The emotional confusion of losing a father you never really loved

Women who have had tense relationships with their parents revealed how they responded to the news of their parents' deaths. Maxine Harley (pictured), 61, says she was called heartless for not crying when her mother died

Sitting in the crematorium at her mother's funeral, Maxine Harley felt nothing. No surge of emotion in his chest, or the sting of tears.

In fact, he experienced only a simple relief that, finally, the woman who had given birth had died.

It is not a relief in the way that many experience it when a loved one has been torturously ill and no longer has to suffer, but rather a growing sense of relief that they would no longer have to endure their mother.

Inevitably, there were people at the funeral who interpreted their lack of emotion as cruel, but what they did not know is that Maxine, now 61, had already spent a lifetime in mourning the warmth and affection her mother had never given her. shown

"Growing up, there were no expressions of love, no bedtime stories, no hugs to calm my illness," recalls Maxine, a single psychotherapist who lives in Sussex. But she adores her own daughter, 31, and her grandson, nine.

Women who have had tense relationships with their parents revealed how they responded to the news of their parents' deaths. Maxine Harley (pictured), 61, says she was called heartless for not crying when her mother died

Women who have had tense relationships with their parents revealed how they responded to the news of their parents' deaths. Maxine Harley (pictured), 61, says she was called heartless for not crying when her mother died

"At the funeral, I did not even pretend to cry." When I overheard two women sitting behind me telling me how cold and ruthless I was, I thought, "If you only knew why I do not cry! I learned not to cry, and now I have nothing to cry about. "

"It's hard for me to even refer to her as my mother, and I have no recollection of being appreciated by her or my father.

"Instead, they offered slaps, punches, kicks and burns." Why would the people who made me cry cry?

As a society, we are not very good at discussing grief, much less the phenomenon of not afflicting someone when we consider that we should do it. And although academic research often mentions the death of one of the parents as one of the most stressful events in life, Maxine's experience is not unusual.

According to grieving therapist Andy Langford, the way we suffer is deeply personal. & # 39; There are important factors that affect if and how we grieve.

"There are not two people who react to death in the same way," explains Andy, who is the operations director of Cruse Bereavement Care, the leading mourning charity in the UK. & # 39; Each situation is very different and we can not assume that a person will experience the loss of a parent in the same way as the next.

"The relationship they had with that person when they were alive and the circumstances surrounding them will affect the way they feel, although some people do not grieve for the individual, they may cry for what they wished they had in their relationship with them, crying so they wish it had been his mother or his father. "

Maxine was the second of four children, and her parents, a policeman and a housewife who owned a grocery store together, were more than 20 years old when she was born. "I remember sitting on the stairs when I was 11 and listening to my mother for the first time telling my father how much she hated me, and I knew then that nothing was going to change," recalls Maxine.

Maxine (portrayed as a child in her father's lap, with her brothers and mother) says that she attended her mother's funeral due to obligation, but it was a blessing for her that her two parents died young.

Maxine (portrayed as a child in her father's lap, with her brothers and mother) says that she attended her mother's funeral due to obligation, but it was a blessing for her that her two parents died young.

Maxine (portrayed as a child in her father's lap, with her brothers and mother) says that she attended her mother's funeral due to obligation, but it was a blessing for her that her two parents died young.

"When I was 15 years old he bought me a suitcase and told me to leave, but I could not until I turned 16 and I got a job, first in a supermarket and then in the civil service, where I climbed the stairs and was able to pay the rent. somewhere.

"I can speak dispassionately, since I have worked hard over the years to reach an agreement."

After leaving home, Maxine maintained distant contacts until the death of her parents: she was 25 years old when her father died and when she was 30 years old when her mother did. I do not even remember the month or the year. She had pancreatic cancer and when I got a call from my older sister to let me know she had died, I thought, "It's okay, it's okay," before going back to work with my clients, "says Maxine.

"I went to his funeral because of obligation, but I felt more sad when I lost dogs It was a blessing for me that both died young, 52 and 62 years old respectively The only duel I did was because of the childhood I did not have for them. I had been an emotional orphan all my life and had been "dead" long before they died.My only sadness is that I will never know what it feels like to be loved by a father, and there are so many other people in the same situation. "

I felt more sad when I lost dogs – Maxine Harley

Maxine admits that becoming a mother at age 30 was the greatest antidote to her own childhood. When she held her daughter, she could not understand how her parents could have been so indifferent.

"I appreciated everything, especially the little things like reading fairy tales for my daughter and watching a family movie or television for children, because nobody had done those things with me," she adds.

& # 39; I have friends who have grieved a lot when their father died. Somehow, I feel fortunate not to have to experience that intensity of pain and loss. But at the same time, they are the lucky ones to have known such love of a father. "

Lula Carr (pictured), 63, felt indifferent when her mother died in 2006. She remembers that her mother was jealous of all the attention she received from her father throughout her childhood.

Lula Carr (pictured), 63, felt indifferent when her mother died in 2006. She remembers that her mother was jealous of all the attention she received from her father throughout her childhood.

Lula Carr (pictured), 63, felt indifferent when her mother died in 2006. She remembers that her mother was jealous of all the attention she received from her father throughout her childhood.

Professional consulting psychologist Ingrid Collins says that for many of us the idea of ​​not being loved as children, or of not giving love as parents, is incomprehensible.

"It is tragic that there are parents who choose to lose the privilege of giving and receiving love from their children, for whatever reasons.

"If there is a strong bond between parents and children, when the father dies, it will hurt a lot once the initial numbness and disbelief passes.

"Without that link, however, it's likely that the adult child has probably cried all his life for the love they never had for their parents."

The retired curtain maker Lula Carr, 63, felt indifferent when his mother died in 2006 after a loveless upbringing.

I did not feel anything for this woman who had been so unpleasant – Lula Carr

"Although I was well fed and dressed as a girl, my mother essentially did not love me," says Lula, who lives in Twickenham, south-west London, with her second husband, Barry, 61, a painter and decorator. They have four children among them, from 32 to 40 years old.

"One of my first memories is having mumps and whooping cough at the same time when I was three years old." I cried out in pain for my mother, but she just shouted, "Sleep, because I'm busy now!", Then closed the door of the room .

"I remember thinking," That's right, I'm really alone. There's no point in calling her because she's not coming. "

"I was jealous of any attention my father gave me and told me it was useless and that I had a big nose and heavy thighs" She questioned which man would ever want me, I did gymnastics, but she never came to watch.

Lula (in the center of the photo with his parents about 30 years ago) remembers not feeling anything on the day of his mother's funeral and continuing with life

Lula (in the center of the photo with his parents about 30 years ago) remembers not feeling anything on the day of his mother's funeral and continuing with life

Lula (in the center of the photo with his parents about 30 years ago) remembers not feeling anything on the day of his mother's funeral and continuing with life

"When I was ten years old, my parents separated for a few weeks and Dad went to stay with a friend, he took me out one day and, to my amazement, he took me by the hand while walking in a park and even bought me two donuts After that, I longed to be with him.

"When I was older, with a family of my own, my dad would come and stay with us every summer." After my mother died in 2006, I finally felt free to explore my relationship with him, away from his jealous gaze.

"One day I was cooking in the garden when I received a text message to tell me that my mother was dead, I just thought," Oh, that's it, "and I went on with my life.

I did not go to my father's funeral or shed tears – Alyson Reay

"We had a small family funeral, but I did not feel anything for this woman who had been so terribly unpleasant to me."

Like Maxine, it was when Lula became a mother herself that she realized the magnitude of her mother's lack of kindness.

"When I had my first baby, I looked at her in my arms and told her that it was going to be the mummy that I wish I had," she recalls.

"I am close to my two daughters and raised them to believe that they have the world at their feet, while I encouraged them to have the confidence to face any blow that life throws at them, all the things I deserved from my own parents as a child. & # 39;

Alyson Reay (pictured), 53, was deprived of her mother's unexpected death, but says she felt nothing when her father died.

Alyson Reay (pictured), 53, was deprived of her mother's unexpected death, but says she felt nothing when her father died.

Alyson Reay (pictured), 53, was deprived of her mother's unexpected death, but says she felt nothing when her father died.

It was a different story for Alyson Reay, 53, who was actually lost when her mother died suddenly in 1999, but she did not feel anything for her father when she died almost three years ago.

Alyson had always missed her father since she left her mother for a colleague when she was five years old, after which she did not see him for more than 25 years.

"The day my father left was the only time I saw Mom cry. I remember standing behind the curtains and crying while walking away.

His father kept in touch with birthdays and Christmas gifts and occasional letters. His absence caused great anguish to Alyson and, at 30, he decided that he wanted to establish a relationship with him.

Eventually, after writing to each other and talking on the phone, they found themselves in a restaurant in Bristol, near where she lived at that time.

By then his father remarried two more children and lived in Jersey.

"I wanted to like it and it was a warm and residual love, like the one you see in the meetings on TV, but it was not there," he says.

"He brought pictures of his new family and talked a lot about them, but he did not ask much about my life."

Alyson's parents (pictured on their wedding day) separated when she was around five years old. He did not go to his father's funeral, but because of the relationship they may have had

Alyson's parents (pictured on their wedding day) separated when she was around five years old. He did not go to his father's funeral, but because of the relationship they may have had

Alyson's parents (pictured on their wedding day) separated when she was around five years old. He did not go to his father's funeral, but because of the relationship they may have had

There were other similar meetings over the next decade, but Alyson was consumed by the sadness of not being able to connect with her father. "I found him arrogant and our meetings more and more stressful, I would ask my husband to answer the phone when my father called.

"Eventually I wrote to him and told him many things that he should have said before, but I was not brave enough, as I really wanted to please him and be loved by him, but I found it very difficult to be around and to talk.

"I also pointed out that he did not understand or was not interested in how difficult things were for my brothers and me when I was growing up without a father." He wanted him to acknowledge that the decisions he had made over the years had impacted his children, but he never did it. "

Alyson's older sister let her know that her father had died after suffering from dementia and cancer in October 2015.

"I knew his death was imminent and he had about 24 hours of sadness for what he could have been and the father he really wanted, but I did not go to his funeral or shed tears," he continues.

"In fact, after his death, the negative feelings he had about me in relation to him began to dissipate and I felt relieved and free for the first time in my life, it was like losing a stranger that I did not like very much.

"I'm talking now to help others in my situation, but I do not hold a grudge against my father and I'm not bitter, I do not feel anything."

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