A Daughter’s Pain in Losing Her Father

I had a dream last night. I was missing my Baba so much that I somehow managed to get into his grave to lie down next to him. Graves in Egypt are small underground rooms. The grave door was open and sunlight was shining through. It felt nice to lie down next to him. I felt safe. As I was lying there, my Baba started to stir. He slowly opened his eyes. He was awake! I was so overjoyed. I remember feeling in the dream that the nightmare of his death was finally over. He was back as he should be. I quickly called my brothers and sister to come. Baba was awake!

In the next scene in the dream my Baba was lying outside the grave on the ground. My two brothers, my sister and I were around him talking. Baba was weak from, well, being dead for three weeks. But he was happy we were all around him.  I started trying to find my cousins in the village where my Baba is buried to help us carry him to a nice bed so he could recuperate.

I woke up from that dream feeling good. It was a nice dream. I saw my Baba. He was all right. Everything would be all right.

I later started analyzing what the dream might mean.

My Baba was ill for several years before he died. He spoke about death a lot. He had been into hospital, had had operations, and he loathed the experience. I traveled to the UK for a long holiday in early August. Just before that, though, my Baba got a bit more ill than usual. My brother, sister, ex-husband and I all gathered around his bed to convince him that he needed to see a doctor so he could get the right medications for his condition. He felt that visiting a doctor meant he’d end up in a hospital. He did not want to go to the hospital. His memories of his last experience were so horrible. I told him we would not take him to the hospital even if he was dying. I told him I understood. He wanted to die on his own bed, he said. I said we understood that and promised we would not take him to the hospital if he got ill. We just wanted him to see a doctor to ease some of his pain with the right medications. About two days after that I went on holiday. I came back to Egypt three weeks later after a phone call from my siblings telling me that Baba was admitted to hospital in a coma. There was nothing they could do. There was no alternative. I know there was no alternative. But it pains me to no end that my Baba died in a hospital bed.

I think my dream is my way of trying to make amends with my dad. I wanted to get him to a nice bed. If I got him to a nice bed everything would be all right. He could even die again there. It would be all right.

After conducting my extensive self-analysis I started a new bout of sobbing. “I’m so sorry, Baba!” I cried out again and again and again. That then merged into my normal sob of just “Baba. Baba. Baba!” I can hear a five year old child in me saying that when it comes out.

I had never before experienced this kind of loss. I have lost grandparents. I have lost uncles and aunts. But none of that comes remotely close to the loss of a parent. I knew it would be hard when it happened. I just didn’t realize it would feel this… odd.

I’ve always known that a large part of my self-identity was linked to my father. He has been such a huge influence in my life. Losing him has been like having the very foundations of my identity experience a serious earthquake.  Who am I without my Baba? Am I the same person? Do I need to be the same person? Is it time to figure out who I am as a separate individual?

One of my beautiful friends from India told me when my Baba died that having a parent die is like finally getting the umbilical cord cut. It’s true.  The umbilical cord has been cut and it feels like I’m thrashing around in the dark, knowing that the light is near, but I just have to focus my thoughts and get over the initial panic to reach that light.

I’ve seen friends lose parents over the years. For the most part I only see the brave face they put on for us. When it happens, I realize they are going through a very difficult time. But only now can I truly comprehend how difficult it really is.

It seems irrelevant how old a parent is when they die. It seems irrelevant how old their children are when they die. We still feel horribly orphaned when our parents pass away.

I’m almost 43 years old. My Baba was 73 when he died. He was ill. He knew and we knew he’d die eventually. None of that makes any of this any easier.

For all of my adult life, my Baba was my confidante and main supporter. I could tell him almost anything. I discussed my problems with him and he gave me advice. When I did something interesting, I wanted him to be the first person to know about it. As he got into his late sixties and became ill, it became difficult for him to discuss problems with me. He couldn’t handle the stress of problems anymore. Problems worried him too much. So I had to eventually stop telling my Baba everything. I ached horribly at the loss of that part of our friendship. But I still had my Baba. We still had our special things. He was always the last person I called before my plane took off from Cairo and the first person I called just as my plane landed back home during some ten years of frequent business travel. He was usually the only person to call me when I was traveling just to make sure I was all right.

Ten days after my Baba’s death I went on a week long holiday. After the holiday ended and the second I hopped into my car to drive myself back home from the airport I broke down crying. “Baba! Baba! Baba!” I came home from a trip and I couldn’t call my Baba to tell him I was all right. Where has my Baba gone? Who ripped my heart out of my rib cage?

I still moan and sob. But the bouts of crying are gradually becoming less frequent if not less intense. They last for one or two minutes and then I snap out of it and move on until the next bout of crying hits me a day or two later. Something will remind me that I should call Baba or that Friday is coming along and I should stop by and visit. Or I’ll suddenly remember seeing him dead and wrapped up on his hospital bed. He was so beautiful. He was so peaceful. He was smiling. But he was dead.

My Baba is dead.

Baba…

Baba…

Baba…

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41 comments

  1. Would it make it any easier if I told you you’re not alone?

    The grief you describe is the grief I had when I lost my mother. When my father died my mother was there, but when she died, in her sleep, overnight, there was no parent for me. And yes, I felt like an orphaned 5 year-old too. It’s exactly how I described it to those who consoled me. I sobbed Mama… Mama… night after night in my bed in the dark empty house till I cried myself to sleep. I sobbed hysterically when I got back home after my first trip since her death, home was an empty, very sad place with no mother happy to see me back.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this too Nadia, but I think it’s a very special thing. After all what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, ha?

    I love you.

    1. You know why it’s special ya Arwa? It’s special because it all means that we were blessed to have parents in our lives who loved us so much and who we loved just as much back. And a testament to that love is how much we terribly terribly miss them now that they are gone. I love you too, Arwa.

  2. How rich and deep is your love for your Baba. I am at loss for words to convey my thoughts and feelings. It is good for me that you share in this way. Selfish, perhaps. Thank you for expressing what I have suppressed all these years following the loss of my parents. You there and me here, worlds apart, yet together in grief and loss. Nadia, you are a loving and wonderful person who through your kindness brings water to my eyes as I hold the thought of you in my heart. Barclay

  3. It’s difficult losing a parent…I have not had this loss but deep in my heart I dread this happening. Logically, we know that it will arrive one day. Reasoning does not make things easier. I am no longer a teenager..(more like hitting middle age with kids(!)) but i am still mummy and daddy’s daughter. Hang on in there Nadia…your Baba may not be physically here with you but he is with you in spirit. In your heart and in your being…he has helped make you what you are…and will be with you always. Hope this helps..kind regards, lina

  4. Dear Nadia.. your words make me fall crying, I found that this loss feelings don’t change, although I became an orphan more than 20 years ago, but I still experiencing the same emptiness my father left behind in my life… ah what a feeling!

    I am afraid that this is the problem when you had a loving father, even if you lived with him just 13 years as I did.

    I know it is not an easy feeling, but you have to live with, always a dream like you had is the best prize you can get to re-feel you are secure.

    The only feeling you will lose by time is anger.

    Just think how blissed we are to have those memories with those loving fathers, those memories is what keep us feel secure when our fathers are not around.

    I want to give you a big hug.

    Bothina

  5. I remember when you first posted that your father had passed away. I know how it is to still be hurting. I’m glad you had the dream of him. I had a song in my head after my dad died that I didn’t even realize until later I saw on a video tape but he used to mumble it under his breath. I dreamt of coming into a beautiful moonlit room and dancing with him to the music of a piano. Quite a gift to have a visit from him in my dream. I hope you continue to share stories of him like you do in this blog (I enjoy it and I get to know a tiny bit if him!) and share thoughts of him with lived ones in your life. I can’t talk about my dad to many people in my life because most of them did not like him at all. That’s been very hard. I felt very ashamed of mourning him and hated that. He was my dad. He was even my daddy at one time. I love when people share stories of their amazing patents with me. Like when my boyfriend talks of his truly incredible mother. I will never know her, but she can still influence my life! My daughter benefits from stories of her. Thank you for sharing stories of your Baba with us. It may not majestic you feel as much better as you would hope, but you are doing us a lot of good and sharing your dad even though we will not meet him. All the very best to you.

  6. I felt an ache in my chest as I read your post. It is a tremendous thing to lose a parent, affecting us to our very core. As you said, no one knows what it is like until they live it. My heart goes out to you.

    The pain lessens with time (my mother used to say you must pass each season, or one year), and the memories of the death are replaced with the memories of the moments lived. In the meantime embrace those you love and remember your Baba, and know that he is released from his pain and with you always.

    You may wish to read a post I wrote on my blog about the loss of my mother.

    http://siftingthegrain.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/these-are-the-things-you-miss-when-someone-dies/

      1. I suppose it is similar, loss, death, missing a loved one. But the incredible thing is that each experience is so very different, so no one can really make it easy, can they? We are all, ultimately, alone with our grief. What they can do is just love you and remind you of the good things about the person lost, and about you yourself and your life.

  7. I haven’t lost a parent so far but honestly I can’t imagine the thought whenever it crosses my mind. My parents have been great support to me too. My mother, I can’t think of losing her or how my life would be without her. My Dad, I will be over sad if I lose him because I have been such a bad daughter to him and he has always loved me. Or maybe our relationship has been complex. After marriage too, I realized how important their support is to me, and I started to see them in a new light. Yes, it is that safety of knowing someone will be behind you no matter what you decide to do, or whatever foolishness I would do. I guess I cling to God instead, although they were like the godsends. I am crying now already so I don’t know what I would do then. I sometimes wish I could die first. I don’t know why I’m telling you this but I hope when we share thoughts, we make things better for each other. I can only say that I understand and pray for you.

  8. Salam Alaykum Yaa Nadia,

    I’m sorry we had to talk for the first time in twenty years(would you believe how long it’s been!) over something like this.

    I recall my father’s death to this moment. It is something that can never leave you it’s a weakness in the fortress a loss that is so grave and so pertinent that it certainly does feel as though a cord has been cut.

    I am truly sorry for your loss, over the years that come please remember that he is still with you, it’s true you know your father will never leave you.

    Something will happen and you will feel his wisdom like a breath guiding your confusion and you will know he is there.

    May God grant you patience and grant him peace and mercy and bless him with the highest place in heaven. I remember when I first met him and I thought how much of a load he bore to help you and your brothers and sisters, bring you up and give you the basics of your belief. I also remember what my father, may Allah have mercy on both their souls said of him, he was a very good man.

    He had finished his test in this life Nadia and was ready for the next.

    My prayers go to you and your family.

    Iman

    1. When my father died, I was visited and called by friends I hadn’t heard from since college. It is nothing to be sorry about. I was so happy to hear from all of you. It eased my pain tremendously. My father’s death turned into a sort of celebration of friendships and love. It was beautiful. I remember your father as well ya Iman. I remember you all visiting us at home in Jeddah once. Do you remember that? I had an argument with my dad that day. I wanted to cook for you all but my dad would not let me. He never let me cook. He didn’t want me to become domesticated. Instead he wanted me to focus on my studies only. I think we’re really blessed, you and I, that our families knew each other. That’s something special. My father and your father met each other through us. They are gone. We are still here. And we will continue to hold our love for them in our hearts.

  9. I loss my father a month ago, and all that you write about your Baba, I feel the same about my own Papa. As you say, the age of a child or a parent is irrelevant when death visits to take away a parent – my father was almost 84 and I am 44. But the pain is deep and acute. BTW, my first dream of my father after he passed away was also of him waking up from his death. Your post has been a real help to me. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Indra, I am so sorry for your loss. I feel your pain. Let me tell you how things have changed since my father passed away four months ago. I still get horrible bouts of crying, but they are much more spread apart. If I ever go to my father’s house – where my sister now lives – I cry. When I need to pick up my phone and tell my father my good news, or when I need his advice on something, I cry. And sometimes it’s just spontaneous. Although all this happens it happens much less frequently now. The first couple of months I kept remembering my father just after his death. That is an image that has been burned into my brain. It’s distressing. But now I also started getting other images of my father, much happier images. I think my brain is taking time to go back in time. I remember my father now a lot during the time he was ill. But I also remember him as an old man sitting in his lazy-boy chair and me hugging him when I walk in to see him. I remember sitting at the head of his bed and telling him all about my news and listening to his. I’m hoping that I’ll soon start seeing an even younger more healthy baba in my head soon. No matter what, I always have in my head that I was so loved by this man. It is one of the few facts in my life that are unmoveable. I was loved by my Baba. And I will cherish that forever. My sincere, condolences, Indra. May your Papa rest in peace.

  10. Your blog came up when I googled “losing a father.” My Daddy died on December 14. He was 91, I am 48. He had been failing slowly over the last five years after a back surgery but until he was 82 he was vital and fit. I was only just getting used to seeing him stooped when I visited in August. He declined rapidly this fall, and the day I went to visit my family he fell and had to go to the ER. The next day he was diagnosed with cancer, and died a mere week later. I wasn’t ready. None of us was. We went from thinking “Mom needs help in the home with him” to “assisted living” to “hospice” in literally 48 hours. He too died in a hospital bed, where he didn’t want to be–he was too frail at the end to transfer to hospice.

    I adored my Daddy. He was my protector and defender, my shoulder to cry on, full of good advice and respect. He was so proud of my success in life (this from a man who was a true hero, a WWII vet and a POW in a German camp). I cannot imagine how I will go on without him. I have prayed for such a dream as you had, I hope I will get one some day. I used to have nightmares since I was in my 20s, about getting the phone call that something had happened to him. So basically, the worst thing that could happen to me has happened. And it doesn’t feel right that I am still here, that the world keeps chugging along without my Daddy.

    I understand and felt all the things you said. The keening, the 5-year-old seeking comfort, the sense of loss as you realize no, you can’t ask his advice, or tell him the good news, or that you got home safely. I miss him so, so much.

    Thank you for your words, it helps to know that there are other daughters out there who had a wonderful relationship with their Babas/Daddys, and who now must endure the pain of having so beautiful a connection. We are in a way sisters in our suffering.

    1. My sincere condolences, Christie. Thank you so much for sharing. Your words made me cry. But they gave me comfort knowing others share the same feelings especially at our sge.

      1. You speak for so many. I shared your post with my sister, who had a more tumultuous relationship with Dad in her earlier years but who over the last few years had grown very close to him too. I will follow your blog with an open and very tender heart as I lag but a few months behind you, and learn along with you how to deal with such a hole in our souls. Thank you.

  11. I lost my Father a year ago Oct. 9th. It still feels like yesterday. He was seventy-nine and I was forty-nine at the time. I lost my Mom twenty years earlier. Mom and I were so close and I could not imagine life without her. Some how I got through the difficult time of losing my Mom. I got married shortly after her death and focused a lot of my time on my marriage. After that we spent a lot of time with Dad, taking trips and always including him in all of our activities. Dad remarried about ten years later. He had heart issues since the early eighties and we thought he would go before Mom but God had a different plan. After many surgery’s and a heart transplant at sixty-nine he was a living miracle. For five years he had a pretty normal life then his kidneys began to fail and for the last five years of his life he was on dialysis. I can’t explain how hard it was to see my Dad just wither away right in front of me and everyone else and I could not do one thing to stop it. I lived in Florida and he was in Kentucky the last seven years. I spent most of the last two years with my Dad, thank goodness I have a supportive husband. I have two older brothers and I’m the youngest and only daughter. Dad and I were always close but even more so after Mom passed. I had twenty more years with him and felt like an orphan I guess when I lost him and still do. I have this empty feeling and miss him dearly. Oh, I have a wonderful life in Naples, FL and play tennis everyday and can do most anything I want to. I’m very blessed and am so grateful for the time I had with Dad but the emptiness is still with me. I do have comfort in knowing that he is at peace and forever in God’s arms.

  12. I lost my Ba 3 weeks ago. He wasn’t ill, he was strong and happy, he was just suddenly gone while I was far away from home. I still can’t believe we lost our Ba. Thank you for post! I believe I can feel your pain. It doesn’t matter where we come from, we suffer the same pain of losing a parent. I think losing someone we love is the most painful thing a human being could ever experience. I hope time can help us heal. I am sending you a big hug from Vietnam. Be strong!

  13. Am so sorry for ur loss, but you r so lucky u have so many memorries with ur father, i am 21 years old i lost my father 21 years ago when i was only a couple days old i never got to lnow him but i cry everyday remembring my dad i miss him so much i was his first child,he had cancer and knew he was going to die soon as im born i hate thinking how he must of fealt knowing hes going to have a child in this world but he wont be hear to see her grow it kills me inside i miss u soo much dad

  14. I’m 15 and lost my dad a few days ago. I feel like the exact same thing happened. I regret not letting him die in his own home. I regret leaving him in the hospital alone because the nurse said visiting hours were over. I should’ve stayed. I would do anything for one last goodbye. I scream at the sound of sirens and break down every time I come home to his empty room and wheelchairs.

    1. Asalalykum to all who have lost their beloved parent my sincere condolances. I also lost my most wonderful beautiful father may Allah s.w.t bless my loving abu-ji in jannat-ul- firdouse, this pain and hurt is unbearable Its like someone keeps punching you in the heart My father passed away also in hospital on 22/07/12 but we can not change what has been writen. May Allah s.w.t heal our pain and sorrow.

  15. —– Original Message —–
    From: EDMONTON ALBERTA CANADA
    To: info.ffp@familyfriendpoems.com
    Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:57 AM
    Subject: Fw:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: EDMONTON ALBERTA CANADA
    To: info.ffp@familyfriendpoems.com
    Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:52 AM

    my name is pan andrzej czerwinski and my dad pan andrzej czerwinski passed away from sosnowiec polska and my mama pani katarzyna czerwinska passed away from myslowice polska
    i wil not be able to live without my dad pan andrzej czerwinski and my mama pani katarzyna czerwinska
    and my child died and i wil not be able to live without my child from edmonton alberta
    i wil never survive this

    1. Dear Andrzej – my father just passed away this October 2013. He was born in Dobrzykow, Poland and immigrated to the US following WWII where he was in the Polish Resistance Underground Army and then served in the US 3rd Army. The stories he told of his life in Poland are fascinating; he loved his life there before the war tore everything apart. He survived so much and I felt he’d even beat death but in reality no one does. I am having a difficult time dealing with his death and can barely function at times. I had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor a couple of months before he died and was recovering fairly well until this happened. I feel your pain and it must be so difficult losing your mother and child too. Please let me know how you are doing.

  16. I lost my father a month ago. As you said, it rocked my foundation. My world is different. My moods are flat. I feel horrible. People keep telling me, “well, he was 74″ like that should make it any easier. People also expect me to “be over this” because it has been a month. I’m not. Thank you for this blog. It helps a little.

    1. I really understand how you describe your feelings. My Dad died on Nov5th. People say “He’s in a better place or He’s with God now” Yes I do believe those things but it doesn’t make me feel better. I miss my Dad, he and I had a father daughter bond and now it’s my brother and mother who have always been close. I feel left out of the family now, I live 500 miles away and I only find out what they want me to. I feel angry, I feel sad, I feel abandoned, but mostly I feel flat, as you say.. At least when Daddy was here I had a parent I connected with. Sorry for you loss to all who are here.

  17. My “Papa” went home from the hospital today to die in his own bed. He was diagnosed with Lymphoma (Blood Cancer) almost a year ago. After Chemo, Radiation and Clinical Trial………..his battle has been lost. I am the oldest of 6 daughters. We have come together to make sure he is comfortable and all his requests have been honored. I am at a total loss as to how to respond to what is going on……………Supposedly he has 7 to 10 days left……….I feel so lost; so empty; and to read your writings………encourages me to allow him to go………..as you stated……..it is “He” that needs to be at peace. Papa is 81 years old………I am 55………….I truly feel like a little girl………God Bless you in your writings………You have brought comfort.

  18. Dear Nadia,

    More than a year has passed since your father’s departure. Do you feel any better? I only ask because I too am a daughter who lost her father only 4 days ago. I am in the United States, but originally from Iran, and I too called my father Baba. I love my Baba with my heart and soul, and while he passed away at the age of 89, in my house, while I was holding his hand, and very peacefully, the pain I suffer is unbearable. I too cry out “Baba Baba Baba” and sob uncontrollably. I was so close to him. He was my friend, my confidant, my protector, my advisor, my soul mate. I am 52 and yet I feel like a 5 year old girl that is looking for her Baba. I buried him alongside with my heart this past Monday. Is there any hope for me? Am I ever going to get over this pain, and move on? I lost my one and only sister 13 years ago to cancer, and I thought the pain of losing a sister was the worst pain possible. Yet I find out that even though she died young and I was angry at the world for her passing, the pain I suffered for her is a drop in an ocean in comparison with the pain I am going through with the loss of my father. It took me 10 years to totally get over the death of my sister and become a normal person again – by this rate, I am never going to get over the death of my father and I am never going to become a normal person again. I know that other daughters say the same thing – but my father was truly the best father in the entire world. There is no one that can take his place in my heart, and I am so lost without him.

    If you get a chance, please post and let us know how you feel now that some time has passed since the loss of your father. May God give all of us daughters who lose their beloved fathers the strength to move on with life.

    1. Dear Mitra,

      My sincere condolences. No words from me will make your pain go away. I will tell you how things are now.

      I’ve lost count how long ago my Baba died. Was it two years ago? Was it three? It must be between two and three. In some ways, it seems like it was so long ago that he passed away. In others, it seems as if it was yesterday.

      The worst of my pain was over perhaps one year after his passing. I have kept myself very busy with my personal life and that has helped. In the beginning my outbursts of crying were frequent. They still happen but they are no longer frequent. A strange thing that has happened recently is that my father appears more often now in my dreams. Sometimes they are heart-breaking because he leaves us all over again. Sometimes they are just normal dreams, as if me and my siblings are all kids again and he’s just there taking care of us doing normal things. I generally feel much better now. Much much better than the first year. I miss my father tremendously but I am working on living my own life. I think a lot about life and death. You will find on my blog a recent post about the meaning of life. I think a lot about that now. My father’s life and then death make me wonder about it all. I have found the responses to this blog post extremely helpful. I ache for every single person who has commented. But I also realize that it is something that so many of us go through. That makes it just that little bit easier.

      My heart goes to you, Mitra. I wish I had some advice for you. But I really don’t.

  19. I realize this is an old post, but as I sit in my bed sobbing, I have to comment. My dad is 80, and in ICU right now. When you wrote about your father, I felt like I was reading about my own. He is the first person i call for advice, to tell a story to, or to tell that I am okay. I don’t know what will happen over the next few days. Thank you for writing these.

  20. Lost my Daddy 05/12/14. My Daddy is my world. Not coping too well. Roller coaster. Feel disconnected or want to hide. I am paranoid about Father’s Day (always a big deal to me) and my Daddy’s birthday (08/02). I can’t do this.

    1. Dena,
      I too am Deena, and lost my father April 28, 2014. Today has been one month since we last spoke. Tomorrow would be his 80th birthday. I feel the last month has been a roller coaster too. My dad left us unexpectedly. I called him Sunday morning and he was out golfing with friends. I told him I love you and he said I love you baby and thats the last time we spoke. That afternoon he had a brain hemorrhage and died less than 24 hours later. The pain is unbearable at times. Other times I think I’m going to be ok. Then something comes to mind and Im a mess again. Just know you’re not alone. Reading all of these stories makes me feel normal again.

  21. I am in the process of losing my father to terminal lung cancer. Just two weeks ago he was fine and today we find out that his cancer is so advanced we barely have anytime left. I am already grieving -anticipatory grief-as they call it. I love my father so deeply, he is my best friend and I simply can not imagine my life without him. I have never known such pain. Your words resonate deeply with how I am feeling and they offer me comfort during the worst days of my life. Thank you for sharing.

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