and lost everything she loved. I just thought that was a powerful statement to share.
    Thanks again for sharing and for all the other people that have commented with their personal stories.

  32. I am truly sorry for your loss. While it’s never easy to lose a parent, I can see you and your dad are particularly close to each other. This makes your story much more heartbreaking. At the same time, I admire your intelligence and courage. You have written such a beautiful post and I hope this will give courage to other people who might be going through the same issue.

    David Munson

  33. I would like to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to share something so personal and painful. I hope the ability to write how you are feeling has helped your process in some way. I cannot comment on the way it feels to lose a parent, but I can state that it is heart wrenching to have your younger cousin, who is more like a sister, lose her biggest fan and best friend, her Dad.
    My cousin is dealing with an unbearable weight and expected to hold the family, what is left of it, together. She is hurting, and unable to really go through her own grieving process, because she is literally holding her Mom together, by sleeping in her Dad's spot, every night, so her Mom can get a few hours of broken, restless, sleep.
    I cannot really comfort her in the way she needs, because I do not have a clue about what she is going through. My Dad is still alive, although we are estranged and it kinda feels like he is gone, and I'm 31. I'm trying to just allow her to lead me on how best to help her, and reminding her, constantly that I love her and I'm here.
    This post is the first time I've noticed that she doesn't feel so alone. Thank you, again, for reaching someone I love, by being brave and selfless enough to share your own pain. I wish you well in life and I hope I am not being too forward by stating that I am sure your Dad would be proud.

  34. Thank you so much for this post. I lost my Dad 6 months ago, at the age of 26. I feel your words so strongly, and I thank you for my tears too. Day by day life carries on but I have learned that can be a danger in ourselves. The people around us who may not understand what we are going through think we are 'back to normal' if they don't hear our thoughts too. I read a powerful analogy about tears...our sadness is like a well inside us filling up, and if we don't release the tears, the well overflows. God bless all of us, and those we wish were still here.

  35. Thank you for this I can relate to your story. I first lost my mom in late 2013 and 4 months later I lost my Dad. There are no words anyone could say to me to make it better. I have learned a simple we are here if you need us or someone to just listen works. It's a long road and I want to feel that happiness I once had but never without the ones I love so dearly. I thank you for your story.

  36. Spot on. A parent's death is something else altogether and affects you in ways you couldn't have imagined. My dad died suddenly two years ago, 3 days after my 33rd birthday, and sometimes it feels like it was only weeks ago. I hope you're doing okay.

  37. Dear Sarah,

    Thanks so much for writing this. I lost my father about a year ago and it was honestly the worst thing to ever happen to me. Like you, I have a rocky relationship with my mother and my dad was very much the light in my life, my best friend and he was basically my mother and my father in one. It was so good to read your blog post as a lot of my friends try and understand but they never really can. I feel like the longer they keep saying it the longer they get with their dads and it feels pretty lonely. Unfortunately I'm an only child and so have been pretty alone in the grieving process. I don't have much family and what little I do have live abroad. It's a gaping wide abyss and it was a comfort to read your post and know that there are other people going through similar things.
    Am trying to go through with my university studies at the moment and am currently doing my finals. Another huge milestone that my dad will miss.
    Sometimes I just feel like I'll never be happy. What you wrote about a new kind of normal really stuck with me. I hadn't even thought about the fact that things will never be the same sort of normal as they were before. I guess I never really thought about it and I feel like I've almost been waiting to feel my old sense of normal again. But I know now that that can never happen and I just have to almost start my life again.
    Your words really spoke to me and I want to thank you for that.

    1. My dad died a month ago. He suffered a brain aneurism. It was very sudden. I also have a pretty rough relationship with my mom because of her mental illness. My dad basically raised me. He would often protect me from my mom's outbursts (though in later years when he was alive she was much more stable and we had a good relationship) He was the only person whom I'd never call by his first name, just "Dad". He was all I had for a while. I depended on him emotionally for most of my life. I'm only twenty. I'm trying to make it day by day, my stepmom has really kept me together. I don't know what I'd do without her. My mom is getting slightly better but now she keeps saying that she doesn't trust my stepmom and thinks that she had something to do with his death (even though she was at the hospital with us and the doctors said that he died of a brain aneurysm) so now I'm just trying to make it day by day. I'm less hysterical than I was at the hospital but I just feel like I will never be happy again. Like I want to crawl into bed and just lay there forever.

  38. I'm 28 and my dad died in September 2014.

    I just was having a me moment and at the end of the evening thinking
    about ...." oh ya, i've lost my dad in my 20's....the rest of my life he won't be around".

    Everything you said, i pretty much have found out or discovered/ agree with.

    You really do feel alone,

    LIFE DOESN'T STOP (i remember after my dad died looking at all these people walking by feeling as tho time had stopped for me....but yet all these other people kept on going),

    Sometimes I do feel like an Orphan even tho my mom is still alive.

    No one can say anything to make you feel better.

    I was just having a rare poor me moment and typed in ' Losing Your Father in your 20's" and this page came up. Thanks for posting it. I see other people feel exactly how I feel.

    Sadly We Are All In A Club No-one Wants To Be Part Of.

  39. I'm very glad I stumbled upon your blog post. My dad died suddenly from a heart attack 15 days ago and I was searching the internet for "what to do when you lose a parent in your 20's", because I really have no idea what to do..
    Now that it's been a few more months for you since you lost your dad, can you tell me if it gets better?
    Right now, to me it feels like there's no end to this grief.
    -Amber S.

    1. I did the same thing! I don't know who to turn to - hoping online articles provide a bit of comfort.

  40. I am so sorry for your loss. As you well know. There is no response to this. I am also 20 and my father passed away almost four months ago. Some days are really easy. Some days are hard. I keep it strong during the day and at night I cry like a big baby. At least the feelings I'm facing I'm not alone. Going through these firsts without him sucks. Father's Day was one of the biggies. And it sucked. Thank you for these steps. Or at least stages. Thank you.

  41. I lost my dad in december 2013 and your post put my feelings into words. I am 22 and I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who had these feelings. It seems like you have a great bf to help you through. My boyfriend and I broke up over something so small 5 months after my dad died. he just couldn't understand my grief and what I was going through. Thank you for this post. it really helped me

  42. Thank you for sharing - this is exactly what I needed to read. You put into words what I have been feeling for the past 6 months.

  43. Thank you for sharing this. I lost my father on Sunday and this is the first thing I have read that totally resonates with how I feel. Many of the articles I have read have to deal with people who have lost their father at 40, 45, etc. I printed this article out as a resource to me when I start to feel depressed, hopeless, or lost I can read this. Thank you

  44. My mom passed away last Thursday on the morning of September 9th, in the 8:00 hour. Her heart just stopped beating, and even after the doctors worked on her for over an hour, they could not revive her. She gave absolutely no indication that there was anything wrong with her, so we were totally unprepared. I am 22 years old. My mom was my best friend, she was my confidant. When the doctor came to me and my dad and told us the bad news, I was distraught. My mom was the glue that held our family together, because me and my dad are so far apart in age, he is 72, we have a bit of an awkwardness that my mom fixed for us. Now that she is gone, me and my dad have to basically learn how to interact with each other all over again.
    In my house I am unable to sit in a room in silence, I need to have music or the tv on. At night, I have to have my music playing under my pillow. I have a hard time finishing meals, and I am pretty sure I have lost weight. I have been holding up for my dad, I can't imagine what he is going through. They were true companions; they were past the physical aspect of their relationship and just loved being around each other. They have the kind of love that I long for, yet I am terrified to have for this very reason.
    I do not wish this kind of grief on my worst enemy, I can't really imagine anything being worse than this. Even though I lived with my mom my entire life, I feel like I haven't spent enough time with her. There are still things I need to learn from her, I am missing out on her words of wisdom that pertain to any of my troubles. I had always known that I would have to deal with the death of my mom, but I never, EVER, imagined it would be so soon. I was the last person to hold her, and I was the last person to hear her speak.
    Despite all of my feelings though, my mom told me on multiple occasions that she wanted me to continue my education, and get a Master's and a PhD. I will do that for her, I will work hard to graduate, apply to grad school, and get those degrees because that is what she would have wanted for me. She was my #1 fan, and she supported me in everything that I did. Now I have to keep making her proud.
    There are no words to explain how it feels to lose a parent you were close to. And no amount of condolences or well wishes will make the pain go away. Some days are better than others, but I know things will get better. Maybe not next week, not next month, or next year, but things will get better. I have to keep telling myself that.

  45. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope God gives you strength and courage to move on. Myself I am 35 and I have a brother who is 25. We both lost 4 family members o. June 22nd 2014 in a car accident that was caused by a drunk driver. Out of 4 family members 2 were my parents. My brother and I are going through a lot at the moment and it seems our lives had stopped since June 22nd. . We have a hole in our hearts that only my dad & mom can fill. My parents were/are/ and will be our rocks and always will be as we listen to our inner voice recalling their strong assurances that Ravi (my brother) and I could do anything we put our minds to. My dad taught both of us what unconditional love is. He was the one to come right out and say “I Love You and he was the lovey dovey huggy kind of Soul AND he was the one to always be there to bail us out of whatever situation we managed to get ourselves into and he NEVER gave up on us.The hole in our hearts remains and we try to keep it plugged with memories of our parents, walking on the path both showed us, and taking care of their precious grandkids. We hold on to the memories, and look at pictures of our parents. We get to be proud when people still talk about what a fantastic human beings you and mom were. They were always there for people when they needed help and they never expected or wanted anything in return for helping people. Their generosity and selflessness is inspiring and unmatched. Both of my parents have left people with a lot of good memories of you both. They always mention how you made them laugh, always listened, how they both always helped whoever they could with whatever you could. It gives us a feeling of warmth inside to hear these things about both of our parents and inspires us to be the kind of daughter/son you’d be proud of. I like to believe you’re watching over Ravi (my brother) Aru (my son 9 yrs), Ruchi ( my daughter 6 yrs), Ajay ( my husband) and me.

  46. Hey, I was surprised to find how many people commented to say that they have shared this experience.. but here I am, me too. I'm 21, single, have a rocky relationship with my mother, have a brother, and lost my father suddenly in August (he was hit by a car).

    Thank you for writing this. I hope that things have gotten easier, more peaceful somehow for you. <3

  47. I stumbled upon your blog and couldn't have said things better myself. I recently lost my dad about 3 months ago and the entire grieving process has been a crazy roller coaster. It's been helpful to go through all the comments and see that there are people who feel the same way. It's comforting.

  48. I lost my dad this year a few months before my 19th birthday. It's been a little while since it happened and though I mostly feel okay, some days (like today) are hard. I found some old photos of him and I from when my parents were still together and I was a little kid... My mother and father had a difficult relationship and her and and I have a difficult relationship now so she hasn't been a part of my grieving process at all. And that breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that he's never going to meet my future partner or children or see my success as I progress with my career. It breaks my heart knowing now when I see pictures of us when we were all together and a happy family that it will never be so again. It makes me so sad on nights like this when I deeply feel his absence.
    He is gone now but he will always be my papa, and I will always love him. Although he wasn't a perfect man when I see the young women I am today in the mirror I cannot help but think of him. I notice now more then ever all the qualities I inherited and learned from him. And I am so grateful for that. And I hope somehow with time and perhaps a little magic the good memories and love will heal any pain and regret I feel about him passing.
    You are so brave for writing about your experience! It really really means a lot to me to have had this space to read your story and share a bit of mine. I can tell from a lot of the comments that this means a lot to a lot of other people so thank you so so much.
    I wish you nothing but peace and in life, love, family, and with your loss <3

  49. I loved this blog. I know exactly what you mean by 'dating' and 'paperwork'. I am 25 and my dad passed away a few months ago after a 1.5yr battle with cancer. He never accepted it and it was the hardest time of my life. He was mean to the family and didn't leave us any letters or say he loved us before he passed, although I guess we did not have that relationship. He became depressed and refused to leave the house, we would visit him but it was so sad to see. I thought that after his death that my life would go back to normal but it hasn't and I don't think it ever will. I am a different person now, still a bit numb from it all but have changed fundamental personality traits too. I hope it's for the best. Thank you for your article, I feel less alone

    1. Wow your story sounds similar to mine cancer is a monster

  50. Hey

    My story is very similar to yours. Besides the factor of age. I lost my dad almost 6 months ago. 11 days after my 14th birthday. He had a heart attack. His body couldnt handle it anymore. He was a diabetic, with triglycerides over 9000 (not supposed to be over 150), with a recurring case of pancreatitis. I havent cried since the night. I had to go down and talks to the doctor about what happened, how it happpened and had to continue in telling my family while sobbing and having a panic attack. We didnt get to say goodbye because it happened so fast. He had been airflighted to a different hospital because the first hospital didnt have the technology for his case. I don't think the hardest part wasnt not getting to say goodbye. I think it was learning to live without him. Without wanting to call him to try to get me out of school. To take me down to the softball fields because mom was pissing me off and I needed to hit something. To be able to see me for my first day of high school.

    I wanted to thank you for this post because I didn't even realize some of the things that happened with me. Also to tell my story if there is a younger audience here.

  51. It's nice to be able to take comfort in knowing someone out there is going through a similar situation. My dad died unexpectedly on July 13, 2014 - 6 days before his 45th birthday. He suffered a massive heart attack while out fishing with my brother and boyfriend. They tried giving cpr but ultimately there was nothing they could do. I remember the initial shock of the phone call that something bad happened and that my other older brother and I had to get to the hospital right away. Nobody was telling me anything but my gut told me before we even arrived. Holding his hand and telling him I was so sorry this happened and how much I loved him was the hardest thing I've yet to go through.

    The feelings of guilt and regret seemed to hinder over me day in and day out - they still do from time to time. 4th of July 2013 I had to work and my dad took my two younger sisters to see the fireworks. He wanted me to go so bad...if only I had known. The hurt will never go away, things just become different and I try to remember that each day is a new day so take it for what it's worth. This truly is a learning experience. I think I'm most sad knowing my father will never get to meet my daughter, she is his first grandbaby (2 months old now and sweet as can be). I miss his laugh, his deep voice, his incredible bear hugs - if I go *there* in my mind, I remember exactly what it feels like. Sometimes it feels real and I'd only like to think he's sending a hug from heaven. Shit, I just miss him in general.

    When people tell me "You'll be fine," I want to slap them silly and say "How the fuck do you know what I'm feeling? How do you KNOW I'm going to be 'fine?' " Instead it gets taken with a grain of salt. These people surely must have good intentions and don't know what else to say, right? Either way, it got old very fast.

    Losing my dad at 19 and burying him on his 45th birthday just plain sucked. Bad timing, death. Then again when ever is a good time for death? There's always a birthday or holiday somewhere close. People showed their true colors, quickly my siblings and I realized who was always there for us and who never was. Time will go on and it won't get easier, it just gets different. You don't get over it, you just get through it. Forever there is a spot that is void in my heart but I know (I'm going to sound like one of those people I hate) that I will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.

    Quick note - the internet is an incredible thing. I was hurting tonight and thought 'maybe someone else can put into words what I can't. ' And here all of you are. For the first time in about 18 months, there isn't a 50 pound weight on my chest. People in my day to day life have tried to make me feel better but a group of strangers have gotter me closer than anybody. Thank you all.

  52. This is perfectly written and I can empathize with you. I lost my mother when I was 20. She was young and her death sudden.

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  54. Hey,

    I am glad I came across this page and thank you so much for posting this because I can relate in a couple of ways. I lost my father nearly four months ago on October 16, 2014 due to neuro-endocrine cancer. I was blessed to be able to be there with him and tell him goodbye and thanked him for all he done and provided me in this short time with him, only being 21 and about to turn 22. My birthday was less than a month away and it was hard with him not being there. Also this was the first year I moved off to college, which was already like swallowing a nail, this came as a double whammy, I came back to school two days after his funeral, a lot of people were in shock that I was back so soon, I told them "I know I am back, I'm sad and disheartened, but am okay, my dad would not have wanted me to give up and not do anything." A lot of them looked at me in disbelief, and still do to this day when I tell my account. Even though it was hard to concentrate in classes, I did make it through this first semester. Christmas break did me much good and I realized during break that because I came back so quickly, even though I grieved some, I felt like I did not get a break to truly grieve, and now the second semester is going good and much better. There is still not a day that I do not think about my dad though, some people say "oh, it takes time, you'll get over it" but I say this: "that is not true and absolutely false, I will never get over losing my father." I am glad I came across this page and found a group of strangers that I can relate to because it has been hard talking to people that haven't experienced it yet and do not say much simply because they have not been through it. But I feel a little better after seeing all of your accounts of what yall have gone through and being able to relate. Thank you!

  55. I lost my father unexpectedly when I was 19. This post is very well written. Thank you for writing this, it makes me feel less alone.

  56. I lost my dad when I was 24, six months ago. He was awaiting a liver transplant, but died of complications before the surgery took place. I took care of him while he was sick. He and my mother were separated and I have no other siblings. Deciding, as his PoA, to put him in hospice six days before he died was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I still haven't gotten over it, and I'm not sure I ever will. Thank you for posting your experience, I don't know anyone who has even lost a parent at my age. You've made me feel less alone.

  57. My mom died when I was 23 years old, my mom was 52 and died of cancer. I have no brothers or sisters my friends avoided to talk to me. I then remained to live at home with my dad who never talked about my mom. I felt so alone, I felt responsible for my dad and looked after him just like my mom did.
    I remember being at the hospital when my mom died, I felt like it had not happened or I would not accept what had happened. I drove home and seemed to spend time looking for my mom, at the funeral I did not feel like I was there, again I went home and felt like I had just experienced a bad nightmare and the fact that I was at my own mothers funeral was not true.
    I would find myself crying, not sleeping, losing my breath and having pulpitations. Life was a real struggle, its been 20 years ago now and although I believe time does help heal, you never get over it, you never forget, you cling onto anything to keep them alive in your hearts. the only thing that I felt helped me is that I am half my mom and half my dad so part of my mother is still alive and thats within me.
    Its been so sad that my mom never saw me have a baby and she always wanted a grandchild, my mom never saw me get married, I went abroad to do this as I did not want to get married in this country without my mom being there, I cried all the way to my wedding in cyprus, i wanted my mom to be there so much. I had the best mom ever, I loved her so much, she was a wonderful lady, she would help anyone, I feel privalidged to have such a wonderful mom, as I said its been 20 years ago, I am crying whilst I am writing this but I do think you find your own ways of coping but you dont get over it.