What Can I Do to Process My Dad's Death?

This week in the Coping newsletter: Dealing with loss.
October 18, 2018, 9:11pm
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Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia

Welcome to Coping, Episode Five.

Lucy's husband Paul died at age 37. Here're what she says about how she copes:

The only rule I abided by was to have no rules. I think grieving is really non-linear. For example: We went to Paul's grave with a bunch of people on what would have been Paul's 39th birthday, just over a year after he died. [It was] around sunset and somebody brought sparklers. People brought beers and snacks and were just kind of congregating around a grave. It was really sad but also kind of like a cocktail party at the same time. It was everything mixed together—which is what I keep feeling like my life is like.

I had brought these little speakers so we were playing bossa nova, which Paul really liked, and suddenly I turned around and literally sitting on Paul's gravestone was this huge bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue, and I was thinking, like, That's awesome. It made me super happy. Some people may think that it's weird, but it felt really right because Paul's friends were there and there's whiskey sitting on top of a gravestone. No rules about it. Whatever feels right to celebrate the person or mourn the person, within reason.

Read the full interview or stick around here to explore this loss thing a little.

Ask a therapist: How do I deal with my dad's death?

Q: Today is the 5-month anniversary of my father's death. It has been extremely difficult losing the anchor of my family. I've since gotten a prescription for Celexa but I'd love any tips you have on dealing with grief.

A: Hi Kate,

I am so sorry. Losing a strong and important presence in the family can feel incredibly difficult to manage, and I say that from both personal and professional experience. I unexpectedly lost my father when I was 17, and to this day find myself becoming emotional over the loss, especially when I think about how he's not here for various life milestones. Here are some of the coping mechanisms that have worked for me (and so many other people) in these moments:

  • Talk about him with other people who are grieving the loss. Ask to hear their memories and favorite stories, and share pictures and other memorabilia. You may hear a new anecdote or see a new photo. I do this as a way to keep my father’s memory fresh. I like thinking about how loved he was and how full his short life was through their stories. to: Their stories remind me how loved he was and how full his short life was.
  • Allow your body to experience the full range of emotions associated with the loss. For me, anger has always been the most difficult emotion—I didn't feel like it was fair to be angry at my father, but I was. Once I admitted that, I was able to move forward.
  • Write. It can be especially hard to write when you're processing a big loss, but it's often an effective way to help you gain understanding and control of your emotions.
  • Yup, therapy. There's such thing as grief therapists (Psychology Today has a good search tool for them). Support groups of people who are dealing with a similar loss can also be really helpful.
  • Finally, know that there is no “right” amount of time to grieve the loss. Be gentle with yourself through this process and remember that it's totally personal to you. The goal is not to get over the loss but to learn how to cope with the grief.

This week's answer is from our therapist Michelle's colleague Rachel Aredia, a therapist and ADAA member.

Some stories:

Paul Kalanithi died from cancer in 2015. This is his story:

Ok, enough grief for one email. Here's a palate cleanser:

📩 📩 📩 Send your questions to and we might run the answer in next week's newsletter.