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Advice – My family keeps commenting on my resemblance to my dead father.

My father passed about two years ago from a sudden car accident. Even before he passed away, I often received comments from family and friends about how much I look like him. But it never used to bother me but now that he’s gone it does. His death was hard on everyone in our family. I know that but honestly I’m ready to move on. However, I can’t live every day of my life thinking about the fact that he’s dead. I have a hard enough time looking in the mirror and see him in my reflection. It’s a constant reminder on its own. How do I tell my family to stop without hurting them? Thanks!

Anonymous, Reddit.
Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

Dear Anonymous,

I am really sorry for your loss. It is clear from what you have shared that your father meant a lot to you, and that the loss you experienced two years ago is still very fresh and raw in your mind.

Many people experience loss and grief in such different ways. Some would grasp onto the remnants of their deceased loved one to keep a reminder on the type of person they were. Some would move on through compartmentalizing their past firmly in the past where they could process their loss and grief from a distance. In my own personal experience with loss, I have found that there is very little reason and logic to the feelings of los and grief. Instead, they were found to be entirely emotionally driven, often unexpected in the ways grief would rise up from beneath the surface.

That could also apply to your family. You say that the loss was heavy for your family. But your family could be processing the loss of a father and a husband in completely unique ways. It could be that some of your family members are trying to hold fast to their own personal mental image of your father through the physical resemblance you share with your father. For them, it is a way for them to process their grief, albeit illogically and irrationally thrust upon you.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

I want to touch on regarding your comment here.

However, I can’t live every day of my life thinking about the fact that he’s dead.

I was very close to my father-in-law when he passed away – also unexpectedly – about a year and a half ago.

It would have been his 65th birthday yesterday.

There were days when it felt like we were all lying flat on our back on a seashore with the waves washing over our faces. And there were days when we had to take the extra thirty minute refuge in bed. And there were days I felt normal but suddenly get hit in my gut with something that reminded me of absence of him. Even a year and a half alter, there isn’t a single day that goes by without a thought of my father-in-law.

It could be something innocuous like how organized and structured my partner is, much like her father. One time, it was on an ad for a local brewery he liked to visit. Sometimes, it is on the very signature lips that my daughter inherited from her grandfather she’ll never get to know.

What I am trying to say is that the recognition of his death and celebration of his life need can be a part of the process for moving on. Those reminders in the mirror are there as a way to remind you that he was there once upon a time in your life. And the resemblance you two continue to share is something to be cherished, not to be shed.

You say that you are ready to move on. But like loss and grief, the process of moving on could look very different for your family as it is for you. And so, your family might not be ready to move on yet.

It could be that for some of your family, acknowledging the traits they carry forward past this particular loss could be a way to honor who he was when he was alive. But for you, you personally envision the state of closure where you are no longer reminded of the absence your father left behind. As such, you see the way your family is processing loss and grief in real time – to turn inward – as a direct conflict from the way you want to process loss and grief – to turn outward. And to your family, your desire to turn outward could feel like anticipation of another loss on the horizon, except this one isn’t determined by a sudden death but rather a conscious decision to create distance.

It might be a good time to check in with your family about how their grieving process is going, and share with them how your own grieving process has been progressing. Take this opportunity to strengthen and reaffirm your connections with the surviving family members who are all grieving in their own unique ways.

If you really strongly feel that your family’s comments about your shared resemblance is detrimental to your own self-recovery, perhaps relating to them about how their comments about your shared resemblance feels hurtful for you.

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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