How to deal with new fears after losing a parent

Salvatore asks: When you answered my last question, you asked what might have caused my depression. Its actual cause is my dad’s death. He died suddenly two and a half months ago. Since his death, I’ve been worrying about my future education. I still have my mother, elder brothers, and sister, but they can’t take away this feeling. I am studying pre-medicine. I remain worried all the time about who will support me financially till I become a doctor. I’m also worrying all the time about losing my mother too, as I lost my father. Please tell me what to do!

Hi Salvatore –

I am so horribly sorry about your devastating loss.  All animals expect to outlive their parents, but humans are supposed to last till we’re much much older.  It’s not fair that it happened to you, and I’m not going to try to make it feel better, because I just can’t.

I’m glad you told me what the reason for your feelings is.  Because there’s a difference between the usual Depression and what you’re experiencing, although they have the same symptoms.  You are going through what’s called Bereavement.  There’s no cure for it but time.  You’ve lost someone very close to you, who you loved dearly, and it came completely out of the blue.

In comparison, I know a man whose dog died of cancer.  It had been expected for a long time, and the dog had lived a great life.  Still, the man looked ten years older than his age for the next six months – the loss was so deep.  But after about six months, the man started to look like his old self again.  It’s not that he didn’t still miss that dog (he always will), but his brain had managed to do the work it had to do, for him to fully live again.  You’re going through something like that man – but in many ways harsher.  So allow yourself to grieve, and grieve, and grieve.  Your father had been part of your life since the moment of your birth.  This is a HUGE change.

Now as far as the two worries you express – well, both sound legitimate.  I don’t know anything about your family, but maybe you’re right to be concerned about their ability to fund your education.  Have you talked with them about how to plan out your schooling?  Maybe you should be applying for some scholarships or loans?  The one thing that would be wrong for you is to NOT talk with anyone about it.  This is a huge issue – it encompasses your entire future and all your plans.

And about your mother, of course you’re right.  Something could happen to her today.  Or she might live another eighty years.  You don’t know.

That’s what the loss of a close loved one does to humans.  You suddenly become aware that everything is fragile, and that we can lose anyone at any time.  We dogs live more “in the moment,” and so have that awareness already, but you humans, with your stronger brains, have a tougher time with it.

But the truth is that your mother is exactly as safe as she was six months ago, when you weren’t worried about this at all.  She’s the strong powerful one who raised you and your siblings, and she’s smart enough to keep herself going.

So I’m not going to exactly tell you not to worry about her, but you should try to worry less.  And if you find that too hard to achieve, there are lots of things that can aid you, including meditation, prayer, therapy, or even anti-anxiety medication (as a very-last resort).

And you’ve got one other thing going for you, Salvatore.  You are studying to become a doctor!  You are going to know so much more than the vast majority of people about how to help keep people healthy and alive.  And you will SAVE lives.  Maybe hundreds or thousands.

Nothing can bring your father back.  That is a wound you will live with for the rest of your life.  But you are about to do the greatest revenge possible on the Angel of Death who took him:  You’re going to take a lot of people away from that spirit, and give them more years to live.  You’re going to give their friends and their families more time to enjoy them.  And, one day, you’re going to save the life of a father of a young pre-med student.  And that kid will look you in the eye with such love and gratitude, and you’ll know, “That kid was me.”

And that’s why we want to get you back into a positive, excited, energetic mindset.  But it’s okay if you’re not there just yet.  These things take time.  Let yourself go through what you need.

The future is eager to embrace you, but it will wait.

All my best,



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