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Carrying the Burden of the Sadness of a Loved One

It has been almost two months since my father died. Perhaps, not enough time has elapsed to make me a sage on the subject of death, but I’ll never pass up a chance to share my thoughts about something.

Let me back up a bit.

As many of you know, I have experienced some relatively significant depression over the last few years. I have not been shy about sharing  the dark times. For a while, things became a lot better, but I still have to wake up each morning and do a quick self-diagnosis to see whether I would be able to handle the day emotionally. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not so good.

One would think my father’s passing would have caused more of the same, but such has not been the case. Don’t get me wrong. I have been very sad. In fact, I cried a bit this morning, as I talked to my sister about it. In general, the sadness I feel over his death feels more natural (as natural as the pain of death can feel). Yet, there was also a very particular darkness that left my life at 10:15 a.m. on November 8th.

A few years have passed since I first started crying. I called it “Crying For No Reason At All”, when I blogged about it then. It seemed unreasonable back then, since I could not name a specific cause for it. But one day,  I was listening to George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” while driving, and it reminded me of my parents. It made me think of how much my dad loved my mother, and how much of a void the effects of her aneurysm and stroke left in his life. Though still alive, she was gone in 2006. When I received a new mother, he received a new wife. Over the last seven years, he lived like a broken man who could not be put back together. With his daughter gone and his wife replaced, he never regained his ability to seek purpose, or find a happy moment before he died.

During this time, I did not realize how much his outlook on life and his fractured soul affected those of us who loved him. To have someone so sad around you is harder than being sad yourself. It eventually takes its toll on everyone, and the Lord does not always rescue us from this referred pain.

Had I stayed in Frisco rather than coming home to be the superman of our family, maybe I would have not fallen so hard. But I did, and so did everyone else. For years we have tried to figure out how to lift up our father, yet remain afloat ourselves. He lived in one room of the house, rarely leaving except to find solace at a local bar. Even then, he just laid his head on the bar and vacillated between crying and the false hope the next drink would bring.

When I moved my family in with my mother and father, I thought I would be his savior. I would emotionally limp into the room every day and try to lift up a man who had no intention of loosening his grip on his sorrow. It’s like when you don’t want a sad song to end, but it should. You wallow in sadness, because you cannot help it. You think this is the way it is. The sad lyrics speak to a certain aspect of your life to such degree that you define yourself by nothing but the sorrow of the song. However, it needs to end. You have to press stop, and move on to something else. But he could not. The same sad song played over and over again, and became the ambient music for all of us who loved him.

Then he died. And while there was so much regret and confusion, (Why didn’t the Lord let me save him? Why does God allow so much pain with so little purpose?) there were so many dark clouds that left with him.

Bearing someone else’s pain is beyond our ability, and can supersede our own pain. Why? I suppose it is because of the helplessness we feel. With our own pain, we can at least do something about it (to some degree). We are more in control. But when it is the pain – especially emotional pain – of someone we love, we have no recourse. It is not ours to fix, but we carry the burden anyway.

When my dad died, the burden left. The sadness that I felt responsible to fix was taken from me. And I am beginning to think that it was much of the cause for my sadness over the last few years.

12 Responses to “Carrying the Burden of the Sadness of a Loved One”

  1. Thanks for sharing CMP. I have passed this on to my wife who has been caring for her aged mother(85) for the last 3 years since her father died. It has put her into a mental hospital for periods of time and lots of medication.. she floats in and out of depression….I believe she lives with the guilt of trying to make her mother happy which will never happen. She, through mental health, doctors, is starting to realize that it is not responsible for her mother’s own mental health or her well being…so I have an appreciation of where you have been and how it extends to all members of the family… I think when the day finally comes when my wife’s mother has passed there will be sadness but also great relief….sad to say, I pray for that day…glad you are still on the mend! God Bless.

  2. Bless your heart Michael Patton.

  3. Brother CMP,

    Thank you for being my instructor and mentor over the years. I love your heart and transparency. My prayers continue for you, your family, and the crew at Credo House.

    In Him, all things are possible.

    It’s not about us…

    I have to keep reminding myself of that when considering our struggles today and the struggles of the Apostles and the early church. Technology has changed us somewhat in that we are much more connected, yet still isolated to various degrees. The crux of the human condition remains the same. If it were not for this thing called sin…

    Love ya man!

  4. He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new Rev 21:5a

    Praise to God and blessing to you

    the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Rom 8:19-22

  5. Still praying for his soul every time I remember him (which is occasionally, whenever I see a new Credo article come up and wonder how you’re doing), and trusting for his sake in God (Father, Son and Spirit). I’m glad you’re free from his permanent sadness now — that was a heroic thing to try in any case! Depression is a terrible curse (being mugged by Satan as Martin Luther put it), and it stains everyone who cares for the beloved.

    Bearing it is Christlike; but fortunately Christ is stronger than we are. We can fail, but God won’t. He pledged His own self-existent life on fulfilling love and justice, and (as Christ) voluntarily died in commitment to that pledge, so I trust Him to get it done, for your father and for everyone, sooner or later.

    But I know how much it hurts in the meanwhile, when it’s later instead of sooner. (And God shares that pain with us, too.)

    Strength and love and fair-togetherness, under God, to you and your family, Michael.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides January 7, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    “It is not ours to fix, but we carry the burden anyway.
    When my dad died, the burden left.”

    Probably alright to have mixed feelings and to be ambivalent. Sad to have a dad die, yet also relieved to no longer have the burden.

  7. Thank you for always sharing yourself with your readers. I think your story illustrates well something that I have been thinking about lately; that we are moral creatures made in the image of a good God. We often feel a burden, a moral responsibility, for others (and ourselves) that simply defies natural or scientific reason. You loved your father. And I think you love humanity based on how you have chosen to live your life. You sacrificed some of your well-being to place yourself in a position to be a real help to those you love. I thank you for the example you have shown and the apologetic it provides.

  8. Dear Michael, It is good to see the mercy of God even in the midst of grief. This is a blessing. I know this has been one of three crucibles in your life…perhaps the lease of them, but I’m happy to know that it has brought you some unexpected relief and lifting of a burden. Maybe your resources will be less depleted, allowing you to better cope with the others. You brought me to tears again. I know your pain, so I beseeched God once again to bring you relief as he has brought me. As always, I see in your hardships how God is refining and shaping you, Michael. It comes through in your honest writings. It seems to me that you have come to have such depth of character, in the sense that you have understanding of the pain and struggles of others. This is such an essential quality in one who has a pastoral/teaching role. Just this morning I read…and my Bible is still open to the page, Heb.4:14-5:10 ,which speaks of the compassion of our Lord and also the compassionate understanding of those called to to serve in a priestly role.

    There was mercy in my dad’s death 2 1/2 years ago as well. His mind was disintegrating with dementia and he knew it–as a doctor he knew all too well. It was incredibly anxiety producing and depressing for him. The disease was causing him to lash out at my mother in a way that he never had before. He had a stroke and died 13 days later. He died when he still knew all of us. He made a point to tell me repeatedly how much he loved me while in the hospital, before he lost his ability to speak. He was able to communicate with each of my siblings in some way and give mom a hug before he died. It was painful, but it was a mercy of God. The other two big losses I experienced that same year also brought relief in some ways.

    It’s good that you are able to look at things positively and be thankful. That is healthy grieving.
    Thanks for your openness. You are truly unique in the blog world because of your candid writings.

  9. CMP–I have not been here in a while. I’m glad I came now. I suspect your stages of grief over the loss of your Father are not yet complete. Thank you all the same for being vulnerable in this moment. You may already have thought this but the truth is you lost your Father and got a different one about the same time you lost your Mother. You just never quite gave up hope (or the expectation) he would recover (return to you). I imagine you will eventually experience some anger around that, if you haven’t already. As surly as you failed “to save him”, he failed you. He failed to respond to your attempts. He failed to respond to your love. He failed to love you enough to let you be enough. I am sorry for that pain. But I am glad to know you are okay with feeling relieved. I pray the sadness continues to dissipate. Blessings.

  10. Good to hear, I have read many of your posts and I struggled with depression at the same time. I pray you and your family will find peace, thank you for sharing your struggles with us.

  11. “It is not ours to fix, but we carry the burden anyway.”

    So very, very true. Depression is a vortex of pain, sucking all nearby energy into nothingness.

    I know your pain, thank you for writing this.

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