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I am scared at the thought of my dad dying?

Hello,

For the past few years I've become increasingly afraid at the thought of my dad dying. He shows no signs of physical ailments and is healthy for being 71 years old. But I can't shake the feeling that if I don't spend time with him soon, I'm going to regret it. These are paranoid thoughts I try not to entertain.

A few months ago, my dad laid out his plan for after he dies. He has an emergency contact that lives near him, that will notify all his loved ones of his passing. But at least once a month (or more) I'm plagued with the thought of receiving that message sooner than expected... Though there are no possible signs of Why or How he would die early. I just have this fear.

To give you all a little background on me and my dad. My parents got divorced when I was 5 and it was very traumatic. My mom got custody over me, so I lived with her. At first I didn't understand why I couldn't see my dad anymore, and as a child I was constantly depressed. He could try and visit twice a year, once for my birthday and for a major holiday (like Christmas or Thanksgiving). So... I feel as if I didn't Really get to grow up with him. I feel like there's so much time I have to make up for. He lives in Hawaii while I'm in California. Due to Covid I haven't gotten to visit him for 2 or 3 years now... and it's eating away at my mental health. He works for OSHA, and I'm so afraid of an accident happening and him dying and I won't be there to say goodbye. I have obligations and my support group where I live, so I can't even imagine going to live with him... as much as I want to. He doesn't have any roommates and lives alone. My family doesn't check on him anymore and he's lonely. I want to be there to help him around the house like doing chores, making sure he's eating right. I want to BE there for him but I can't.

Everyone... how would you suggest I cope? I would appreciate any advice. I'm just trying to put my focus elsewhere these days, so I don't hyperfixate.
2 Responses
Avatar universal
Well, you actually could be there if he is your first priority in life, but the truth of life is, our parents are seldom our first priority in life if we have our own jobs and lives and families and such, as you do.  At some point we leave the nest and go our own way, which is what good parents want you to do so you can make your mark on life even though it's sometimes hard to do.  In this case, there's nothing you will ever be able to do to erase the fact your parents got divorced and led to them being far apart emotionally and physically.  That time is gone and won't ever come back.  I'm also guessing y0u might have been very sad about it, but not necessarily depressed about it, which is a disease.  I only mention this because of what I'm about to say, which won't be pleasant.  I lost my Mom when she was only 55 to cancer.  I lost my sister when she was only 49 to a blood clot.  My Dad made it to 80, but was really not alive the last few years of his life, to smoking.  In the latter two cases I lived across the country and hadn't seen them for a while, because that's how life is.  No matter when your Dad dies, and the one guarantee in life is that he will die, because you live far away you won't be there when it happens most likely.  Even if you are, you can't prevent him from dying.  So at some point that is going to happen, so your fear isn't really a fear, it's a feeling of what is guaranteed to happen, and given his age, isn't at all irrational.  It would better to mourn after he's dead for your mental health rather than mourn while he's still alive, but again, this isn't like some irrational fear.  It sounds like the only way it's feasible for you to be together more is for him to move to where you are rather the opposite at some point when he decides to retire, assuming he wants to retire at some point, but he may not want to do that.  He lives in a beautiful place and that may be the most important thing to him.  So if you don't want to leave your life in order to be with him, and I don't think that's what a loving father would want for you if you're happy and have a good life where you are, and he doesn't want to leave his life to come where you are, the best you can do is see him when you can and him come see you when he can and in the meantime stay in touch through your preferred way of doing that.  Keep in mind that when your parents divorced, he obviously was living where you were and he made the decision to not be around all that much.  In our society the Mom almost always gets custody, but that doesn't at all force the Dad to move away or stop being around so that was a choice he made.  He may have had good reasons for it, as divorce is very painful and this may have been the best way he had to get on with this life, but again, the absence wasn't your fault.  You shouldn't feel any guilt about it.  And once again, a 71 year old man is not going to be around forever, nobody is, so your apprehension about it isn't irrational, but you'd be happier if you didn't dwell on it if there isn't any way of fixing it, and it doesn't sound like there is.  Acceptance is peace.  
973741 tn?1342342773
Hi there.  I'm really sorry you are so afraid.  Yes, anxiety does that to us. What if.  Scary scenarios. Imagining the call about his death. The funeral.  All of that . ..  anxiety makes it pop into our head and if we have a great fear of it, it's just really unpleasant.  

I do appreciate how much you care for your dad. I had a therapist tell me years ago that we can express how we feel in writing.  You could write him a letter.  Tell him how much he means to you. How you wish you'd seen him more growing up. And that you'd like to be as close as you can be now!  And then set up something monthly. Today's environment means you can do something like a zoom call. You could 'have dinner' together.  Turn on zoom, have a dinner where you both sit, eat, talk like you are together.  ??  Just an idea. But skype, face time and zoom can connect us in a way that we previously couldn't.

Divorce sure does a number on kids.  Moving past what happened then sounds like something you've worked on to have a relationship now that is strong with your dad.  Reach out to him and see if you can't connect more regularly to help with your fear and also the 'missing out' you feel you have going on.  

Covid is better now.  A trip to visit either you to him or him to you?  Plan it.

And really, I can't recommend working with a therapist more.  They talk through things with us.  Help us resolve old emotions.  New emotions. Your dad is pretty young and worrying he will die when it sounds like he is still strong and working is not necessary.  Death is inevitable for everyone but having a therapist try to help you for the here and now, the present moment rather than looking to his death would be helpful.  

Does this anxiety carry over to anything else in your life?
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