Is it OK to wish that my father would just hurry up and die?

18 answers | Last updated: Nov 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it OK to wish that my father would just hurry up and die? I'm caring for a parent who is dying from emphysema. That is not the hard part. The hard part is that he is a very angry, controlling person. He has also racked up $15,000 in debt that my brother and I will inherit. He is very hard to live with and I find myself just wishing he'd hurry up and die so that I don't have to deal with his miserable attitude and behavior anymore.


Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. 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.

There is nothing "wrong" with having such feelings. It is very difficult to control feelings, and the feelings themselves hurt no one, but perhaps you. It sounds like you have plenty of reason to be angry with your father, and based on the depth of your frustration; I suspect the problems with him date back many years. Under the best of circumstances, it is very challenging to take care of a dying parent. When you feel the parent has not been there for you, has not been kind or caring with you, it takes incredible discipline to be a helpful caregiver. Sometimes it feels impossible; you are being asked to draw on accounts that are bankrupt. I would suggest both for your sake and perhaps to benefit your father as well, that you have a frank, dispassionate discussion with him. Perhaps there is a way to heal some of the wounds he has inflicted by talking with him in an honest manner and asking him basic questions to help you understand why he behaves as he does. It may be that such a discussion will give you some insights into what makes him tick, and that will help improve what time you have left together. Furthermore, you may gain new insights into yourself. Our parents are incorporated into our sense of who we are. If you don't come to understand him and make sense of the way he treats you, you are likely to continue to struggle with bad feelings about him and perhaps yourself, even after he dies.

Given the tremendous frustration you feel with him, I would suggest you consider meeting with a mental health professional, perhaps first by yourself. You may find such a professional can help you gain understanding about the feelings you have about your father and may be able to participate in the discussion with you and your father. It is best for this discussion to not simply be an opportunity for you to express your anger. That will only distance him and lead to more defensiveness and poor behavior. The mental health professional could help make the discussion more productive for you.

If your father refuses to meet with you and a mental health professional, perhaps there is someone else you both trust, who could help facilitate a useful discussion between the two of you. Candidates might include a religious figure, an old friend, or another relative. Ideally, this discussion will help put your father's behavior into some perspective so that after he dies you don't feel guilty and the feelings you have about him do not continue to interfere with your happiness.


Community Answers

Bostonblackey answered...

I believe it is OK to think those thoughts (and I'm old and crotchety). After all he is very ill and will not help himself. Just don't feel guilty once he does die; it is not your fault. It is important for you to remember that your father's estate is responsible for his debts NOT you or your brother. What he owes may eat into any inheritance but it will not come out of your check book.


Delite answered...

I was a caregiver to both my Dad and one of my best friends. It is one of the hardest things to do in life. My mother is currently in a nursing home with emphasyma also. She also had a stroke. Luckily she is happy 90% of the time. The only thing I can suggest is even though you have bad feelings, probably from the past, it sometimes helps to remember that he is the one dying. He has the right to be miserable but unfortunately, you are the closest person and get all of it thrown at you. Nursing homes are equipped to handle patients like your Dad, and assistance is available in all states. You can then go visit on your terms, and maybe since you are not together 24/7, it might make your visits more pleasant. My heart goes out to you, I know from experience, it is tough. Delite


Zkaimiola answered...

When I was caring for both of my parents I felt the same way about my father. I think because he was so miserable all the time and always felt sick I thought that it was better than him being here and suffering so much. My father was very abusive when I was growing up and I did have some resentment toward him. But I learned to forgive him and still stayed to care for him. It is a very difficult rask to take on and it sounds like you may need some respite time. Is there an area Office on aging in your area. They may be able to give you some options and offer you some help with dealing with your father. Good luck. And don't feel guilty about your thoughts.


An hour 4 me answered...

everyone is right. Don't beat yourself up. Also remember your Dad is an adult and can be held accountable for his abusive behavior. Remember your father made decisions as an adult that put him in this position. Mine did also. If you wouldn't tolerate this behavior from others don't tolerate it from him either. say "Dad your behavior is unacceptable." when he rants leave the room. say 'I'll be back when you can speak in a civil tone." Let him stew and cuss and carry on alone. When you are up for furthering the discussion, return and proceed.Rinse, Repeat When he switches to snide remarks remind him that his comments are hurtful. It's likely that your father was rarely if ever held accountable for his nasty behavior. He may also believe since you are his daughter and a woman that he has the right to say anything he chooses. Does he do the same to your brothers? being a good daughter/son doesn't mean being a doormat. You and your brother are not responsible for your fathers debt. Legally his estate is responsible, even if you are the executrix or co executor. Does you father have a will? is it up to date? Many companies take advantage of the fact that most families don't know that they are not responsible for the debts thier family members.often families pay out of guilt and remorse. If he has no asets, then companies where he has a debt will often try to collect from you. They have no legal right to do that unless you personally signed as a garantor of his expenses. ( something unscupulous nursing homes used to try to do)


Annfudge answered...

These are perfectly normal thoughts as long as they don't stay with you constantly. It is very difficult and painful emotionally to care for an abusive patient. He may or may not realize how this is affecting you.

I hope you can work through this and sending you prayers and hugs.


Not myself answered...

Liked the response from An Hour 4 Me--especially the "rinse, repeat" part. There are two kinds of DNRs, both the medical and the behavioral, which I think of as "Do not respond" (to the verbal abuse). An Hour 4 Me is addressing the second. As to the M.D.'s advice . . . one of those much easier said than done things. A "frank dispassionate discussion" is either something you've probably already tried, or something he would refuse under any circumstances, as just the fact that it is YOUR suggestion gives YOU the control that HE insists is his prerogative. As for the wishing he were dead part? I agree with the doc on that one. I would add though, that if that thought leads to thinking about a "DIY" solution (even if just to entertain yourself), you would be entering dangerous territory, as wishful thinking can lead to obsession under extreme circumstances. I wish a lot of people in this world were dead, and have for a long time. I just wish they were. Wishing doesn't make it so, and I haven't "done anyone in" telepathically yet. I wish your circumstances were different. I wish mine were, too, for different reasons. Not going to happen--at least not on a wish. But I DO hope that things get better for you soon. I hope this doesn't all sound too facetious or flippant. I don't mean it to. I am just trying to say that we are not saints, should not expect ourselves to be, and should each deal with things as best we can. One day, one hour, one minute at a time--"rinse, repeat."


A fellow caregiver answered...

This thread resonates with me. My father abused me and abandoned me when I was young. My mother died when I was 11 and Dad never remarried. I am an only child.

I went through very useful counseling many years ago and gave myself permission to "emotionally divorce" myself from him. I wrote him a letter telling him that I would never offer him a place to stay when he got older and that he had better make plans for himself. He did that (bought long-term-care insurance).

Because of failing health and dementia, I did help him move into a retirement home. I have committed myself to making sure that he gets good care and is safe. I have taken over his bill paying,etc. He has been cooperative and we have done everything with an attorney's help so that no one can say I have done anything illegal or immoral.

For awhile, I was letting myself get sucked into the many dramas he has created in his life, but I try to keep reminding myself that he made choices to alienate me and others earlier in his life and his dementia is only exacerbating previous behaviors. While I will honor my promise to make sure he gets good care, I consider myself a "care manager," not his "loving daughter." By putting it into the perspective of "a job," I am better able to maintain myself and keep my negative emotions towards him in check. I know it's a mind game, but it helps me cope rather than making me crazy.


Upsydaisy7 answered...

Many years ago, I read that "a grumpy young person grows into a grumpier old person." I've used that idea for my own personal growth but now, as I perform volunteer work with the elderly, I see this axiom every day. Although I agree with one of the posters that those who are in pain may lash out against others, it is not necessarily obligatory to do this. My personal thought is that such a person has made a habit of taking their frustrations out on others throughout their lives without thought of how this lashing out affects others. They've had their release and "let the chips fall where they may." I feel this is where you are today. I find it difficult to observe another's deterioration at the end of life; it reminds me of my own frailty and mortality. And, I really don't want anyone to suffer. Presently, I am facing this issue with my own mother who was very abusive and controlling as we were growing up. Therapy has helped me realise that she had emotional issues which she neglected to address. This insight freed me from hatred and resentment towards her; after all, I would not expect someone with serious physical limitations to perform nearly as well as someone strong and healthy. How, then, could I fairly expect someone with severe emotional problems to behave in a healthy way? Presently, as I am aware of her increasing limitations, I am saddened because she continues to behave as she always has and, in doing so, turns away any comfort, compassion, and understanding that others could provide for her. She, like you father, is like a living cactus who repels others with sharp needles of self-protection. Unfortunately, she (and he) is "protecting" herself from love and goodness, too. In my heart, this is a more painful realisation for me than the fact that she continues to attempt to hurl negativity and hurt in my direction. She is, after all, my mother. She gave me life. I was taught to "honor father and mother." "Honor" is not the same as "like" or "love." Honor, to me, is respect with deference to the good which someone has done. My mother gave me physical life. I did not wind up in a stainless steel bucket. I honor her for that. Her abuse was powerfully negative and her children had a very difficult time navigating the world. I chose therapy to find a map and this helped me to develop skills to thrive as well as those skills I had already developed to survive. In a sad way, my mother laid a foundation of who I am today. I was able (with therapy) to build on the strong foundation of survival and erect a life that has been able to take care of myself and give to others. It's been hard work and I "dropped a lot of bricks", but I continue to hone my skills everyday (and I am no spring chicken!). Did my mother wound us? Yes. Do we live with the scars of those wounds today? Yes. But I can choose to not continue to bleed; I can receive help to excise the infection in the wound and allow it to heal. Often, it takes some time and some pain; but it DOES heal. Like physical wounds, I must protect my emotional wounds by excising them (with therapy), applying the "medicine" of compassion and forgiveness for both myself and my afflicting perpetrator, and by avoiding additional wounding through trauma and exposure to infecting behaviours. This is not easy to always do. One of the posters suggested that you walk away from your father's aggressive behaviour until he can behave appropriately. Sometimes this works; I hope it makes some difference for you. Sadly, I must become mute when administering to my mother. I do what needs to be done and respectfully excuse myself. In another, safe place, I mourn for the mothering I did not receive, the childhood I didn't have, and the lost opportunity to make a connection with her now. In a perfect world, I would be able to have the "frank, dispassionate discussion" that the good doctor suggested. Sadly, this is not a perfect world and the truth is: some people cannot participate (because of their own woundings and limitations) in such a discussion. After all this, I can only praise you for your efforts to do the right thing in caring for your father. I suggest that you try to become more objective and see him, not so much as "father" but as "a human being" in need of assistance. Perhaps this distancing will protect you from his pushing your buttons; he knows very well where they are! Move them - like furniture - and save yourself some pain. You are his daughter but no longer his "little girl." You are no longer at the mercy of his whims or temper. You are an adult woman who is now able to take care of herself in ways that she did not have the liberty, knowledge or wisdom to do when she was that little girl. I resonate with you and your difficult position and my heart is filled with compassion and love for your noble efforts. You are in my prayers.


Ddlmom answered...

really so much good advice here already, I can hardly add to it...if you pray, this is an area that has helped me deal with my mom's situation daily & provide strength I never had before. I find the Dr.'s answer like a Dr....sounds reasonable in print but in the real world may be less than a workable solution...you need respite support to give care to you too & keep your head clear with what you have resigned to do for him even if he does not appreciate it outwardly. Good for you to rise above how he has CHOOSEN to treat you. I work with 2-5 yrs. olds in a daycare and time-out works for adults too..use is calmly..he will get it eventually..stay the course..my prayers are with you.


Orien2 answered...

Don't beat yourself up for how you feel whether you decide to talk to your dad and resolve it or not is up to you. I do not know anything about your relationship with your dad. You are torn that is why you asked that question maybe you are tired. Mybe you feel helpless maybe you are lost. Definately it's hard for you that is one thing I know for certain that you are probably tired and feel guilty about resting. I'd say once a week eat something you like put your feet up and you need to hook up respite care. Focus on how well you've been doing and what needs to change and if you cannot bring yourself to love him then think of it as a job. you sound worn out.


Susanmcd answered...

I can empathize with you. I am going through a similar situation myself. I'm afraid I cannot personally be very helpful, but I would like to suggest a wonderful book that has helped me and I'm sure would help you ~ It is called "Toxic Parents" and can be found in used condition, in paperback, on Amazon.com and other online bookstores at extremely reasonable prices. I have found it to be a lifesaver and highly recommend it. It will help you understand and deal with the resentment and anxiety you feel. Blessings to you ~ Susan


Susanmcd answered...

Here is a link to the Amazon site for the book I referred to above. (Hope adding this link is OK)

http://www.amazon.com/Toxic-Parents-Overcoming-Hurtful-Reclaiming/dp/0553284347

It is full of easy to understand, useful information and guidance. I promise.


Aj bars answered...

I can identify with this topic. I don't wish my father ill. I just wish he was different and since that can't happen I don't wish anything at all.

My father rarely raised his voice to anyone. I guess that is part of my shock when yesterday I reminded, suggested, then finally asked him to take a shower. I ask this because he doesn't regularly do this and it is unhealthy, unsanitary and downright unpleasant for those of us who he lives with. He is 81. He doesn't have dementia nor Altzhiemer's. He yelled at me twice to "go to Hell". I asked him if he remembered what day it was and he said yes. So I asked what day is it Dad? It's your birthday was his reply. He was correct. Yesterday was my 48th birthday. What had been a satisfying quiet day turned sour after that. My mom, his wife, passed 3 years ago. I don't have her and what I have left is him. I told him that. I also said I couldn't even look at him. He later tried to apologize to which I refused that apology. In my mind and heart there is no excuse for what he said. This morning I just about made the decision to no longer refer to him as Dad or Grandpa but by his first name. I found many of the comments on this topic helpful in permitting me to emotionally distance myself from him. All I have to do now is get through this sense of loss. Time, I suppose, is the cure for that.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I believe a lot of the bad behavior comes from the disease itself. Naturally, if the person was a difficult person it will be worse with the disease. I also believe when you are caring for an elderly person who is difficult everyone's life is in limbo. You the adult child aren't really able to live your life they way it was before so it is natural to be resentful at times. Also, your parent is suffering and wouldn't want to live like that if they had the choice. You are basically asking for mercy for all. I do think a lot a bad behavior can be improved with mood stabilizers, anti depressants and especially anti-anxiety. People act out a lot out of anxiety. My mom said my dad 'was like himself but more so' if that makes sense. While, our story was very difficult with terrible outbursts, etc I was lucky because I knew how much my dad loved us and how much we loved him so it made it easier to deal with. I can not imagine having to care for a toxic parent. My heart goes out to you all!


A fellow caregiver answered...

I am the sole caregiver to my 91 year old father who had 3 strokes. About 20 times a day I wish that he would just die. I will neither read books on the subject nor will I go to a support group or counselor on my own time. I give him enough of my time. Like any other parent, he made mistakes and I don't hold grudges. If his care becomes any heavier I will have him placed in a nursing home.


Rosabeth answered...

I also think that. It may spund horrible but my father has such a bad personality, aggressive, conservative, arrogant that poisons our life. He has made good things but the for many reasons, he has become a very obnoxious person with a dangerous temper. You cannot have a different opinion, if you do you may frive him so aggrwssive to think thst he ll get anotjer syroke. Or make him feel so insulted to lrave dramaticly home withthe fear he is gonna kill himself. He us been like that for a long time. I am 40 and i cannot stand anylnger the burden he imposes to me. This is a small city and i can t have him constantly around in the city behaving like that. I am not goimg to move aeay ahain bevause his presence is so heavy that everythung i do must receive a cimment, with which i disagree but i cannot comment.Very bed example he is.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Don't feel one bit guilty. He should die but unfortunately he probably won't before you are tempted to kill him yourself. The medical community will continue to keep him alive and squeeze the turnip to extract the very last penny they can. Meanwhile he will only keep spreading his misery onto you.