After Mother-Loss, Daughter Struggles with Guilt about Father

“I told him he had to get out. It would have been selfish of me to let him stay there,” my friend Claire said about her youngest son, A.J.

Claire lost her husband almost a decade ago, after which her 26-year-old son moved home. A.J. promised his father he would take care of his mother, but Claire did not feel that included cohabitation. Her word choice stunned me. As the child of a widowed parent, I sometimes forget the hierarchical positioning of my own family patriarch.

I spent a considerable amount of time feeling guilty about being in Washington, D.C. for the first four years after my mother died. While I cognitively knew my father is responsible for making his future into what he wants, I felt the opposite.

I stayed with my father for a short time after moving back to Massachusetts. Living with him was nice, but I missed having my own space and longed to liberate my possessions from their confining basement plot. However, when I packed up to leave, pangs of guilt overwhelmed me.

Claire’s words reframed my view of supporting my father. It is silly for me to put my presence upon him, then act as if I am doing him the favor. Moving my life around for someone else isn’t a favor; it’s a burden. I am just as responsible for my future as he is for his. I need to make choices that are best for me to set the guilt free.

Releasing myself from guilt allows me to see my father just as I always did: a loving, humble, smart father and husband. I know he will always be there for me, just like he knows I will always be there for him.

This Father’s Day I will make sure to remind him, and to tell him how much I love and appreciate him.

Lauren Muscarella 2011

Lauren Muscarella

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Lauren started the blog Mama Quest (http://mamaquest.org) in May 2010 to share stories of her journey through loss after losing her mother in 2006 at age 20. The blog also serves as an outlet to pass on wisdom she received from her mother, who died of breast cancer at 52. After an overwhelmingly positive response to the blog, she launched Trauma to Art (http://trauma2art.com), a movement to support and facilitate creative expression from those who have experienced loss. Now Lauren works to build the Trauma to Art community while writing a book of creative arts therapy activities for confronting grief as well as preserving the memory of lost loved ones. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys volunteering, traveling, wine tasting, and learning to speak French.

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