How do I deal with the pain and anger of my Father's death?

2 answers | Last updated: Nov 28, 2013
A fellow caregiver asked...

How do I deal with the pain and anger of my Father's death? We had to make the decision to end life support which was needed due to medication and surgical errors.

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

I am so sorry to hear about what you have been through. You now must deal with anger and grief all mixed together, which is very challenging. To top it all off, you had to make the decision to end life supports, so it would also be expected you would be left with some guilt, even though you no doubt made the best decision for your father. It is going to take time to get through all this. I would anticipate it will be at least 6 months to a year before you start to feel like you are on mostly solid ground.

There are, however, things you can do to help you start to feel better. I would suggest you stay in close contact with any family members you are close to. I would suggest spending at least a little time each day speaking with each other. You can check in to see how each other are doing and talk about what is on your mind. This can help you all feel some support through this difficult time. If you don't have such family members, it might help you if you set aside a scheduled period of time each day, to just close your eyes and think about your dad. You should expect memories of him and what you have been through to intrude into your thoughts intermittently through each day. However, as time passes, you will want to get on with your life and it may be easier to do that if you aren't wrestling with these feelings throughout the day. With practice, you will find you can have a memory hit you while you are at work, and you can tell yourself, "I will think about that at 6pm, when I have the time put aside." This will not stop memories from coming into your mind, but it may help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by such memories.

There are a number of other ways to manage the feelings you are experiencing. Exercise each day make a big difference; relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation can be very helpful; and using imagery techniques where you close you eyes and picture yourself in a very relaxing place, can help get you through this. You may also find it helpful to do something to honor your dad, so that you are working on something positive. This could be something directly related to the bad medical experience you and your dad just went through, or something related to a topic he was interested in. You could, for example, work with organizations to decrease medication or surgical errors or you could volunteer with Trout Unlimited or the Human Society. Unfortunately none of this will bring back your father. If you find over the next couple of months the anger and grieving are preventing you from carrying on with your life, you might want to consider counseling. Having a skilled counselor can be incredibly helpful when your feelings are too intense to manage.

Community Answers

River rocks answered...

I dont think you ever "get over" the passing of a parent...or other loved one. But, you can do something positive about the feelings. When I was telling my friend about how i missed my DAD who died on Sept 2nd 1989, and here it was 2005...I was telling her about how he was a gardener and loved it and she said, "why dont you do a garden" (I did not have ANY interest in gardening) And you know what? I did. I started off with a horse shoe garden shape, and added flowers and I didnt just make it and walk away, I "tended it" and somethimes when I was sad over something in my current life, I would just go to the garden, weed a little, re-arrange a little...and I would just feel peaceful. Like close to my parent. Not all creepy close, as if he was there, but just connected somehow and it eased the missing somehow...Hope this helps, we all started in a garden, ya know...smiles AC