Jolted by Death of Emotionally Unavailable Parent

I am a writer, yet I’ve been having a hard time expressing my feelings about the death of my father. He died on Sunday, October 26, after overmedicating himself with morphine because he was in so much pain from the most aggressive kind of cancer in his back. The morphine shut down his kidneys, and he lasted less than a week. My dad was a pseudo-devout catholic. He didn’t believe in suicide, but maybe on an unconscious level, he hoped to permanently stop the pain.

I Left My Heart in San Francisco[2]

Dad tried to take Mom’s hand, the only way he could respond to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

He was a bitter person, often jealous of the success of others and constantly on the lookout for a quick and easy way to make money. My father never told me he was proud that I finally got a book published. He never said he loved me, but once, and that may have been because of all the medication he was on. Yet for all his flaws, my dad tried to show his love through action by fixing things, not always well, and by occasionally offering his sage advice, not always wise.

My dad protected his vulnerability with a crotchety, cantankerous, rude, loud, and antisocial personality.

A therapist told a friend that when her father died, she was so distraught because he never fulfilled her expectations of what a father was supposed to be. I wanted the perfect “Patty Duke” father, always there, always listening, always a kind and supportive word. But my father was more like Archie Bunker, so it has been an unexpected jolt to mourn him so deeply.

Death allows the introspection of things we wouldn’t normally consider at other times

The moment I saw my dad’s body on the hospital bed, lifeless and without breath, everything came pouring out of me. I hugged him and sobbed so hard that I felt horrible stabbing in my chest, like the pins and needles feeling when I had pneumonia, 100 times worse than when my leg falls asleep. I think I released so much hurt and emotional pain, that the toxins hit my system all at once.

Dad-Christmas 2010

George Valentine Rodriguez Christmas, 2010

I think it’s better to lovingly share feelings and clear the air than to die with any regrets. 

While he was alive, I didn’t feel accepted by my father, but then, I couldn’t accept him, either. But forgiveness? Well, I don’t want to die with any regrets, and it seems silly to hold a dead person accountable for my own feelings. Also, I had to forgive my dad because the alternative was to hold onto the same bitterness, anger, and disappointment he held onto all his life.

Forgiveness is accepting what is and not hoping for a dying person to change.

I understood my father a bit better once I let go of the subconscious need to see him become the father I always wanted or to hear him say what I wanted to hear. My dad was a product of abuse, poverty and neglect, just like me, and through the understanding of generational patterns, forgiveness was all the easier to give.

Despite the flaws of your parents, what is/was one good thing about them?


About Carole Avila

Carole Avila is an award winning author in short fiction, memoirs, and poetry. Eve's Amulet, Book 1 and Death House are both published by Black Opal Books. Her non-fiction work, The Long Term Effects of Sexual Abuse, is under contract. When Carole isn't writing, she loves reading, walking, visiting her daughters and grandsons, and enjoys a hot cup of chai tea with a spot of cream.
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2 Responses to Jolted by Death of Emotionally Unavailable Parent

  1. I am sorry about the death of your father Carole, but I am glad you were able to forgive him. I remember you telling me once that it would take a lot for you do finally do this, and even if that meant his death is still good to see you were able to hug your dad one more time. I am sure he felt it in the after life.

    I also think you should talk about the flip side of this, not forgiving someone you have no regrets keeping out of your life, because if you did it would only be a toxic and full of drama. With me it would be my sister, and with you that one person who caused you so much pain. I really think that people need to know that those certain toxic people need to stay out of your life, and you should have no regrets to never forgive.


    • Carole Avila says:


      Thou art wise for thy years. Thank you so much for leaving such a loving and insightful response.

      You’re right–sometimes even after forgiveness, we have to avoid those toxic personalities that only serve to create chaos and unhappiness in our lives. The things your sister has said and done weren’t always right, but if you accept that this is how your sister is, even if you don’t agree with her behavior, you have in essence forgiven her. That’s good. We can’t always be the ones to save people, especially those who are too emotionally close to us because we lose our objective ability to do what’s right for us or them when we’re in their midst.

      As with my dad, your sister didn’t meet your expectations of how a sister should act toward you, and that’s the biggest disappointment. By letting go of those expectations, you are also accepting her as she is, and thus forgiving her. It doesn’t mean you’re going to hang out and be best buddies from here on out. It simply means you can be at peace knowing that this issue is finally out of your space, and you’re in a place to bring in those healthy personalities that will enrich your life.

      I know that forgiveness serves me just as much as the person I forgive. As far as my brother goes, when he died, I had already understood that although he sexually abused me, he also came from the same dysfunctional childhood and may have been the product of sexual abuse as well. I understood why he abused me, but that didn’t mean it was okay. He was old enough when he chose to do what he did, and even after I confronted him a long time ago, he never apologized for the things he did to me. He had already been emotionally dead to me for decades so I felt apathetic about his passing–not feeling any sorrow or guilt, bitterness or doubt. I had no remorse about not seeing him in the hospital. I was at peace with that decision and still am.

      However, I would have felt awful if I didn’t clean up stuff with my dad, especially because toward the end he often said things under the effects of medication. Even being emotionally unavailable all my life, I could at least see his attempts to reconcile the past through his actions.

      You know I wish you all the best with whatever happens with your sister. I support your decision to avoid a toxic relationship, but encourage you to be open in the future if she seems to have ‘grown up’ because people can always change when they’re ready to take a healing journey. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt because that’s what we’d like someone to do for us. If and when the time comes, your intuition will tell you if she has genuinely changed for the better.

      Take care, my beautiful friend!



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