Originally Published: February 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 11, 2007
My father just died. I'm really depressed. I'm not looking for sympathy, so I haven't told any of my friends. I'm not on good terms with my family and that has made the situation all the more difficult. I feel like I need somebody to talk to, but I'm afraid to approach my friends. I know in situations like this people over-compensate by smothering the person with sympathy and attention. What I need is the exact opposite. I need to work this out on my own. Maybe someone that will be there when I want them to be. I'm not looking for the number of a hotline where I will just end up talking to a stranger. Nor do I want to talk to the counselors or any other strangers. You're the first person that I've said anything to about this. Who can I talk to about this?
No where to go
Dear No where to go,
It is normal after someone dies to feel disorientation, despair, bewilderment, and/or frustration. A feeling of "why bother to go on" may take over, where you feel so drained of energy that you can barely make yourself do anything. You may experience physical symptoms, such as insomnia, impotence, midnight sweats, anxiety attacks, and lack of appetite and physical inertia; you may become more accident prone.
- Realize and recognize your loss.
- Take time for nature's slow, sure, stuttering process of healing.
- Give yourself doses of relaxation and routine busyness.
- Know that the powerful, overwhelming feelings will lessen with time.
- Be vulnerable, share your pain, and be humble enough to accept support.
- Surround yourself with life — plants, animals, and friends.
- Use memories to help your mourning and not live in the past.
- Avoid rebound relationships, big decisions, and anything addictive.
- Recognize that forgiveness (of ourselves and others) is a vital part of the healing process.
- Know that holidays and anniversaries — sometimes for decades after a loss — can bring up the painful feelings that you thought you had successfully worked through.
Adapted from The Centre for Living with Dying
Don't shut out your friends. You've already set yourself up — you don't want to talk to a stranger and you think you already know what your friends will say to you. You say that you want to work this out alone, but you also want a mind reader to "be there when I want them to be." There are 'good-time friends' and 'bad-time friends' — those who are around to play and party with and those who are there for support and comfort and, occasionally, those who are around for both. Think about your friends, and choose some to talk to who might be supportive during this crazy time. If they try to smother you, tell them how you feel and give them guidance about what you need right now — there's no way they can know without you telling them. Sometimes, it helps to talk to a friend who's been there — have any of your friends lost a parent, or someone close to them? Think of other people you know on campus who you respect [professors, deans, advisors, clergy, resident advisers (RAs), etc.], and try to think of one with whom you feel comfortable talking. Again, the wisdom and experience of age may help you through this tough time.
There is also a Bereavement Support Group through Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), which is designed exactly for someone like you — to help you cope with the loss of a loved one. Call x4-2468 for a schedule and more information. I know you don't want to talk to strangers, but you will wither if you hold all this in — find a friend(s), go to Health Services, call NightLine, Columbia's peer counseling service, at x4-7777. All University services are confidential, and NightLine is also anonymous. Please take care of yourself through this traumatic time.