‘My Father Just Passed Away and It Seems Pointless that He Isn’t Around Anymore. What Should I Do?’
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.
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.
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.
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 seven, or 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What would he feel?
- What would he say to you?
- 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.
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.
Now is your turn to take the stage and live fully and wholly: not for anyone, but yourself.
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!)
- Finding Your Inner Self
- How to Find Your Life Purpose (seven-part series)
- How to Know What You Want To Do In Life
- Day 15: Identify Your Values, Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program
- Day 16: Discover Your Life Purpose, Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program
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.
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).
[Update from Kim, 1 year 3 months later]
Here’s an update I just got from Kim today (March 13, 2015), 1 year and 3 months after this post went up. 🙂
Hope everything is going well for you so far, and that you are enjoying married life! Your wedding photos were absolutely stunning.
Things have been really good here. I think since I last contacted you about moving forward after my dad’s passing (thank you again for that wonderfully inspiring post you sent out!), I’ve accomplished so much! I’ve actually landed an amazing career: I’m now an editor for a monthly “good news” newspaper in my town, I’ve doubled my income, and I get to spend all my time taking photos of happy, smiling people at charity events, galas, concerts, festivals, etc., and writing, and putting together the paper every month that gets read by our entire city! It’s opened so many doors – I’ve met and become friends with CEOs, executive directors, government officials, and even met a couple TV stars!
My daughter will be two next month and she is such an inspiring little person to me. I have also been studying photography to improve my skills even more, and I will have a diploma for it next month. I’m busy but I love it!
Every day I can’t believe how far I have come, and truly it’s all thanks to you. We’ve never met and I don’t know if we ever will, but I do think of you as a very good friend. So thank you for everything. I enjoy reading your insightful posts. You’ve helped me become someone with meaning and purpose in my life, and I am truly enjoying my journey to achieve “personal excellence”!
Dearest Kim, I never knew your dad but wherever he is right now, I *know* he must be beaming with joy and happiness because he’s so proud at how far you’ve come in all these short years alone. I’m personally so happy at how far you’ve come along and how much you’ve evolved in all these short years alone, through our interactions at PE. Thank you so much for all your support and reading PE through this years — it is my privilege to be able to write for you and to have you reading/following my material. Thank you and I look forward to many years of growth together through PE as well. 🙂 *hugs*