Dealing with grief 17 years later
I'm 22. My dad died of a heart attack when I was 5. I didn't even cry at the wake. I never cried about it until probably 7th grade when my mom moved in with her boyfriend who became my stepdad. For a few years after his death I would still buy him christmas gifts, one of which I still have today. As I've gotten older, I've become increasingly more sensitive to his death and not having a father. I am only now on decent terms with my stepdad who I honestly have said less than a few thousand words to over the course of 10 years.
I never get anxiety except for a minute or so anytime the number 44 is mentioned (the age my dad was when he died) and I get depressed when heart attacks are brought up. The most recent thing that has been making me cry almost every day is my grandpa died 2 weeks ago (my dad's dad). I wasn't close with him but it just further got me thinking about my dad and death. My mom's uncle also died a month ago who I was somewhat close to.
Not only did my dad die when I was young, but my mom's parents died that next year, then 2 years after that my dad's mom killed herself... a lot of death to deal with at a young age. All my life I have laid in bed certain nights crying over thinking about my mom dying or someone close to me.
It bothers me more and more every day that I didn't get to know my dad, that I didn't get to grow up with a father figure, and I'm scared for the day I lose my mom and feel very alone (I'm an only child). Are these feelings only going to get worse?
Grief has a way of piling up; When there is unresolved past grief and loss,
then each time you have another loss of a loved one (which is inevitable of course), it can re-activate all that old pain from the past. These issues can be resolved once and for all with the right kind of help. Therapy could be a very valuable help to resolve this early trauma of losing your father.
Another excellent method you could try is Meridian Tapping. I put the death of a parent at an early age, in the category of trauma. And Meridian Tapping (EFT) works wonderfully on trauma, as well as phobias and many other issues. Because you have a clear understanding of the impact of this loss at the age of 5, tapping could probably clear this trauma pretty quickly (it works best when you have a specific target symptom or traumatic event).
Although you had other losses after the age of 5, it's most important to work on the first and most traumatic loss first. By healing the unresolved grief about your dad, the losses that followed might clear out at the same time.
You can learn to use meridian tapping for yourself, or see a therapist or counselor who is experienced in using it.
With the right kind of support and approach, there is no reason to expect that you will have to live with this grief, regret and fear for the rest of your life.
Ben Schwarcz, MFTSanta Rosa Psychotherapist
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