Mourning the Death of an Absent Father
I’d say that there have been three times in my life that I have lost my father.
As A Child
When I was a child, I lost my father when he left my mother for his secretary. “I’m divorcing you, but not my daughter,” he told my mother.
But as sad and cliche it may sound, he completely divorced himself from me as well. He was never there. He didn’t show up to my dance shows. He never came to my piano concerts. He never came to my birthday parties. He was not interested in my friends or my school projects. As a child, it was very frustrating and disappointing trying to understand why my father was an absent father, a ghost. Though I saw my father every two weeks on the weekend, I often stayed locked up in the 10 m2 bedroom. My father was someone that, together with his new wife, made it well known that I was not welcome in their new home.
As A Teenager
As I grew up, I lost him again when he just stopped calling me for my birthdays or on Christmas. Though I was just a young woman, I decided to just accept that I didn’t have a father, only someone that helped in the process of my creation. Years passed until we made contact again.
Things slowly started to change. He even showed up on my graduation day. My entire family gathered together on that day after 20 years of never having this opportunity. But that meant little for him. And then one day we fought. Things got bad. Things that should not have been said, were said. And I decided not to talk to him again.
As An Adult
Last time I talked to my father was on May 2017. This was the third time I lost him, and the last time I ever will. My dad passed away on the night of November 1st, 2017.
People say that mourning is very similar to heartbreak. I totally second that. I had the worst heartbreak two and a half years ago, and it took me a year to put myself together and regain self confidence and self esteem. The first months were horrible and I felt lost and lonely. I hated myself for letting a man govern my emotional stability and for depending on him so blindly. Heartbreaks are painful. They feel like something has been torn from your chest. Like something has been taken from your body. Like you are missing a limb. A big hole that will never be replaced. The person you trusted and loved the most has just decided to wipe you off his or her life. It took me patience, self-love, and a lot of time to get back to myself as a new, stronger and joyful woman. But the difference between mourning and heartbreak is that there is no promise of a new start, a breath of fresh air, someone new entering your love life. When someone dies, that hole can never be filled again.
Death is selfish and cruel because it leaves us without an explanation. It is so final, you cannot re-do or re-talk through things. You cannot hug or kiss again. You cannot ask why this has happened and expect an answer. Death is so terminal, leaving you shaken and alone as if a hurricane just passed through your body, and there’s no one around to comfort you.
Death leaves you with so many feelings you don’t understand. Death leaves you alone with your mourning, a feeling most people try to understand but cannot really relate to. You just feel left apart, an alien for days. You feel like you want to be good again, but you can’t understand why you are a ball full of emotions. And then you also have to deal with the awkwardness coming from others, those that do not know what to say or do about your painful situation. Or others wanting to cheer you up but you just don’t feel like so and can’t explain why. And it is so frustrating to just cry in the morning and yell at the people you love for no reason. But the burning ball in my chest is spinning around and I need to let it out when it comes.
How Does It Feel To Mourn An Absent Father?
I tell you, it is not easy. I have had a hard time accepting it. Somehow it’s easier just to think of this as just another one of our silent periods, a time when we aren’t talking due to differences. Then, Christmas came and he really wasn’t there. There were days where I woke up wanting to write him and then realized that I couldn’t. Memories of him have been dancing around in my mind. I cannot stop looking at pictures of him.
There were days I decided not to talk about my dad. There were other days where I was mad at myself for thinking every second about him; before he died, I barely did. Other days I felt frustrated because I was still feeling uneasy after a cheerful day. And most of the days I feel emotionally exhausted for fighting the monster of sadness. And every day I wonder why. Why did it hurt so much when he had just been a ghost in my waking life? Well, I have been told that the more absent a beloved person is in our lives, the longer or harder the mourning process is because there are still unfinished conversations, unfinished moments, the what ifs.
So that’s what I’m living through now. And I accept it. And I try to embrace it. This is my life now, and I just need to learn from it and keep going. I have been going to a therapist, since I realized that asking for professional help and investing in my mental health was a priority, something I needed to do in order to move on. If you are in a similar situation, I totally recommend you to do the same. I have, the best supporting boyfriend, friends and family, and even so, I needed more help. And in the end, I did not bother to ask for it. There are times where letting someone help you instead of you being in control of the situation is best for you and your beloved ones.
So for all of you that relate to my story - mourning or heartbreak - I’m there with you. I surround myself with beautiful and positive people that love me unconditionally. I try to make of myself a better person. I fight every day against the pain and the painful shadow of sadness by doing things I love: read, dance, practice yoga, write. People that love you will always understand what you are going through. But best, you need to understand what YOU are going through. Give yourself time. Don’t be scared to ask for help. Normally people feel better when helping others in need. Cry, laugh, yell, dance... do whatever is needed to help you live with the loss. There is always something new to learn, someone new to love.
Like this story? Thank Helena.
Helena is from Barcelona but currently lives and studies North American Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. She loves dancing to 80s techno, making people laugh, and eating pasta pesto.