My dad is dead despite him being alive:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

Right now, I really need some understanding from my best friend, Amy, and she is making things worse.

My father has Alzheimer’s. He’s been getting slowly worse for the last year and his doctor tells me he could be in this decline for a while.
He doesn’t know who I am anymore and he can’t remember what he said two seconds ago. It’s awful because I had such a good relationship with him.
I shared all the events in my life with him and I could turn to him with problems when no one else understood. Now he is an empty shell and the father I knew is dead.

Amy lost her father a year and a half ago and she is still mourning him, I think. I really sympathize, but she is making me feel just terrible because if I mention anything
about my own sadness, she just says, “well, at least your father is still alive.” She has no sympathy at all.

We’ve always been there for each other in the past. I listened to her talk about her feelings for hours on end after her dad’s funeral.
Now, when I need her, she just dismisses me as if I don’t know what sadness really is.

How can I make her understand? I almost wish my dad was dead, at least I could mourn him and let go.

Mona Lotte

Dear Mona,

Your friend might be having sympathy for you but what is lacking is empathy. She is caught up in her own grief and that can prevent her from understanding that you might be experiencing a loss just as she is. She lost her actual father, but you lost the dad you once knew.

Aging, Death, and dying are handled very poorly in our culture. What we see as being humane is often really a form of prolonged torture for all involved. We “leave things in god’s hands” or often prolong life when we would do better to take responsibility and be more proactive to end suffering. We treat animals a lot better than we treat people in aging and end of life issues.

It is difficult.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: Amy may be grieving but she is also being an insensitive jerk. After a year and a half, if she is still focused solely on her own feelings, this is a sign that she is not processing her father’s death in a healthy way. Who knows what is going on, but I suspect that she needs therapy before she is capable of being a supportive friend.
Forget about finding the support you need from Amy and seek comfort elsewhere. If you are still a good friend, you might want to suggest she seek help. Then go find some of your own because Alzheimer’s is a disease that damages care givers along with the one receiving care. It’s no joke, it will increase your likelihood of depression, physical illness and early death.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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3 Responses to My dad is dead despite him being alive:

  1. I just learned that certain religions do not allow for grieving a person who is still alive. They believe every moment of life is sacred no matter the circumstance. I would think this does the family a great disservice.

    Dr. Brilliant Cliche

  2. Dear Mona Lotte,
    When your father actually does die, you’ll regret that you were longing to mourn in the first place. You’re avoiding the present moment by anticipating a future event where you predict you will feel better. Another way you’re avoiding the present moment is by inaccurately remembering the past. When your father was helping you solve problems years ago, it wasn’t the things he said that helped. It was the way you used the things he said that made the difference. Now that he has Alzheimer’s Disease, use those same interpreting skills he taught you to develop. Challenge his reasoning skills to see what needs he can meet for himself. Invite your friend to participate with you in your efforts to stimulate your dad’s mind. If she doesn’t want to do it your way, keep her out of the picture. She’s not being of help to either one of you.

    • Giving this more thought, I watched my father on full oxygen support six years ago. He was not able to decide whether to continue to live. The family had to decide what quality of life he wanted based on his past comments and how we knew him. We decided we would allow a drug to gradually slow his heart down which would inevitably cause death. The grieving process had actually started a few months before this decision. He was back and forth to the hospital several times for breathing problems. What was perhaps the struggle going on in our minds all that time was a conflict between an impersonal idealism about what others professed and our own pain about what we knew would be the best solution for him.

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