Mamas on Bedrest: When a Dad Loses His Dad

June 23rd, 2011

On November 30, 2003, my husband’s father died.

It was a heartbreaking loss. We had all gathered at my inlaws to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. My husband, daughter and I had flown in to surprise my inlaws and together with my sister and brother inlaw, we were going to throw a big family party to commemorate the event.

On the morning of the anniversary, my husband and I were jolted from sleep by my mother inlaw’s cries, “Daddy isn’t waking up!”  While I tried to perform CPR my husband called EMS. The emergency rescuers worked on my father in law for some 45 minutes before transporting him to the hospital. My father in law never regained consciousness. The doctors estimated that he had actually died a couple of hours prior to my mother in law waking up. My mother in law lost the love of her life on their 40th anniversary.

Losing a parent is never easy. Losing a parent in such a dramatic fashion is even more difficult. My husband speaks very little about his father’s death, yet I know that it had a profound impact on him. For months following his father’s death, my husband functioned on autopilot; he went to work, came home, played with our daughter abit and then retreated to his home office. While I knew that he was in great pain, I was unable to get him to talk about his father or to get help in the form of counseling. Those were very dark days.

Even now, 9 years later, my husband speaks very little about his father or his death. When we spoke recently, he admitted that the void that he feels is almost unspeakable. Without my father inlaw, my husband finds himself with no male role model, no patter for fatherhood. His grandfathers are deceased. His father had 2 sisters and his mother has 3. My husband is the oldest grandchild so others look to him as a role model. There is no living male relative to whom he can turn for advice or guidance.

It really took me aback when I considered my husband’s situation. When I had my daughter, I was constantly on the telephone with my mother and sister, making sure each little “coo” was okay and that I was providing her with everything she needed. When I had my son 3 1/2 years later, my sister became my beacon, as she had 2 boys. I talked to anyone and everyone; moms at parks, moms at preschool, moms at church, women in the grocery store, friends…I sought out and accepted any and all advice. I don’t know how I would have made it without all the sage advice of the multitude of women in my life. I really could not imagine how my husband was making it on his own.

I have repeatedly suggested that my husband obtain counseling to help him cope with his feelings surrounding his father’s death as well as his feelings of being the family “patriarch”. I have also suggested that he seek out other men, other fathers, with whom he can share ideas and gain support. To date he has refused.

Dr. Bruce Linton has clearly outlined the stages men go through as they transition into fatherhood. According to Linton, an important stage is reconciling one’s feelings with one’s own father.  My husband has admitted that there is much he had hoped to share with his father and now he’ll never have the chance. It’s tragic indeed.

I will keep trying with my husband.  It will be very difficult for him to resolve some issues as my father in law is gone. Ultimately he has to find a way to cope with his feelings so that he can have some peace. But he will have to choose whether he wants to resolve his feelings or bury them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *