Ask Celes – My Father Just Passed Away and It Seems Pointless that He Isn’t Around Anymore. What Should I Do?

Ask Celes

Hi Celes! First, I wanted to congratulate you on your engagement! I am not sure if you remember me, but I used to participate all the time in your 30DLBL and 30BBM runs. I want to thank you for all you have contributed.

Though you may not know it, you have made such a difference in my life and I am forever grateful to have found PE. It has changed my life, and I have achieved so much that I ever dreamed of doing, all from participating in 30DLBL and 30BBM. I got a promotion, moved to a new city, and now have a beautiful baby girl. I even made a few new friends by finding the courage to reach out to them myself, something I would never have been able to do before. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

My question is something I have been struggling with over the last few months. My father passed away this year unexpectedly, and I am having difficulty staying as focused on my goals as I used to. He was one of my biggest supporters, and now that he is gone, I feel as though my desire to keep pursuing my dreams has gone with him.

For example, I used to paint all the time, and in the last few months, I actually packed it all up and put it in the basement because I don’t want to look at it anymore. I was starting my own photography business, but now that he is no longer here to cheer me on, it just all seems pointless. I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore.

If you have any advice at all, I would really appreciate it. How do I continue doing what I used to love and keep moving forward without his support and guidance?

Hi Kim, yes, of course I remember you! You have been such an immense participant in the past 30DLBL and 30BBM runs and it was always a joy to read your responses and witness your growth throughout each challenge. Congratulations on your life changes and your beautiful baby girl: it’s so heartwarming to hear how much you have grown since finding PE!

I’m truly sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. I remember you would always speak of him fondly during the challenge runs. You would always talk about spending more time with him, making plans together for the holidays, and calling him to chat or check on how he was doing. One time you talked about meeting him for dinner and baking cupcakes for him because he loved your cupcakes. Another time you mentioned going on a road trip to see him and to bring your camera so you could take photos throughout the day.

Read: “Why I Love My Father” (A 2012 Father’s Day Tribute)

It’s perfectly understandable that you feel your desire to pursue your goals/dreams has left with his passing. It’s especially normal when a loved one, who used to be a strong anchor in our life and for our goals/dreams, passes on. When the motivator is removed, so does our drive to pursue our goals/dreams. After all, he/she was the original reason why we even did any of these to begin with.

Rain outside the window

A Past Client Who Lost a Loved One as Well

Years ago, I had a coaching client whose husband passed on after a bout of illness. She couldn’t stop thinking of him and felt much pain—even six months after he had passed on. While there was grief, much of what she was going through was guilt: she felt that she could have cared for him more while he was alive (even though she had already done so to her best capacity; her guilt was based on her perception).

So I asked her, “How would your husband feel if he knew you are blaming yourself for what had passed?”

She was taken by the question. Emotions began to surge through her quiet demeanor. Her lips quivered as she said, “He would feel sad. He would not want me to be unhappy.”

I softly asked again, “What would he want you to do then, if he were still alive?”

With tears streaming down her gentle face, she said, “He would want me to stop feeling guilty for what had happened, because it was never my fault. He would want me to be happy and do the things that I love. He would want me to move on with life, rather than live in the past.”

For the six months before our coaching, my client had blamed herself relentlessly for not caring for her husband enough. It was after that thought experiment that she realized she was trapping herself in her mental prison and there was no point in staying there. It wasn’t what was best for her; her husband wouldn’t want her to do that either.

From then on, she started to pick up the broken pieces in her life and move on. While there was undoubtedly still sadness to deal with, her overall disposition switched from negativity and self-blame to positivity and hope. Within the two months of our coaching, she had quit her day job and began work on her passion: a wedding card business. When I asked her to cite her motivators for this business, her answer was her late husband, who had told her before that “you can do it”.

Continuing To Be Inspired By Your Dad Even After His Passing

While my client continued to talk about her late husband during our sessions, she did so from a place of inspiration, not grief nor guilt. Even though her late husband is no longer around, this has not stopped him from being a positive force in her life. His love, and influence over her, lives on even after his passing.

This can be the same between you and your dad too, Kim.

Judging from your words, your dad was a strong motivator in your life. Very strong. From painting regularly, to starting your photography business, to pursuing your dreams, these are big things he has inspired you to do.

And while your dad has passed on, that doesn’t mean he should stop being a motivator in your life.

Water droplet off flower bud

Firstly, just because he isn’t around physically doesn’t mean he’s not around. (This depends on your spiritual beliefs of course, but) I believe we are spiritual beings having a physical existence, not physical beings having a spiritual experience. I.e., Our existence is not limited to our earth years. Rather, our physical years on earth are merely a speckle of our entire existence in the universe.

This means — depending on your beliefs — that your dad can well still be in your presence even though he has passed on. Perhaps he is now acting as your spirit guide (we have anywhere from one to sevenor even more, spirit guides). Perhaps he is still guiding you through life’s ups and downs, just in a more discreet way than before. Perhaps he is watching you from afar in the spiritual realm even though he has passed on, just to see how you — his baby girl — is doing.

Secondly, while your dad is no longer around physically, he lives on in you.

  1. Your physical existence is living proof of that. If not for your dad and your mom, you would not be around today: same for his granddaughter, your baby daughter!
  2. Your memories. Think about all the times you had spent together with your dad, throughout the 30 years of your life. While the times have past, the memories are real and will forever be with you.
  3. Your heart. The emotions you feel towards him: as your father, your guardian, and your cheerleader. These emotions are no less real than your memories and thoughts.
  4. The person you are today. It seems like your dad played a large role in your life when he was around. If so, that means who you are today — from your belief system, to your values, to your ethics, to even your life vision — is partly a result of what he had imparted to you. You are a function of him: not just in terms of your DNA but also in terms of your mental construct.
  5. Your goals/dreams. You mentioned that he had inspired you to paint and start your photography business. What else did he inspire you to do during his time alive? These are the markers of his presence in your life today.

While your dad can’t inspire you in person anymore, it doesn’t mean he can’t continue to inspire you. He continues to lives on in you through your existence, your memories, your heart, the person you are today, and your goals/dreams. All these are real and can never be taken away from you. Some of these are things which some people wished they could have gotten from their parents but never did.

Treasure these aspects of your dad that live in you: they all represent facets of him. Use them to drive you forward in your goals, dreams, and life.

Thirdly, consider if your dad knew that you have lost the desire to pursue your goals/dreams after his passing.

  1. What would he feel?
  2. What would he say to you?
  3. What would he advise you to do?

While I don’t know your dad, I’m sure he would be sad if he knew that his death led you to stop pursuing your goals/dreams. Chances are, he wouldn’t want his death to be a negative driver in your life. If anything, he would want you to continue to be the highest you, to pursue your goals/dreams relentlessly, and to honor him and do him proud: the way only you, his daughter, can.

Don’t Forget Your Loved Ones Who Are Still Around

At the same time, as you honor your dad and give yourself space to grief his passing, don’t forget your loved ones who are still here with you.

Your husband, for starters. Your other family members. Your relatives. Your dearest friends.

And of course, your baby girl.

These people are alive and every bit worth pursuing your goals/dreams for as your dad, I’m sure. While none of them are going to take the role of your dad in your life/heart — you shouldn’t expect them to too, because that’s a special place reserved for your dad — they can have special places in your heart too which are equal, if not bigger, than the role your dad used to fill. These roles may just not be fully realized yet because your dad had such a dominant role in your life prior to his passing.

Maybe now is the chance to let them in (to fill those roles).

Remember, in amidst your grieving, to return to present reality at the end of it: where your life and your loved ones are. These people are still alive and they are the ones who matter today, in this time and space. They are the ones waiting to love, support, and guide you, and for you to love, support, and guide them along in their lives as well.

Live Your Goals for Yourself

All that said, as you pursue your goals/dreams be it in memory of your dad or your loved ones, remember that at the end of the day, the person you should be pursuing and living your goals/dreams, first and foremost, is yourself.

Perhaps you were pursuing your goals/dreams for your dad in the past, even if partly so. He was such a great supporter of everything you did that you were naturally inspired to do those things for him. So when he passed on, you lost your desire to pursue anything.

However — I didn’t know your dad personally so correct me if I’m wrong — I’m sure your dad was never supporting nor cheering you on because he wanted you to realize those goals for him. No, I’m sure he was supporting you and cheering you on with great fervor and passion because he wanted you to realize your goals for yourself.

Your dad was merely acting as a guide — a catalyst — to unleash your highest potential. (As were 30DLBL and 30BBM.)

And judging from what you have shared in your posts in PE forums, past 30DLBL challenges, and past 30BBM challenges, and your accomplishments in the past few years alone, it seems like he had achieved that.

And that’s terrific. Whatever your dad ignited in you — be it painting skills, an interest in photography, or commitment to your goals — they have always been there inside you, Otherwise, they would never have been ignited. Your dad had merely helped to awaken the “giant” within you.

And now?

Now is your turn to take the stage and live fully and wholly: not for anyone, but yourself.

Bean sprout

A sprout taking its place in the world

I’ve written a lot about self-discovery/self-realization in other articles which I’ll redirect you to below. (Even Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program and Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program (which you already have) are self-realization programs in themselves!)

I recommend you to work through 30DLBL and 30BBM again in your own time in the next two months, from your new place in life: as a mom, as a daughter honoring her beloved dad, and as a new-found individual. You will undoubtedly find new lessons, on top of what you have gained in your past runs of the programs, which will help you to find your new place in life.

Final Words

Again I’m sorry about your loss, Kim. Your dad sounds like a dear man and I can’t begin to imagine the loss you and his loved ones experienced with his passing.

At the same time, remember this “loss” is only in terms of his physical presence. Your dad still lives on in your mind, heart, and soul. His soul still lives on too, just that he has shed his physical shell and moved on to the afterlife.

I hope you regain your strength to pursue your goals/dreams soon. Know that the PE community and I will always be here with you in mind, heart, and spirit (even if we cannot be there with you in person).

If you have any advice/well-wishes/condolences to share with Kim, you are welcome to do so in the comments section of this post. Thank you!

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Images: Question markWindow, Water droplet, Bean sprout

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • Abdel

    Death is something quite normal. It is a Truth. We will all die. What is important is not to live longer, but how to live with Love, peace and affection. When you live to serve others, you will always enjoy Life even though you are offended by obstacles; but when you live to satisfy only yourself, you will never be satisfied. Only Egoist, Selfish and narcissist people who are afraid of DEATH. Altruist people live with inner Peace. Please, when you meet an Egoist, do not hate him/her. Try to help him/her and have pity of him/her, because s/he is sick and needs help. An Egoist enjoys neither life nor death. He is always struggling with Emptiness because he/she is never satisfied. Could you imagine life without Death ?

  • Kimberly

    Celes… thank you so much for this beautiful response. I am in tears reading this… It’s true I have been fighting with an enormous amount of guilt since he passed away. I feel horrible that he died alone with no one by his side. I wish he could have met his granddaughter… she was born exactly two months after he passed away and he was so excited to see her. I wish I could hug you… instead I will say thank you for helping me to realize what’s most important and that he would not want me to feel this way. I know I have to take this one day at a time for my family. Thank you for helping me through this. ♥

    • Ipshita

      Hey Kimberly
      I am really sorry for your loss. I recently lost a friend with whom I was friends since kindergarten. I know how you feel specially since you lost a parents. If it can give you any solace then I would like to say that your father did a hell of a great job of raising his daughter (judging this by your question, you seem really attached with your father) and now it’s your turn. Be the awesome parent to your girl like your father was to you and I guess that will be the best remembrance that you can give your daughter of her grandfather.
      As Celes said your father will always want you to be happy so forget your sorrows. Always remember your father with a smile on your face. Excuse me for being pedant it’s just a very touching topic for me too.
      I hope that you gain your spirits back and get on with your life. I wish you all the best for your motherhood.

    • Celestine Chua

      Kim, you’re such a sweetheart and you’re very welcome. It’s my joy and honor to share my thoughts with you and I’m honored you sent the question in; I saw it and immediate knew I had to respond to you.

      I didn’t know your father didn’t get to meet granddaughter; I thought perhaps he got to spend some time with her before passing on. I can totally understand why you would feel bad about this and your feelings are perfectly valid.

      But do remember that your dad may not be around in physical form, I truly believe he’s still there around you in spirit. Our physical body is but a shell that allows us to communicate with others in the physical world. It’s hard for us to perceive death in such a transient manner because we do live in a very physical, material world but our existence far surpasses our earthly one. The latter is but a speck of the former.

      Thanks for allowing the PE community to be included in this painful period where you’re working through your loss. Remember we’re all here with you and even if all other readers may not be commenting, they share your loss and feel your pain.

    • Moonsparkle

      I’m very sorry to hear about your dad. It sounds like you had a really great relationship with him. :) My grandad died when I was 13 and his death affected me a lot because he was like a dad to me. And my grandma died at the beginning of last year, she had gone into nursing home after repeated falls. We thought she was ok at the time (she was better than she was), apart from a chest infection. The doctor had been to see her and said she was the liveliest one in the home! But then she died in the night. I think in situations like this you often wonder if there was something you could have done differently but you don’t need to blame yourself.

      Congratulations on your baby daughter. I think that wherever your dad is now, he can see her or is aware of her in some way and he’s proud of you and her. :)

  • Kang Wei


  • Celestine Chua

    For those of you reading this with advice/thoughts/condolences to share with Kim, feel free to do so in this comments section. Thank you!

  • Susan

    Kimberly, I hope you will one day find the drive to go back to your art. I was a co-participant in a past challenge with you, and I saw pictures of your photos and paintings, through link that you posted, and they are wonderful. I loved the painting of the black and white dog, and the photo of the old house with old cars parked in a circle out front. They are both very artistic and I still like to look at them! Don’t ever doubt your talent. Your perspective is unique.

  • diana_SD

    Kimberly, first accept my deepest condolences on your loss. Even though death is normal, it does not FEEL normal. An important part of your life is gone. Everyone has said so many wonderful things to encourage you. I’d like to add to this by encouraging you to feel your full grief. It is okay not to feel like doing the things you once did for a while–even for what seems like a LONG while. Be gentle to yourself and do not place unkind expectations on yourself. In some cultures, people would grieve for a year. Don’t give yourself any deadlines. It’s okay to feel demotivated.

    But do set a date to check in with yourself. Pick a time–6 months from now? That’s totally arbitrary. Put it on your calendar, then forget about it until the reminder comes up. On that day, go to where you stored your things away and dust them off, look at them. If you are not ready yet, put them back–but set another check-in date, maybe a little sooner this time. :) When you ARE ready, do something commemorative. Maybe even consider painting a picture in honor of your father. Do just one little thing and remember how it feels. Then remember how it felt to have your father encouraging you and what his voice sounded like when he did. When that makes you smile, you are probably ready to put aside your virtual mourning clothes and get back to being the person he was proud of.

    If you never paint again, that is okay, too. Maybe his passing is the marker in your life to start something new. Let the guilt slip away. It’s all good.

  • Maria G.

    The death of a member of a family is always a tragedy, but it is necessary for us to overcome this situation and to move on for the sake of our family. It is difficult but you should try to understand that memory helps us to remind all the good moments connected with this person.

  • Fufu

    Kimberly I want you to know that my condolences are with you. The community is with you, we wish you the best in the world in relation with your goals. Virtually I want to send you a warm hug and blessings for your beautiful baby and know that you can trust the community in anything you need in this moment in life.

    As with your baby she can still love him when she’s older even if she never met him by the memories, pictures and stories you share. One of my paternal uncles passed away when I was 1-2 years old. I have no memories of him. He suffered from mental retardation and passed after intoxicating from eating paint.

    My father shared us a special song that reminded him of my uncle (Audioslave: Like a stone) and he always used to play it in the car. My paternal family told us stories, shared pictures and took us to visit his grave a lot.

    Because of that I have vivid memories of mourning my uncles death for many years during my childhood wishing I could had met him until I had a conversation with my best friend in 4th grade who told me that my uncle is always with me as my guardian angel and that one day I’ll meet him in heaven and that I don’t need to cry about it.

    After that I could put my feelings at ease and till this day I can say I love my uncle and I still have the song in my mp3 that reminded me of my uncle and every single time I hear it I am reminded of the love I will forever hold for my uncle and I’m happy knowing that he’s in a better place now and that one day I can run at him and hug him.

  • Olivia

    The world lost an amazing person, and I’m truly sorry for your loss. Currently, I am grieving one of my largest influences in my life and I found this blog while attempting to understand and continue on with my passion after one of my biggest cheerleaders passed away. (Which is what he was the biggest cheerleader of)

    Today is the day I will attend his memorial virtually and it kills me that I will not be there in person. Like Celes said, he is with me though. A night after he died he came to me in a dream, and gave me an awkward hug. (-like he would have in real life-) The next day I felt this sense of peace and knew he was with me. Tonight I’m taking the night off and giving him the evening through stories with friends, and maybe a bottle of wine. Tomorrow, I will go back to work and continue teaching in the same way he taught me- full of compassion, understanding, laughter, and love.

    Although my heart might be aching, I know he lives on. I hope that you are painting again Kim, or you have found a new passion. Sending you, and everyone tons of love. Thank you for this article/blog Celes, it’s been really helpful.

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