On the Death of My Father
How one son coped with his father’s illness and death
The importance of fathers and sons connecting continued...
As a result, the loss of the father can leave a man with overwhelming grief
if he never forged a bond with his father, even if his father was difficult,
disagreeable, or downright abusive.
“Once dad is dead … well, it’s harder to deal with ghosts than with real
people,” says Glover, who recently decided to rekindle a relationship with his
own aging father. “Nobody’s dad was either that great or that bad. He was just
a wounded human being, and guys who have a chance to work that out before dad
dies seem to draw comfort from that.”
How a father lives on in his son
I did not cry when my father died. I probably appeared to be one of those
sons Chethik describes who dash through grief. But I had done my grieving in
the months before my father’s death, as he gradually evaporated before my eyes.
I experienced the “ambiguous loss” that Pauline Boss describes in her book of
the same title ― my father was there, right in front of me, and yet he was not
there. His death, in a way, provided blessed clarity ― he was finally,
I felt like crying a couple of times, but the tears never came. I was
“grieved out,” as Boss would describe it. “It’s a common thing ― people
shouldn’t look negatively on a family member whose tears have been shed along
the way,” she says.
Instead, I threw myself into writing a eulogy that I wanted to deliver at my
father’s funeral. I became one of Chethik’s “doers” ― I would grieve by doing
something to pay tribute to my father.
But as I read the eulogy in front of the assembled mourners, I realized I
was not just paying tribute to my father; I was reciting a credo of sorts, a
list of beliefs and goals drawn from his life that I admired and wanted to keep
alive in my own way. I commended his deep compassion for other people, his
tireless raging against social injustice, his devotion to family and friends ―
and to my mother as she languished for years in a nursing home after a
Like so many sons, I had modeled myself after my father in many ways. And as
I delivered his eulogy, I realized that, like it or not, he would live on