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March 23, 2007 / missknowitall

Lost My Mom, Now I’m Losing My Dad

Dear Little Miss,

I am one of five children in a family that has always been very close and very stable.   We are all grown up now, with families of our own, but we have always stayed very much in touch and get together with each other quite often.  We were blessed with great parents who have loved us and supported us in everything.  This may all sound too good to be true, but that is how it was.  Last year my mother passed away from a quick diagnosis of cancer.  We only had 3 months warning before she died.  Our family is still close but we are having a lot of problems with our father.  He seems to be avoiding us now.  Our parents used to come to every event in our children’s lives, birthdays, school plays, baptisms, etc.  Our father won’t come to any of these now.  I tried to confront him and tell him that his children need him to stand up and be the good father he used to be and he became very angry with me and told me to leave him alone.  When mom died, we really needed him to be there for us, and he wasn’t.  I used to think he was just having a hard time grieving for my mother but now he is dating any woman he can find, and now I don’t know what to think.  I don’t know what to think about this situation.  I want my children to know and love their grandpa, but I’m having a hard time even liking him right now.  I feel he really dropped the ball after mom died and that he wasn’t there when we needed him.  Little Miss, please tell me what to do.

Signed, I Need My Daddy 

Dear Need My Daddy,I’m going to make an assumption here, and hope that I am not wrong.  I’m guessing that you had an amazing mother.  I’d even bet that if you got a phone call from your parents, it was from her.  That if your children got a birthday card, it was in her handwriting.  I bet that when you were invited to their house that she baked the cookies and prepared whatever food you ate.  You have a wonderful father because he supported your mother in all these good things, but I’m betting that for the most part he was just following your mom’s lead.  He was able to be a good father just by being there whenever your mom was working her magic.  I’m not saying he wasn’t really a good dad, I’m just pointing out that your mother probably made it very easy for him.  Now she is gone, he is alone and he is probably terrified out of his mind.  He may be avoiding you children because he feels he won’t be able to meet the high expectations your mother has given you.  He may be dating in earnest not only to drown his loneliness, but also as an excuse for not being available for you children.  As long as he feels he will fail with you, he will avoid you.  If you want to reclaim your father there are two things you need to do.  The most important one is to give him unconditional love.  Your father has lost more than just his better half or his right arm.  If you were to ask him, he might say that he lost all of himself when your mother died.  Stop expecting him to be strong, or supportive, or expecting him to take over the things your mother used to do.  If he were an invalid in a hospital you would come in, tell him you love him, give him an update on the children, leave him cards from the kids, kiss him and leave.  That is kind of the same thing you need to do for him here.  Just give him love and don’t expect anything back right now.  The second thing you need to do is to get to know this man-without-a-wife.  Take him out to dinner and just talk about the memories you have of HIM when you were growing up to show him that HE was important in your life.  Get to know your father.  Allow him to get to know you.  Be interested in his life, even if it means being interested in his “girlfriends”.  Don’t think of them as interlopers, but as friends who are helping your father stay busy.  If your father feels that he can be loved for who he is (failings and all) then he might feel free to try a little harder because he won’t be scared of failing.     

Give him a quick phone call tonight.  Say, “Hi dad, I was just thinking of you and wanted to say ‘Hi’.  I love you dad.  I’ll talk to you later.  Bye”.  Men like to be told that they are loved, they just hope they won’t have to maintain a conversation every time, so give him a special treat: an “I love you” without any strings attached. 

May you find the father you never knew you had.

Miss Knowitall 

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