My question is how to feel about my dad. Actually I know how I feel about him, but I’m not sure if that makes me a bad person. I hope not. Divorced from my mom, he didn’t come into my life until my early twenties. We never developed a strong bond and rarely saw each other though I reached out. We’re very different. You could say I’m a coastal elite and he was a Trump loving redneck. But we didn’t argue about politics because, why? Now to my problem. He recently died and it seems his family expects me to arrange a memorial even though he has other children and siblings and I’m not really close with any of them. I could arrange something on Zoom but I just can’t make myself care. I haven't told them, though, and it's weighing on me.
Bothered by My Indifference
Dear Bothered by My Indifference,
I want to rush in and tell you that it’s OK, that no matter how you feel is legitimate. That all your feelings are worthy of your honoring them. Well, now I’ve gone and done that. But the tricky part is that my saying so probably won’t matter all that much. You’ve probably already told yourself that and it hasn’t entirely put the issue to rest.
In your letter, you propose that you might be a bad person for not caring. I'm not so sure you don't. Otherwise, why would you be writing to me? Death often cuts deeper than we realize. I think it’s important that you give yourself the space to feel what you feel and to not feel what you don’t.
You don’t say in your letter if you are angry with your dad or if you are grieving. Sometimes we are and because our feelings don’t express themselves the way we expect, we don’t quite identify them. Maybe you wanted your dad to do better and now it’s too late for him to fix it and, deep down, your upset about that. You may even miss him or what could have been. Feeling conflicted at this point is natural. What I’m suggesting is that it may not be indifference so much as your way of processing that he’s passed. This process has its own time-table and it works best if you're patient with yourself.
You are not required to arrange a memorial, even for you father. You have free agency and get to choose what to do. Whatever you decide, there will be some consequences, of course. That said, you have every right to put your wellbeing first.
Maybe you can ask for your family’s help. Conversely, I think it’s all right to come out and say that you’re not in a place to do this. You don’t need to go into your history with your dad by way of explaining. With the pandemic raging, people will understand. And it will be good to communicate with them about where you stand to get out of the limbo you're in right now. This will also give them a chance to make plans rather than wait for you.
If you find yourself ruminating about the past or that your father wasn’t there for you, I recommend that you stay in the present. Investigate your feelings. Feel them. Ask yourself, what feels right in this moment? What do I need now to be cared for? Then make requests or create what you need yourself. If you feel numb, that’s OK, too. Investigate the numbness. You may find there are other feelings hiding underneath it that it will be helpful to address.
As I said, I suggest that you let your family know where you are with this right now. They may be open to wait until after the holidays. By then, you may feel less overwhelmed by the prospect of having a memorial. Or someone else in your extended family may be able to step up.
The more honest you are with yourself and them, the more you’ll know what is the right thing for you to do and give them a chance to do what is right for them.
Hi, I'm Henry India
I'm a down-to-earth nonbinary mystic. I think of myself as a farmer, tending to my field in time & space. The poet Rumi wrote, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." So, let's meet. Write to me and I'll do my best to help you sort things out.