I Avoid Grieving My Dad's Death So I Can Pretend He's Still Alive

I cried myself to sleep the night of his death, but that was it.

mourning dad parent grief and loss Courtesy of author

My father and I were always close. I’ve been told that, as a toddler, I’d ask both my parents to see if they could pick the number I was thinking of in my head, and no matter what number my father picked, he’d be the winner.

This is pretty much how I’ve always viewed my father — a winner.

I was sickly as a kid, spending most of the time in bed, unable to move or risk vomiting. Every day, he’d come home from working TWO jobs with a toy for me to brighten my day.


It wasn’t to spoil me, because we weren’t rich; far from it in fact. He worked multiple jobs his entire working life to support me, my two half-siblings, and my mother, and we still lived paycheck to paycheck. 

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Courtesy of author


Every weekend, as long as I was feeling well enough, he’d take me to lunch at the mall, and I’d get a book (yes, I’m a total bookworm!).

I was aware that my father was older than most of my friend's dads. He had me at 40, and my siblings would always tease me and say, “We've known dad longer so, yeah!” I turned bitter, wishing my dad was younger so that I, too, could say I knew him just as long.

Death was never something that popped into my head, but as we both aged, it was something I came to realize was an inevitability.

Still, I thought, “Dad won’t ever die. That’s just not something that will happen. I’m sure I’ll be hit by a car or something before I have to worry about Dad.” And as crazy as that may sound, I TRULY believed that.


It was 2014, my husband, son, and I were living with my parents because of financial issues. My dad came home from a doctor's appointment, shuffled the shoes beneath his feet to the side, and said, “I have cancer. I don’t want to talk about it. The doctor said it’s nothing. We caught it early. Don’t ask questions."

For two whole years, getting any information from him was worse than anything I’ve experienced.

The not knowing, the questions, the assumptions, the Google searches; it was all just too much. I would have much preferred knowing what was happening.

And things just got worse. My mother refused to give us any information. My siblings would find out little tidbits and not tell me or make deals with us about who not to tell. It was an awful, petty game and the only winner was cancer.


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How I'll Always Remember My Father

Not being the best at handling tough situations, I tried to distance myself from my father. If he couldn’t be honest with me, why should I continue to try?

It didn’t work; I cried daily, missing the man I knew he was, the man who would tell me secrets that no one knew, or who would discuss every Game of Thrones episode with me for hours, even though he couldn’t pronounce half the character names.

On January 27, 2016, I received an email from my sister, “You may want to come to the hospital. Dad’s not well.” I literally fell off the couch, onto the floor, and cried. I didn’t even make sense to my husband, as I called him trying to explain that my dad didn’t have time left and we had to get there.


When I walked in, he was attached to tubes no matter what angle you looked at him from. He was unconscious.

Though I hadn’t actually spoken to him in weeks because “I was better than this. I didn’t need to play games,” I asked if I could have alone time with him. My sister and mother left the room, holding each other; two people who hated each other now showing love during this tumultuous time. 

I took my father’s hand in mine and explained how much I loved him. How much he meant to me, my husband, and my son.

I told him that if he was in pain, it was OK to leave. All the machines started to beep and the nurses rushed in. Apparently, my father must have heard what I said because his vitals did a roller coaster spin. I left crying.


The following day, I returned. The doctors wanted to amputate his leg. Why? I asked. He had a blood clot. I asked how much longer he had. They said days. I stood firmly against the amputation; what would be the point? “Leave the man be” came to be a phrase I said over and over that day.

We all had to make the heart-wrenching decision to remove him from life support. We were told that if he did wake up, he’d never be the same and we were only prolonging what we already knew would happen.

Two hours after the machines were removed, I stood up, touched my father’s cold, yellow hand, and told him I loved him. A nurse came in, checked his vitals, and said “He’s gone.”


That night, I cried myself to sleep. And that was it. I never cried again. Every time I think of him, including right at this moment, I push down any feelings I have because I just can’t seem to allow myself to feel the grief. 

I’m fully aware it’s unhealthy and I have a therapist appointment soon to go into this, but for now, I’m OK keeping my sorrow at the tips of my toes. I’m scared. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to STOP crying once I start.

I never prepared myself for living without the man I counted on since birth. The last seven months have been a complete haze and one day, I'll process it all. But for now, my dad is working. He'll be home soon with a stuffed animal, and it'll all be OK.

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Liza Walters is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, and relationship topics. She has been featured in Today, BUST Magazine, Ravishly, and more. You can follow her on Twitter.