Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Get Over Daddy’s Death?
“My dad died on the couch. I found him there. He had a heart attack. It was really scary because I was so close to him. . . . My mom still cries at night. It doesn’t feel the same doing things without my dad.”—Emily.
“THE death of a parent or close family member is a major trauma for an adolescent,” says writer Kathleen McCoy. “He or she may feel temporarily devastated by grief, guilt, panic and anger.” If you have lost a parent, then you well know how painful it can be.
It is only normal, though, to feel trapped in a vortex of emotion when someone we love dies. The Bible says that when the patriarch Jacob was told that his son Joseph had died, he “ripped his mantles apart” in an outburst of grief. And even though “all his sons and all his daughters kept rising up to comfort him, . . . he kept refusing to take comfort.” (Genesis 37:34, 35) You may similarly feel that the pain is so deep that it will never go away.
In time, it can. But the key is facing, instead of trying to ignore, your pain. Young John, for example, gave no outward indications that he was grieving the death of a family member. He did, however, start getting into fights in school. John explained: “I’m walking around with a big, hurting lump inside me. I tried to pound it out by fighting but it didn’t work.”
Other youths try to block out the hurt by getting involved in a whirlwind of activity. When others ask how they are doing, some may fend off such inquiries by a display of mock cheerfulness. Doing so may bury painful feelings for a while, but not for long. Says Proverbs 14:13: “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain.”
Interestingly, an article in a youth-oriented magazine says: “In one study, teens who had suppressed their natural feelings of grief, anger or guilt after the death of a relative . . . were shown to have a higher incidence of involvement in destructive behavior, such as drug and alcohol abuse, risk taking (such as driving in automobiles at high speeds) and delinquent behavior.” Fortunately, there are better ways to cope with grief.
“A Time to Weep”
Ecclesiastes 7:2 says: “Better is it to go to the house of mourning than to go to the banquet house, because that is the end of all mankind; and the one alive should take it to his heart.” Death can be frightening. And when a friend or loved one dies, some may try to evade the painful reality of death by going to “the banquet house” and indulging in merrymaking. Solomon, however, encourages facing death head-on and going to “the house of mourning.” Solomon adds: “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”—Ecclesiastes 7:3, King James Version.
Although this advice was primarily directed to the friends and the family of the bereaved, it is also beneficial for the bereaved one to face the pain of his loss. There is “a time to weep.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) God-fearing men and women in Bible times thus allowed themselves to express, rather than suppress, their feelings of grief.—Compare Genesis 23:2; 2 Samuel 1:11, 12.
Allowing oneself to grieve has many benefits. Says the book The Art of Condolence: “The bereaved need to allow the pain and anguish of their suffering to take place. Healing is hampered by resisting the process.” Driven by the myth that real men don’t cry, however, some boys may find it particularly hard to express their feelings. But the greatest man who ever lived openly “gave way to tears” when his friend Lazarus died. (John 11:35) And tears are certainly appropriate when one has lost a parent. So feel free to mourn and weep. (Compare James 4:9.) Says the book Death and Grief in the Family: “Crying is one of the most important ways of getting the sadness out.”
Working Through Your Sadness
In Bible times, King David expressed his grief for his best friend, Jonathan, not only by weeping but also by putting his feelings in writing. “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me,” wrote David in the beautiful lament he called “The Bow.”—2 Samuel 1:18, 26.
You may likewise find it helpful to put your feelings in writing. The book Giving Sorrow Words says: “Writing your feelings down can help in getting locked-up emotions out. . . . When you get angry, when you feel sad, write it down.” One teenage girl named Shannon says: “I kept a diary. I wrote down all my feelings. All my feelings flat out on paper. Everything I felt was on paper and that helped a lot . . . writing everything down.”
Another aid is physical exercise. “Bodily training is beneficial,” says the Bible. (1 Timothy 4:8) And notes one book on grieving: “Exercise is a good way of releasing energy.” An invigorating run, a brisk walk, or a refreshing bicycle ride can do much to help you work off the tensions that can build up when you are sad and grieving.
Talk to Someone
Be careful, though, that you do not completely isolate yourself from others. (Proverbs 18:1) Says Proverbs 12:25: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down, but the good word is what makes it rejoice.” How would a distressed person get that “good word” of encouragement? Only if he talked to someone and expressed his “anxious care.” Why not do so yourself? Open up and talk to someone you can trust.
Normally, your God-fearing parent would be the logical one to approach. But what if he or she is too swallowed up in his or her own pain to be of much help? Well, there are mature members of the Christian congregation who can help. Proverbs 17:17 says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” After her mother’s death, young Morfydd leaned heavily upon the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “All the elders were very supportive,” she recalls, “but one in particular was always ready to listen to me.”
Why not reach out for such help and support? Let someone know that you need to talk. Perhaps you feel angry, scared, or guilty. Or maybe you simply feel lonely and miss your parent. Talking things out with a sympathetic listener can really help.
Supporting Your Parent
Some youths, however, add to their distress by taking on loads they are not prepared to carry. The situation at home may now seem chaotic and disorganized. Your surviving parent may understandably be tense, irritable—and sad. Seeing his or her pain, you naturally want to help out. One authority on grief notes that “adolescents . . . may suppress their mourning in a misguided attempt to help their parents.” They may “act prematurely ‘grown-up,’ perhaps even taking on additional responsibilities.”
Of course, you may have no choice but to take on some extra responsibilities because of your parent’s death. But this does not make you the man or the woman of the house. Your surviving parent is still in charge, and you can better support that one, not by taking over, but by being cooperative and obedient. (Ephesians 6:1) Remember that “wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) Modesty involves knowing your limitations.
This is especially important to keep in mind if your surviving parent begins to lean on you for advice or begins burdening you with adult concerns. You want to be kind and supportive, but modesty will help you recognize that your life experience is quite limited. (Compare Hebrews 5:14.) So if you begin to feel a bit overwhelmed, talk matters over with your parent in a frank but respectful manner. (Proverbs 15:22) Perhaps you could suggest that he or she seek out some adult support in the congregation.
Coping with the death of a parent is by no means easy. But be assured that, in time, feelings of sadness will no longer dominate. (Compare Genesis 24:67.) Sad memories of your departed parent will still come into your mind from time to time. Yet you also have many warm and comforting memories to dwell upon. Never forget that Jehovah cares for you and understands your sadness. When you feel alone and abandoned, think of the psalmist’s words: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.”—Psalm 27:10.
Keep reflecting, too, on the Bible-based hope of the resurrection and the prospect of seeing your parent once again—on a paradise earth. (Luke 23:43; Acts 24:15) Says young Kim who lost her father in death: “I think about my father every day. But I know he wouldn’t want us to give up or let anything halt our service to Jehovah. I want to be there to greet him when he returns in the resurrection.”—John 5:28, 29.
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Allowing oneself to weep can aid the healing process