Question from a reader:  My dad died a little over two weeks ago.   He was not sick.  He was caught in an undercurrent and drowned.  I did not witness it but I heard the stories and have been there enough to be able to picture it.  He was not an amazing dad; he worked a lot to provide for us and that’s how he showed his love.  I started school the Monday after it happened (he drowned on Friday and they found his body on Sunday).  I am not crying that much.  I can still have a good time.  I feel guilty when I do have a good time.  I’m worried about not dealing with it because I have a history with very bad depression and have been on 100 mg Zoloft for a while now, so what is wrong with me?  My dad just died and life is still going on like normal and a lot of the time I feel relatively normal and am not crying that much.  How to deal with it and what is wrong with me????

Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC, responds:  I’m so sorry to learn of your loss and the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of your dad, and I hope you’ll accept our deepest sympathy.

You don’t say how old you are, so I’m not sure if you’re a high school student or in college (you said you started school the Monday after your dad died), but I know that returning to classes so soon after this tragedy must have been very difficult for you.  If you’re like most teens and young adults, you don’t want to feel different from your friends and classmates — but having a death in the family most certainly can lead you to feel very different from your peers.  Not wanting to feel singled out as “the one whose father died,” you may be tempted to keep your dad’s death to yourself and avoid talking about it with anyone else.  But the death of your dad is way too big a burden to be carrying all by yourself.

Does your school know what has happened to you and your family?  If you haven’t already done so, you might ask your mother to help you plan what to say to your friends about all of this.  If they don’t know what happened, and from your point of view, they may be responding only to false rumors and they won’t be able to offer the understanding and support that you need.   It’s important that the school principal, your teacher or your school counselor know what’s going on with you, too, so they’ll be in a better position to understand your behavior and guide you to the help you need and deserve.

In the meantime, I’d like to point you to some resources that I think will be helpful to you.  (You might ask your mom or another trusted relative to explore some of these resources with you.)  What you are thinking and feeling in the wake of this loss can be very frightening and confusing, especially if you’ve had little or no prior experience with death in your family.  Learning what normal grief looks like and feels like is important, and can help you to understand better what may be happening to you right now.

Please take some time to follow these links:

Teen Grief: Mourning the Death of a Parent

Teen Mourns the Death of Her Best Friend

Bill of Rights for Grieving Teens

National College Students Support Network

Bereavement Information for Teens

Teen’s Health: Death and Grief

Grief Education Association’s Page for Teens

The Healing Place: Grief Support for Children and Teens

Helping Teenagers Cope with Grief

Loss During Young Adulthood May Make One Feel Old

More Than Sad: Teen Depression

Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers , Book by Earl A. Grollman

Teen Grieving the Death of a Parent

Finding Meaning in Tragedy

I hope this information is helpful to you, my dear, and I hope you’ll continue to reach out for the support that is readily available to you.  There is no need for you to go through all of this alone.

© 2013 by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

Reach Marty through her Web sites, and  She blogs weekly at Grief Healing  and can be found on Twitter, LinkedInFacebook and Pinterest.

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Marty Tousley

As both a bereaved parent and a bereaved daughter herself, Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC has focused her practice on issues of grief, loss and transition for more than 40 years. She joined Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ as a Bereavement Counselor in 1996, and for ten years served as moderator for its innovative online grief support forums. She obtained sole ownership of the Grief Healing Discussion Groups in October, 2013, where she continues to serve as moderator. A frequent contributor to health care journals, newsletters, books and magazines, she is the author of Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year: Second Edition, The Final Farewell: Preparing for and Mourning the Loss of Your Pet, and Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping. She has written a number of booklets for Hospice of the Valley including Explaining the Funeral /Memorial Service to Your Children and Helping Another in Grief, as well as monthly columns, e-books and online e-mail courses for Self-Healing Expressions, addressing various aspects of grief and loss. With her special interest in grief and the human-animal bond, Marty facilitated a pet loss support group for bereaved animal lovers in Phoenix for 15 years, and now serves as consultant to the Pet Loss Support Group at Hospice of the Valley and to the Ontario Pet Loss Support Group in Ontario, Canada. Her work in pet loss and bereavement has been featured in the pages of Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, The East Valley Tribune, Arizona Veterinary News, Hospice Horizons, The Forum (ADEC Newsletter), The AAB Newsletter, Dog Fancy Magazine, Cat Fancy Magazine, Woof Magazine and Pet Life Magazine. Marty’s Grief Healing website and blog offer information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or mourning the loss of a loved one, whether a person or a cherished companion animal. She is certified as a Fellow in Thanatology (Death, Dying and Bereavement) by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, as a Distance Credentialed Counselor by the Center for Credentialing and Education, and as a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing Practice by the American Nurses Association. Marty and her husband Michael have two grown sons and four grandchildren. They spend their winters in Scottsdale, AZ and Sarasota, FL, and enjoy their summers in Traverse City, MI. Marty welcomes reader questions and comments, and can be contacted at or through her Web sites, at,, and

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