Parents

It is beginning to sink in that my father is dying.  My mother died nearly 6 years ago, so I’ve been managing his finances and meeting with doctors and such.

A large part of me feels numb.

I’ve written before that I didn’t have the best relationship with my parents as an adult.  Part of this was due to my fat, though that certainly wasn’t the only issue.   In the past couple years I’ve gone from seeing my father a few times a year to seeing him once a week or more.  He seems to feel that he’s very close to me.  I see him as an amiable relative who is slipping away.  It’s also a loss, both of what was, and a reminder of what could have been.

I should note that I’m not sure I can have a full, two-sided relationship with someone with dementia.  Partly it’s the memory loss (he’s asked me to visit at least once a month, and I explained I’ve been visiting once a week).  He is dependent on me, in many ways, and that affects things.  I’m not looking for the relationship I didn’t have 20 years ago, because that’s not possible now.  But I am reminded of the relationship we could have had 20 or 30 years ago.

This isn’t just my regrets, or my loss of a parent.  He made his own choices.  It’s very possible that his dementia is due to his longterm drinking. I know his drinking affected our relationship, and my relationship with my mother, same as I know their wanting me to be thin affected me and my relationship with my parents.

I realize these may not be the typical feelings at facing the eventual loss of a parent.  But there it is.

26 thoughts on “Parents

  1. I am so sorry to know that you are going through this with your father. I think the death of my parents was so very hard because we were so very close. I wonder if it won’t be harder for you. I can only imagine what is going through your mind at this time. My heart and prayers will be with you.

  2. You know, there really is no one right or wrong way to feel when facing the death of a parent. There’s only what you do feel, and how you handle what you feel.

    The most important thing for you right now is to realize there’s no wrong way to feel and no wrong way to handle it… so long as your choice doesn’t involve actually harming others.

    Take care, and let us know how you’re doing from time to time.

  3. My very best wishes for you in dealing with this transition. My story was a little different, as my father and I were very close right up until the end of his life, but in some ways I think you may have the harder road to travel.

    All my sympathies are with you.

  4. *hugs*
    I have no ideal how I will deal with the deaths of my parents. In a lot of ways I’ve already grieved over the loss of what should have been and I avoid contact with them because it’s so destructive. My best advice would be to forget about how you or others think you *ought* to feel. Your emotions are your own and they are never “wrong”. They may surprise you, so just keep taking it day by day and giving yourself space to feel and react without judging yourself.

  5. My dad is dying too. He’s slipping a little, mentally, but he doesn’t have dementia. He was still teaching university courses six months ago. He has congestive heart failure and a virulent form of skin cancer. He’s been in the same type of condition for two years and is still pretty functional. The two of us have never gotten along, for very good reasons. I’m across an ocean from him, and I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. I’m better than I used to be at appreciating his strengths, but the fact remains that he’s absolutely toxic and I find him difficult to deal with. He won’t be around for much longer and maybe I should feel guilty for not paying more attention to him? I don’t know.

  6. You definitely have a clear, objective view on the grieving process..that’s a really positive and healthy thing. I used to be a grief counselor for hospice and most people obviously don’t go through this with their eyes open like you are. I might suggest that you tell him how your relationship has been affected by your weight vs your parents wishes about your weight, his drinking and so forth. Even if he’s not all there..because he has to hear that before he goes. Every family has horrible things they repress or just deal with day to day and end up not telling their dying family member how it affected them…and they inevitably regret not letting that emotion surface before it was too late. Just a thought. My thoughts are with you, and I second what other people are saying that you need to take care of yourself too. :)

    • Thank you for your thoughts. My family isn’t very good at saying things directly, so my initial reaction to this was “do I want to shock him into a heart attack”? ;) We tend to do things indirectly, such as him extolling how great he felt walking 3-5 miles a day after he retired, and me telling him that I was going for daily walks too. About the 5th time he was telling me this and suggesting it would make me lose weight I sent him a copy of Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon.

      More seriously, one of the things I dealt with in therapy is that the alcoholic father I was mad while at growing up doesn’t exist anymore.

  7. My parents were abusive alcoholics & my father was also a hateful, depraved pedophile who abused everyone around him verbally, emotionally, physically, & sexually. I had some feelings to work through, but my overwhelming feeling is relief that they are gone & cannot hurt me anymore. I had to go through therapy & 12-step programs to deal with the ambivalent feelings, the guilt, etc., & accept & believe that I didn’t owe them anything & it was alright if I didn’t love them or mourn for them.

    You are in my thoughts & I send you positive energy & best wishes in dealing with what you are going through. Take care of yourself.

    • There’s a Rita Mae Brown character who says “The family is the transmission belt of pathology.” I’m not sure she’s wrong…. ;)

      More seriously I am glad you were able to get help for yourself. I did therapy for a time as well and it really helped me to understand and deal with family of origin stuff.

  8. I really feel for you and relate to the situation. My dad was diagnosed with lymphoma last year and I really want to be spending more time with him, I love him very much, but I just can’t cope emotionally with visiting because even at this time he cannot stop himself from making comments about my weight and telling me what I should eat and I just can’t help being upset by it and end up in tears. It’s very difficult.

  9. Could you find the time to go talk to a counselor about some of this? I suspect it might feel like one more thing to fit into your already overloaded life. But as much as friends and our internet community may want to try to help you through this, we really don’t know how to in the way a counselor could. It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot, and it’s complicated. A counselor could help you find a way through this lousy situation that’s right for you. It would be worth the investment in time.

    I think you may have mentioned hospice (?). If so, they could probably find you someone.

    Hang in there. Even though we don’t know each other in “real” life, I’m thinking of you.

    • I suspect it might feel like one more thing to fit into your already overloaded life.

      Actually, my first reaction is “I don’t want to have to explain all the family-of-origin crap again”. Unfortunately both therapists I worked through most of that stuff are not available. The one I did the most with (nearly 2 years in my twenties, thank god, it was AMAZINGLY helpful) retired and the one I worked with after that has moved away.

      I am currently using some online support groups, and I’m not resistant to counseling in general, but … yeah, I’ve got a big but right now. ;)

  10. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My father also has dementia.

    I’m reading a book at the moment that I think is going to help us to build a better relationship with the person he’s now becoming – would you be interested in the details? No need to reply if you’d rather not – you’ve got enough to be dealing with, I realize.

  11. I’ve lost both my parents. Due to alcoholism in the family and their issues with my weight it was not the easiest relationship, even though I know they loved me very much. That made it hard.

    Although I’d done a lot of healing, I found that my father’s death years ago brought a lot of stuff back up. It was VERY helpful to get grief-related counseling that helped deal with everything.

    Remember, even if they are not the most ideal parents, they ARE still your parents, and losing them hurts. On top of that, losing them tends to bring up life conflicts and unresolved issues in your own life, as well as the sadness of mourning a less-than-perfect relationship. It’s only normal for this to loom large in your emotional life.

    On the other hand, dealing with your parents’ deaths (especially when you are the one handling all the medical care and arrangements) is a huge opportunity for healing. It may not feel like that now, but it really is an opportunity to finish business with them, to deal with their impact on your life, and then to find a way to forgive or at least move on. It takes time and space, but it really can be an opportunity for healing if you let it be.

    I took care of my mother as she was dying a few years ago. It was hugely stressful, but it was also an opportunity for us to reconnect, despite our differences, and an opportunity for me to let go of her less-than-ideal qualities. In time, I was able to recognize that she was just doing the best she could, given her own less-than-ideal upbringing, and that was helpful in letting things go. In the end, helping her was a blessing for me, and, I hope, for her too. It didn’t magically make everything better, of course, but it did allow a kind of resolution that is much harder to achieve when you are not part of their final care and death.

    However, that’s not always easy to see at the time. I’m glad to hear you are taking good care of yourself, which is sooo important when you are the caretaker. I hope you are able to get some grief-related counseling to help you deal with the emotional fall-out and pressures of all of this, and that you are able to find some sort of resolution eventually. Be kind to yourself, give yourself lots of space for processing, and make sure you utilize the support available to you.

    HUGS. Been there, done that. The death of a parent is a major event in your life, whatever the relationship is. Respect that and honor your feelings, whatever they may be.

  12. Just wanted to say that although my parents are not dying, and neither has dementia, your post really resonates with me. My mother wishes I were thin, we haven’t had a good relationship, and my dad is pretty non-existent (although our relationship now doesn’t have the animosity it did for most of my teen years).

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with the grief of the death of so many things – dreams, relationships, etc. – but I’m grateful you shared your story. It gives me hope knowing that I’m not alone in this.

  13. (((hugs))) seems so inadequate. I can’t imagine how stressful this time must feel for you. It’s surprising, to me, to read so many comments here about difficult (and/or tragic) relationships with parents. I think you must be a very loving person to take the time to see your dad every week. I wish he could see you for who you are, if only for an instant. Some rare moments towards the end days can be extraordinarily sharp and meaningful for both of you. You will recognize them when they happen. May you feel courage to remain present.

  14. Until you forgive him you will never find peace. Leave all the bitterness, hurt, and anger on the table. Do not begrudge your service to him. It can help you work through your pain, anger, and disillusion. By holding tightly to your wounds you will never heal – his passing won’t heal you. It’s an emotional maturity thing, let go of the hurt that is eating at yoursoul.

  15. Pingback: “Parent-Free Life” | Living ~400lbs

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