Sad Dad

11 Feb

Dear LetterBalm: My mom got really sick and died almost a year ago, and my dad is really sad. He cries a lot when he doesn’t think I can see him and he doesn’t do any of the things he used to like. He just goes to work, comes home and hangs around the house. He won’t shoot hoops with me or ask about my college applications or get together with his friends for pizza and beer. I try to help by cooking dinner for us, but I feel guilty that I can’t cheer him up. I talked with my school counselor who says all this is normal and that it will take Dad awhile to stop missing Mom so much. She said it would be a good idea if Dad and I went to a grief therapist to help us, but Dad won’t go. He says it’s not for guys. How can I make him change his mind?

–Miserable and Guilty

Ms. L.B. offers her most sincere condolences during this horrendous time. It’s terribly hard to lose one’s mother as a teenager and doubly difficult that your father isn’t there for you because he’s wrapped up in his own grief and depression. Your counselor is correct on two points: It’s natural for your dad to grieve for his beloved, and it’s strongly recommended that you and he seek out grief counseling. Presumably, she has reached out to your father to make her suggestion, which is being ignored. It’s not fair that you feel you must bring your father out of his mourning – that’s not your job. Write your dad a note and leave it on his pillow at night when he can read it privately and ponder its contents:

Dear Dad,

You’ve been sad since Mom died, and I feel bad because I can’t make you happy.

Ms. Pangloss told you that it would be a good idea if you and I went to a grief counselor who can help us through this. Dad, I’m asking you to go with me. You can’t keep feeling so bad and not living your life. This is not good for you, me and everybody. It’s a sign of strength to say you need help. The faster we do this together, the faster you can be my strong father again because I need you.

We’ll never forget Mom. I miss her so much, and I know you do, too. But she would want us to go on and live our lives.

I love you, and I want my old dad back.

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