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What I Learned from My Dad

Paavo & HellenMy Mom & Dad (Hellen & Paavo)

My dad passed away last night. He was 87 years old and has been in a care home for over three years now with Parkinson’s disease. Although he was at the point where he could do nothing for himself except sit in a chair while he was being fed, he rarely complained.

Even during the week-long process of his passing he didn’t complain. When we’d ask, “How are you doing, Dad?” he’d reply, “Every day I’m getting better and better.”

It’s sad to see him go but a relief at the same time — that kind of life is not for anyone.

I’ve had a few crying session where my eyes got all puffy and my head felt stuffed with cotton wool. I’d love to be able to say that my tears are only because I loved my dad and am heartbroken that he’s gone.

I talk a lot about my mom and you all know that I love her deeply and can’t wait to be around her. I don’t even want to think about the day (50 years from now) where I’ll have to write a post about her passing.

But my story with my dad is totally different. My father didn’t have an easy childhood and his opinion of women was never high for reasons I won’t get into here. He was a great dad when the four of us girls were kids, but as soon as we turned into teenagers we stopped being able to communicate with him and started to experience his control instead.

When we wanted to wear makeup, the answer was, “oh, no.” Boys? Big problem.

I worried a lot about when he would lose his temper next and stopped confiding in him about anything. I quickly learned that I hate being controlled and dominated and worried a lot that I would marry someone like my dad.

I heard somewhere that you have four choices for the kind of person you end up with:

Your mother

NOT your mother

Your father

NOT your father

He’s not here anymore and it seems so sad that what I wanted more than anything was to NOT marry someone like my father. I don’t let myself think about that a lot and I don’t walk around feeling it every day but it does break my heart to know that we never did find a way to communicate well and to write a different story than the one that started when I was a teenager.

I think because of my relationship with my dad, I was so enthralled with the education I got from the Landmark courses I took during the 10 years I participated with them. The fundamental teaching you get there is how to communicate powerfully. Nothing in life moves forward without communication and most people suffer badly in relationships because they won’t, don’t or can’t communicate.

My communication skills when I first started the Landmark courses were average at best, but as soon as I found training that could dramatically impact that area of my life, I embraced it.

Here’s the first thing I learned about powerful communication. It starts with being responsible. Whenever something goes wrong or I get upset, that’s the first place I look to figure out how to fix it, and then it’s usually pretty easy to see how I caused the whole thing to go south in the first place.

Obviously it’s a life-long learning process and though I’m so much better than I was at it, I never did have the breakthrough with my dad that I wanted to.

What I did learn from my dad was to be a “YES!” to life. He was always open to learning about and doing something new.

He was into health and nutrition long before it was trendy and was willing to go to extreme lengths to make sure we had a vegetarian and organic diet.

Here is my dad is in Costa Rica squeezing oranges. He was crazy about all fruit, especially berries. He once fell out of a cherry tree and ended up with a big gash in his arm because he tried to go too far out onto the skinny branches.


My dad

What I learned from my dad was how important communication is mostly because he wasn’t good at it. And I learned that I want to be someone who always says, “Yes,” to life and takes chances and risks and goes out on the “skinny branches” sometimes.

And, in my quest to marry someone not like my father I finally found my way to my best and happiest relationship with a powerful woman.

So, today I want to thank my father for what he did teach me and how these lessons helped lead me to where I am right now.

I love you Dad (cause I think he’s close by reading this right now).


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  • Melissa says:

    So sorry for your loss. I have a complicated parental relationship too. Not easy. It is a blessing that one relationship lead you to a great one! Silver linings!

  • Linda holt says:

    So very sorry for your loss Marie. Your story broke my heart but I am happy that today are happy and with the love of your life.

  • Thanks for sharing Maria. There is always something to learn in every relationship, as long as we look for it. Sorry for your loss.

  • I’m so very sorry, Maria. I lost my dad six years ago and even though he was sick for many years, I learned that you can never really be ready to lose a parent. Praying for you and your family’s peace.

  • Kathy says:

    May you know the Lord’s comfort during this time of loss. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

    Losing a loved one is never easy. God bless.

  • Robin says:

    thanks for the honesty Maria.
    I am sorry for your loss,

  • Maria, my thoughts are with you! Thanks for sharing your story and the lessons you learned from your dad. How refreshing to read such an honest assessment of your relationship with him- parent/child relationships can sure be complex.

  • Shelley Gardiner says:

    So sorry to hear the news of your father passing Maria. I cannot help but relate to this story with my own Father. Very similar except I was the only girl with 2 brothers..Very different up-bringing I had in comparison to that of my brothers..Only because I was a girl..And of course he thought “trouble” lies ahead when I was a teen..Make up was not allowed until I was 16..My ears were not pierced until I was 16..Gosh I can’t help but wonder if it was the way they were raised in the 40’s -50’s..Times were so different for them, and accepting the changes within society was very difficult..

  • Oh Maria, gosh this must be a very tough time for you right now. Thank you for sharing from the heart and opening up to us all. We value and appreciate that honesty. Much love, be sure to take care of yourself, I know you are in good hands.

  • Sue Proud says:

    Sending you very heartfelt condolences Maria. Thank you for sharing such a personal and honest expression of your feelings.

  • Judy says:

    Dear Maria, so very sad to hear of your loss. Thinking of you and you family at this sad time. Memories last for ever. Xxxx

  • Kay says:

    What a great post. Well put. And while I am sorry for the loss of your dad, I am more sorry that you somehow always missed connecting as adults. I’m sure he loved you very much in his way.

    You are an insightful, kind and loving person, as this post clearly demonstrates.


  • StagerLinda says:

    So sorry for your loss. So appreciate your candor.

  • Patty Bruni says:

    Maria so sorry for your loss. May you carry the best memories of your father into the future, and let the one’s not so good fade away. You have evolved into quite a communicator!

  • Maria, my thoughts and prayers are with you all through this time. It’s not easy. I lost my own dad nearly 15 years ago, so I understand. We, too, had a complicated and often difficult relationship. I was lucky to be here for the last four months of his life; we never talked about the past, but so much was healed. Men of that generation weren’t often good at showing their love, but it was there, all the same. Blessings to you. ~ Linne (Linda)

  • Kathi says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Even when your sad,you are always honest-its easy to gloss over stuff, especially when people die,sometimes I wonder if we are talking about the same person who passed away,because we all want to rewrite the history that we might have had with that person. Relationships are just plain complicated,even if people have totally different views on life and are not close,they can still share a mutual love and thats all there is and you have to be satisfied with just knowing that in spite of everything you loved each other deeply.

  • Janie says:

    Beautiful! So sorry for your loss, Maria….he was instrumental,in shaping you into the powerful woman you are today. Prayers and thank you for pouring your heart out to your followers!

  • megeranski says:

    Your post struck home on many levels. and I am sure I speak for others when I say that.

    Sincere condolences, sending love and support across the miles.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, Maria. Complicated relationships obviously leave us with complicated grief. I admire your choice to take positive lessons from his life and to see how even though the relationship was not as you wished, it helped to shape the strong, wonderful woman you are today.

  • Gina says:

    So sorry, Maria. A lot of emotions to process now, but simply being honest will allow you to endure the process of grieving. You’re certainly ahead of most adults who’ve not had the ideal parent/child relationships and I’m sure you’ve already helped a few! Take care.

  • I’m sorry for your loss, Maria.
    I think your dad helped make you a good blogger. Because blogging isn’t just about communication but about wanting to be able to steer the conversation. It’s a control thing, but a good blogger balances control and collaboration, which you’re great at. And this post is a good explanation of why you work so hard at it.


    • Carol says:

      This is such an excellent point and so true in many situations.

      You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Victoria says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time, Maria. I can relate to how you felt about your dad, as my dad had some similar tendencies, but thankfully mellowed much during this last years. It does affect your relationships, but like you, I learned so much from it and really learned to understand and love my dad more after he was gone. Sad it has to be that way sometimes.

  • So sorry for your loss, Maria. You truly are a great communicator. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings and I hope you will find your peace in this. And not surprised that he feels close by.

  • cathy gibson says:

    So sorry Maria, thank you for honestly sharing your loss with us. Know that we are sliently behind you. Wishing you peace.

  • Beth says:

    I’m so sorry, Maria. Not only will you grieve his passing, but also grieve for what “wasn’t” in your relationship with him. Take your time. Grief comes in waves, and can last a long time, but in the end, it’s the healthiest thing to do. Blessings.

  • Karen Swedlund says:

    Maria, my sincere sympathy to you and your family for the loss of your Dad. Your tribute was well written and honored your Dad and the good things he did for you. We all have childhood traumas and have failures and weaknesses that prevents us from being all we should be. You are a gifted communicator and you are moving forward and growing. Your Dad would be proud of you!
    Abundant Shalom!

  • So sorry for your loss Maria. I appreciate your honesty and courage. Hope he is in lots of lights now..

  • Carol Hunter says:

    So sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I’m sure he was very proud of you and all you have accomplished. My condolences to you and your family.

  • Maria, thank you for sharing your heart at such a hard time. It hits home although I get along well with my father. My thoughts and prayers are truly with you this week. Much love and aloha, Jennifer

  • Mary Cudworth says:

    My condolences for the loss of your father. You are blessed to have gained insight into your relationships. I think the times our parents grew up in, were much different when it came to communicating. Keep the happiest memories of your father in the forefront of your mind and allow yourself the time to process this loss and please take care of yourself during this time.

  • Parisgirl says:

    Beautifully written Maria. Your dad would be so proud. My condolences to you, your Mum and your family. A truly awful day in several ways for many around the world.

  • Agnes Blick says:

    Dear Sweety,

    Am so sorry and saddened about your loss.
    my thoughts and many prayers are with you and family.
    Take heart.
    Much Love, Agnes. Kampala – Uganda

  • Beth says:

    Dear Maria,
    Reading this brought me to tears. I understand your sadness. I never wanted to marry anyone like my father and at 53 I have never married.
    It’s good to read your articles about your happiness now with your life. Acceptance and forgiveness has helped me as well.
    Sorry for your loss, Beth

  • judy berry says:

    Oh Maria, never be sorry for your experiences as it is what makes us grow. Your dad taught you wonderful things. The good thing about having parents is that we learn from the good and the bad experiences. I am so sorry for your loss but find a way to celebrate his life. Much love.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, Maria. Family relationships are so complicated. I’m glad that you were able to get some post ivies out of the relationship you had with your father. It makes me look at the difficult relationship I have with my mother and search it for some positives.
    My sincerest condolences to your family.

  • Cathy Z says:

    I too would like to express my sincerest condolences for you and your family. Being a parent myself it’s humbling and pretty scary to think about the long term impact I’m having my children. Appreciate your honest as always.

  • Robin Reid says:

    Oh, Maria, I am so sorry for your loss. Losing parents is never easy, and so much more complicated when there are unresolved issues. Thank God for Landmark! Love and hugs to you.

  • Anne says:

    Sorry for your loss Maria. So understand your situation, I grew up under the same circumstances. In life we have a choice, dwell on the past or take up responsibility of our own life and move forward through change.
    Wishing you all the best!
    I lost my mother on March 26th 2014. It helps me heal, by talking to her as she was with us physically 🙂

  • bfish says:

    Nothing much to add but more of the same to others’ heartfelt comments and expressions of sympathy. The best thing about this post is it had me re-read the story of you and Terreeia; your description of your communication style really spoke to me in a way that it didn’t when reading the originally published post. It helped me understand both you and myself better — so thank you for this and your many great posts!

  • Louise says:

    So very sorry to hear about your dad Maria. I too had a poor relationship with a father who didn’t know how to communicate with females. It’s so unfortunate but in the end these family members did have an impact on our lives after all. I never wanted to be anything like my dad but guess what, he was good at art, exceptional at body work (cars) and other such things & with the death last year of our beloved Australian Shepherd have started doing dog portraits in pastel which are quite stunning & have led to a new path for me for which I am grateful. Be at peace my dear.

  • Claudia says:

    Maria, sorry for your loss. I love the positive woman you are and how you look to what you have learned. Your story mirrors mine so I can relate. Looking at any situation from a place of what can I learn from it is so loving and freeing. I believe our loved ones remain in our hearts, again sorry for your loss,

  • Georgene says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Experience is our teacher and each of us can relate in some way. By writing and sharing this post with us you have healed yourself and each of us a bit more.

  • Paula Rhodes says:

    I’m so sorry Maria. You remind me how complicated relationships can be, especially with family. God bless.

  • Angela n says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I can totally relate to your situation with your father. I have a very! similar one. Also controlling and also very manipulative. I try to keep an arms length relationship with him for the sake of my kids as he is their only grandfather. It does make it tough sometimes.

  • Mary-Illinios says:

    I don’t know what to say except “I am sooo sorry.”
    I’ve lost both my parent & know that you have a rough road ahead of you. Please take care of yourself during this time & know that I’ll be thinking of you.
    PS…I’m impressed with your way of seeing how your dad made you a better person. He must be proud of you.

  • Loribeth says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. Prayers and blessings to you and your family.

  • So sorry Maria. I can relate. It is so wonderful that you put your feelings out there, it not only helps you, it helps us. I lost my Dad 13 years ago and think about him every day. RIP

  • Cyndi says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you made the best of the hand you were dealt and are richer for it. I only hope when all is said and done, i see Gods grace in the people I knew along the way., just like you have!

  • Ellen says:

    My condolences to you and your family at this difficult time.

  • Sharon says:

    Praying for you, Maria, as you grieve your loss. May you be comforted with God’s presence and His Word. May you know His love, His grace and His peace in new ways as He carries you on His strong arms through your grieving.John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

  • Paula Ryan says:

    lots of lessons here…thanks for sharing!

  • What a beautiful post about your dad. I love your honesty and openness about your complicated relationship. You always inspire me. xox

  • Mary says:

    Maria, my father passed away about 4 years ago, and my mother about 6. It does not feel that long ago at all to me. Often it is like yesterday.
    My parents divorced when I was three. I had a pretty rough time growing as a child and growing up from then on. I would see my father on a regular basis on visits. I lived with my mother and that was not a good relationship. I am learning how to be a good mother to my two adopted children by not doing much of what she did to me. Anyway, my father suffered from Alzheimer’s in the end. It was no way to live either and I was relieved for him as well to see that end.
    As far as my mother: I often feel I can communicate with her much better now that she has passed. I realize this may sound harsh, but it sadly is the truth. I think about both of them almost daily.
    I think losing a parent is difficult, no matter WHAT the relationship was. My thoughts and prayers are with you, take care , and thank you for sharing.
    Mary in Ohio

  • BillP says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Maria.

  • Cindy B says:

    Condolences Maria. Glad you were able to find the positive in your relationship with your dad.

  • You have a wonderful way of sharing your difficult truths with your readers. I admire your honesty and openness.

    I am sorry to hear about your loss.

    I hope that sharing it with people who care about you helps you heal.

  • Deb Bruna says:


    I am so sorry for your loss. You are a brave and insightful woman.

  • Laudan says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss Maria. And it’s really admirable that you took a positive choice from the thing that was not pleasant to you.

  • Monique says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss Maria and you’r right, your relationship with your father is partly the reason you are who you are today and you can be very proud of that.

  • Bonnie says:

    Just a short note to let you, Tareela and your mother know you are all in my thoughts and prayers. May God be near you as you walk this sad road.

  • Kathleen R. says:

    Deepest sympathy. It’s hard to grow up and see not only the flaws in ourselves, but in those that are closest to us. Being a grown-up means loving our humanity in spite of these flaws, knowing that love is more important than anything else, and that God’s love will be our shelter and our eternal hope.

  • Sarah Hepburn-Smith says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your Dad. What a touching post – thank you for sharing.

  • KA says:

    Beautifully expressed. I am sorry for your family’s loss.

  • Loren Snyder says:

    Maria and family, your words resonate with so many of us who have complicated relationships with our parents. All I can offer is, when thoughts of your Dad come to you out of the blue…that’s when his spirit is nearby. And you’ll be comforted.

  • Robin says:

    Maria, so sorry for your loss. May God bless you and your family as you go through this difficult time.

  • Lauren Tyson says:

    Thank you for sharing the personal story. May he rest in peace.

  • Jane says:

    I hear you Maria. I have a similar relationship with my dad. Thank you for your wise words. You always seem to have so much to give, even at this time. As everyone else is on this blog, I’m am very sorry for your loss and hope the support you receive from us will be a bit of comfort.

  • susan says:

    Dear Maria and family,
    I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. xo

  • Beth Jankowski says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry for your loss. I just lost my Dad, at age 85, 3 weeks ago. That was a different generation of Stoic men. He never complained either and would always say he was “peachy”. Thank God for Landmark education. I have participated with them on and off for the last 20 years. I would not have the communications skills and relationships I have today without that education. Especially with my Dad. I will miss him dearly. Our life story changes when they are gone. Sometimes we wish it could be different. Hold on to your good memories of your Dad and know that he did the best he knew how. May peace be with you and your family as you go through the next week of preparing your final goodbye.

  • Ann says:

    My condolences to you on the loss of your Dad. Mine passed away this month at the age of 86, and had spent the last two years in care for Dementia. As you said, it was sad to lose him, but a blessing for the end of his suffering. .

  • Angela Taylor says:

    Heartfelt condolences to you and your family Maria.

  • Sheri says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. It’s funny, isn’t it? The older we get, the more we seem to learn from our parents. Whether it’s to be like them, or not be like them – it’s a learning opportunity.

    Wishing you and your family all the best.

  • adrienne says:

    So sorry for your loss Maria. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. I love the way you are able to share your experiences with us, always finding the positive

  • Barbara Travis says:

    So sorry for your loss. I can relate to your relationship; four girls one boy in our family. My Father could only communicate with criticism. He passed away when he was he was only 58. After all these years I feel like I didn’t know him & I missed out on knowing how important a Dad is in a little girls life. I, like you, have learnt the importance of good communication so perhaps he did teach me something after all. May he rest in peace.

  • Jean says:

    Dear Maria, I am sorry about your father’s passing. A blessing is that you had a chance to come to terms with his humanness while he was still living. Thoughts to you and your family at this sad time.

  • Connie says:

    Once again, you are one of the most open bloggers out there and I have been very blessed by it; both for design advice (duh!) and for validation for my wife and me and for transparency for authenticity. Thank you.

  • Kathy says:

    Yes, I too had a complicated relationship with my Dad. He died a little over a year ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately. I recently made the trip to his hometown and remnants of places I remember from my childhood visits with my grandparents, which frequently included a tour of the local spots.

    I haven’t been there in about 20 years, so it was a poignant walk down memory lane. I was sad to see my grandfather’s tidy little bungalow a total wreck full of trash, animals and kids, and little trees growing out of the gutters. But the church is still there and the old bakery, and high school and playground and I was able to talk to some folks who knew my grandfather, who died about 10 years ago at age 97. So sad that the whole community, once a thriving center of industry, is a shadow of what it once was.

    Then I visited a tiny country town where they lived a few years when my Dad was in elementary school, and that house, which didn’t even have running water back in the 1930s, is all fixed up and well-loved. Living there was the happiest years of his life he always said, so that cheered me up to know that another family has found happiness there too.

    Like others have said, it takes time to get over a loss, and you will think of them with a mixture of feelings for a long time. My mother died of cancer almost exactly twenty years ago, and it still makes me a little teary-eyed to think about her and all the times we missed. She was an artist and he was an intellectual, and I owe a lot to both of them for who I am today, good and bad. But I have made peace with that.

    A death does stir up a lot of old history, and I have found it healing to touch base with those places and memories of so long ago.

  • Pursuit99 says:

    There’s a fifth option: marry someone like your uncle! Growing up I so admired my maternal auntie’s husband – such a loving, hard working and devoted man. Well, it took me two blunders but, finally, third time lucky! My husband is the kindest, most loving and socially capable man I’ve ever met – he’s even more perfect for me than Uncle Bob’s clone would have been. For years I’ve worried that one day I’d discover deep down my current hubby (as I like to introduce him) was crazy in some way and I often still ask him that very thing: “When are you going to go crazy?” “Nope,” he says. “What you see is what you get.” Eleven years in and no sign of it yet.

    I have to admit I’m a lot better spouse than I was the first or second time in. As the saying goes, be patient, God isn’t done with me yet.

    Your dad’s control issues seemed to have been driven by fear and his love for you. These are tough things to balance. You turned out wonderfully well! He done good… (I know it wasn’t just his handiwork but dads are pretty influential). I’m thinking of you on this sad day.

  • Diane G. says:

    Dear Maria and Family,
    What a clear, brave, loving tribute to share with your readers. You have a achieved a depth of understanding of this complicated relationship that many of us never will. Feelings of both relief and sadness are natural. Your post today resonated with many and was surely cathartic. Thank you.

  • Maureen says:

    My deepest condolences Maria, my heart goes out to you. It is odd, but I do find we tend to dwell on the negatives, try hard to put those out of your mind and focus on the positives, your picture is lovely of him with a huge happy smile.

    I lost my Mum in March, it is so hard. My grief comes in big waves, but is getting easier now. My Dad is still with us, with some dementia and in the UK. so I don’t get to see him often, now 93. This post reminds me to go over ASAP before it is too late.

    Big Hugs xx

  • BethB says:

    Maria, your post was so poignant and powerful – and says so much about choice and hard work.

    I’m sorry for your loss – both now and in the past.

  • Nancy says:

    Sorry for the loss of your dad.
    But I have to say, reading your blog was like reading my own journey.

  • Catherine says:

    A heart opening sharing of understanding. I know he is so proud of you, Maria.
    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  • Penny says:

    My heart goes out to you Maria. I read this through tears – thank you for being so open and honest. It’s refreshing. Big hugs to you and your family in this sad time.

  • Ann Marie says:

    I was very moved by your words. I plan to pass your missive around to my friends and family with the preface: “Required Reading”. You are something else!

  • Sat Hari says:

    Beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this with us this morning.

  • Becky Noelker says:

    I’m so sorry, Maria. Losing a parent is not easy. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. You are an example to all to find strength, honesty and goodness in difficult situations.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Scribbler says:

    Losing your father is very hard, and it is one of life’s major passages. A lot of us had a complicated relationship with our parents, but they are still our parents, the only two we were born of, and a lot of those complicated feelings come flooding back and are magnified ten-thousand fold when they pass away.

    I hope you continue to find your own way to deal with it all, and find comfort in the good memories.

  • Kay says:

    I’m so sorry, Maria. Losing a parent, however difficult the relationship was, is always a tremendous adjustment. May you know God’s comfort during this time.

  • Judy Jensen says:

    Probably most people can empathize with some part of your post! For me it was my mom and my ex-husband! I’ve come to realize that you take the best bits and pieces, know that they could do no more with the rest and move on and enjoy life!
    They couldn’t give what they didn’t have to give! Many sleepless night and years of therapy to learn this plus it wasn’t me. They had their own ghosts that were plaguing them.
    The tears are also for the knowledge that it hurts that it wasn’t what we hoped and so desperately needed from them. It’s over. I like to believe that they are now in a place where they understand and are rooting for us!

  • Victoria says:

    This is a lovely post Maria. And I agree with you I bet he’s reading it. You seem to have a good perspective on your life with your Dad. May God bless.

  • JaneBIVL says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. And I appreciate your writing about the hard stuff, too.

  • Dot says:

    Feeling your sadness, with deepest sympathy.

  • Fran says:

    What a loving tribute to your dad, Maria. I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Linda Fitzgerald says:

    I understand complicated, parental struggles and how we want to keep loving, in spite of it, so we swallow our feelings without telling them how much it hurts.

    I once read a book about ‘what love looks like,’ especially if the object of your affections isn’t demonstrative. The author suddenly realized that although he and his father didn’t communicate the way he craved, and was angry and resentful, he had an ‘aha’ moment one afternoon, while sitting in front of the tv watching a game with his father. It’s what they did together. And, although they only talked about the game, it was his dad’s way of showing love for his son – just sharing a common interest. It was the best he could do.

    He got it! And, it opened him up in the most loving way, allowing him to heal the loss of what he thought love should look like.

    Maybe the ‘control’ you felt as a teen was really the love HE felt? With exploration and acceptance you can heal this.

  • Cat says:

    Sorry for your loss. Losing someone in your life is a tough one. There are always things we wished we could do differently or wonder if there was something that we could have done differently. In the end … the connection you have with people is what it is … you can’t change anyone except yourself. Enjoy the good times that you had – there are more than we probably realize and cherish those. Holding onto anything else doesn’t do much except keep you trapped in unhappiness or the past. Mom is still here and that’s a terrific thing. Wishing you a peace during this difficult time.

  • Maria, my father also suffered from Parkinson’s. His was further complicated by Alzheimer’s. Relatively speaking, he didn’t suffer long. Although I felt a great loss, I also felt relief knowing he was freed from the shackles of the illness.

    You’ve written today with great heart and honesty, and we can learn from your conflicted feelings.

    My Dad was controlling also, but of himself. In thinking back to my childhood, I imagine things could have been very different if he had directed that same control over me. Your father, my Dad, both rigid and controlling, both suffered from a disease defined by rigidity, and ultimately loss of control. I believe the messages are body sends us through physical illness is often one of urging us to balance our emotional selves. It’s nice to read that you have found a way, through Landmark, to achieve that necessary harmony.

    Consider yourself wrapped in a big, cyber hug. It is a tough time, but then again, your father is now free and flying on the wings of an angel. xoxo

  • Kim M. says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss Maria. My dad died 2 years ago and my mom 11 years ago. My husband died 5 years ago from leukemia. Mama suffered with metastatic breast cancer for many years and I understand the relief one feels once they die. You are just so relieved that they are no longer suffering and are at peace. My dad died very suddenly from a heart attack so at least it was quick.

    Thank you so much for your honesty here. Death and the feelings surrounding it are conversations that are often taboo. I’ve found it helpful to talk about it openly. I’m sure the loving relationship you’ve found with Terreeia will continue to nurture you and soothe your soul.

  • sandyc says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Maria. But you’ve already progressed so far in dealing with the situation in a healing way. And there will come a time (I know from my late husband’s passing – he was from that same generation as your dad and many of your other readers’ parents) that sadness and regret will ease into bits of wistfulness and there will be those moments, tinged with a smile and maybe/probably a tear, when you really realize “if it hadn’t been …, it wouldn’t be …” My thoughts and my prayers are with you, Maria.

  • Ann Flynn says:

    Oh Maria, I am so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my prayers.

  • Elaine says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your father, Maria. Despite his not being capable of sharing the emotional intimacy you wanted, I applaud your ability to recognize his positive traits and the lessons he passed on to you, good and bad. Thank you for your honesty and for setting a powerful example for all of us.

  • Cynthia says:

    Maria, I am sorry to hear about your father. I, too, had a very mixed relationship with my father. One probably couldn’t even call it mixed, it was just flat negative most of the time. My father passed when I was 20 and my mother, six years ago. Believe me, when my mom passed away I was devastated totally because she saved me from my dad at times, and I loved my mother so much because she endured so much pain living with him and she was a wonderful mom to me and my brothers and sisters, even when she was too sick to do anything for us. I hope that you take the time to mourn. This is the only way to heal. Please take care, and really get the tears out. Much love to you and your family at this difficult time–

  • Lana Gagnon says:

    Isn’t it amazing how beautiful things come out of the struggles of life? You show great wisdom in seeing past the pain and focusing on your gratitude in this time. You obviously have a gracious heart, Maria. My prayers are with you and your family, today.

  • Maria, I am so very sorry to hear your father died. Loosing a parent is never easy, nor should it be. You are a brave woman to be this honest, and so very smart to recognize the good you learned from a difficult relationship.

  • jeanette says:

    I’m truly sorry for your loss Maria. Having lost my own dad 4 years ago, and also having had a complicated relationship with him, I can relate. It wasn’t until my own daughter asked me, “Why don’t you ever tell your dad you love him?”, that things began to change. I forced myself to tell him I loved him, for her sake! Then, of all things, he started telling me he loved me! He NEVER told me that..Anyway, the feelings followed the actions, and I was genuinely able to forgive him. Thank you for your heartfelt candor, Maria. Blessings to you and your family during this difficult time, and continued peace and joy in your life!!!

  • franki says:

    I can so relate. Our dads were “brought up” in a different time…things HAVE changed for the better, I believe. Sorry for your sadness but he really is in a better place now. Peace. franki

  • Deborah says:

    So sorry for your loss, Maria, and I want to thank you for such a powerful and honest post. My father was controlling and closed off emotionally. Like yours, he became even more so when my sister and I were teens. I never was able to truly connect with him. But I did learn a lot from him and even managed to get a “congrats” from him upon graduating Phi Beta Kappa from college, ten yrs after graduating high school (and only because of the unconditional love and support of my wonderful hubby). Life gives us all many twists and turns, and I thank you, once again, for sharing such wise and wonderful insights.

  • Maria- I am so sorry for your loss! I love your message of saying “YES” to life! A great reminder and powerful lesson from your dad! Oprah says: ” when you know better you do better!” It’s great you turned the negative communication skills and turned it into a positive! Proving something good can come from something negative! I’ll be thinking of you and praying for your family! Blessings to you!
    Love –

  • Jennifer says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad, my heart aches for you and I cannot imagine what you must be going through. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Big hugs!! xoxo

  • Jeri says:

    Maria, I am so sorry for your loss. For you to open your heart and compose such a beautiful and honest tribute to your father,amidst your grief, speaks volumes about your personal growth and gift as a writer. I always learn so much from your posts. Thank you for sharing. You’re in my thoughts.

  • tara dillard says:

    Am 2.5 years ahead of you on the father thing. Like you, our relationship was hard.

    You have much ahead to still experience with your father.

    Some will make you laugh, or think, etc….

    You’ll be fine, then a new trigger, just when you thought you knew all the triggers. And, the big boo-hoo chest heaving tears.

    Who knew there would be an entire relationship after death with its own laughter, joy, understanding, tears.

    Loved the pic of your dad squeezing juice.

    Realized over a decade ago, and told my dad, our relationship was more about him having me as a daughter than me having him as a father. One of those odd moments he completely understood and immediately agreed.

    Enjoy the new chapters in the relationship with your dad. They are coming !!

    Garden & Be Well, XOTara

  • Barbara Kessler says:

    Thank you for sharing your relationship with your father. You are a wonderful communicator and that was a reverse blessing from your father. Sometimes we learn much from a difficult parent, too.
    My sincere sympathy to you and yours,
    Barbara Kessler (a new color follower of yours)

  • Anne says:

    Big Hugs to you Maria, sorry to hear about your dad. It is very hard to lose a parent under any circumstance. I think it’s really special how much you share with us, no matter good or bad. You keep us in a learner’s mind.

  • Gwen DeBruyn says:

    Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Continue to admire your clarity and honesty.

  • I am so sorry for your loss of your father Maria. What an honest and heartfelt post. My prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time.

  • Donna Levi says:

    So sorry Maria. Thank you for honestly sharing your relationship with your Father and your feelings about your loss with us. Wishing you peace.

  • Linda L. says:

    Hello Maria,

    My deepest and sincerest condolences to you and your family. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. It is very refreshing that someone is so honest and open. I’m glad you have found the love of your life and have someone to support you through this difficult time. My Father passed away a year ago and I too did not have a close relationship with him either but I know in his own way loved me.

    Please take care!


  • Joan says:

    Oh, Maria… your father may have left you with surprisingly beautiful gifts. He provided the motivation for you to grow and learn, and you jumped into the space. You may find yourself saying different things about your father, now that he’s in the rear view mirror. We’re all still on the road. My love to you… please give your mother a hug for me.

  • Candy says:

    So sorry, Maria. I think your Mom and Dad (and you) did a great job, in spite of it all.

  • Carol J says:

    Thank you for being so generous with your feelings in this post, Maria. I have a wonderful life, but my relationship with both of my parents has been complicated and difficult; you really struck a chord in me. I’m so glad you mentioned the Landmark Courses. Maybe I can follow your path in using them for self improvement.

    My thoughts are with you. Aloha, Carol

  • What a beautiful and interesting essay, Maria. I am very sorry you lost you dad. I add my sympathies to those expressed here. You are a strong and beautiful person.

  • Mariko says:

    Maria, This brought tears to my eyes and I am very sorry for the loss of your Dad. So hard to lase a parent, no matter your age. May he always live in your heart. He taught you a lot and he loved you the very best he could. That’s an awful lot right there and what more can we ask of a parent. You already have a good understanding of him and of your relationship with him, which some people never manage. Looks like a great guy in that photo of him squeezing the oranges ! In time , you will be able to remember him without the sadness you feel today. Sincere condolences to you.

  • Alex says:

    Powerful post, Maria. Honesty from the heart, and it certainly touched my heart. Blessings to you and your family.

  • RobinC says:

    Maria, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart is breaking for you my friend! Thank You for sharing stories about your life. I know it was incredibly hard to write. Condolences to you and your family!!

  • April says:

    Someone recently told me that loved ones that have passed on are still with us, just in a different dimension. That really is soothing to me… I love your metaphor about the “skinny branches” of the cherry tree. May you remember and see his love mostly, and some of the “negative” parts wind their way around to that as well, eventually. Marianne Williamson says there’s love and there’s fear, that’s it. I know it’s not always easy, having a complicated relationship with my Dad as well (and horrible one with my mother). I think maybe when our Dads were extremely controlling, that was when the fear part kicked in on their part. I am so happy you have a wonderful person to comfort and support you (and all of your readers)!

  • kelly says:

    So sorry for your loss Maria. xoxoxo

  • Nancy O'Brien says:

    May I add my condolences as well. Your honest sharing and mature outlook on the lessons of relationships is and always will be a great source of strength for you as you continue along life’s path. It is inspiring to see you continually focus on the positives of all your life experiences. Blessings to you and yours.

  • Pat says:

    My sincere condolences, Maria. Sending you a big hug that helps you hold together as you move through a challenging time

  • Nour Enayeh says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, my sincere condolences.

  • Sangeetha says:

    My heartfelt condolences to you Maria. May God guide you at this moment of grief.

  • Lynne says:

    So sorry for your loss, Maria.

  • louise carlson says:

    Maria I am so sorry for your loss Thank you for your honesty.

  • Liz says:

    So sorry for your loss, Maria. I did not have a relationship w my father, but connected w him a few mo’s b4 he passed in 2012 (helping as he was dying, which was a connection indeed …). While I can’t think of any lessons, he did leave me a gift – I met my young half-sister for the 1st time this week. Coming fm a small, separated, highly dysfunctional family, I am quite pleased to discover I’m an older sister! I had a lot more sorrow over my Dad’s passing than I ever thought I would; so I send a big hug, and hope you will find many more gifts in the coming weeks as you process.

  • Susan @ Susan Silverman Designs says:

    Maria, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. Although you had a lack of communication with him, at least you know that he made you into the strong individual that you are today. I did have a relationship with my father but unfortunately never knew him as an adult. I lost him 49 years ago. It was a great loss for us as a family.


  • Rosemary says:

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  • Lesli DeVito says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. Sending love and hugs.xo

  • Linda @ House of Chandler says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your Dad. I did not have a good relationship with my Dad, and when he passed away, I grieved the relationship that I never had with him. He was not good to my Mom either, and they were divorced for 33 years when they both passed away within 6 weeks of each other. I thought my Mom would not grieve his death very much, but she did, so please pass along my condolences to your wonderful Mom. Please know that prayers to our heavenly Father are their way for you and your family’s heavy hearts. I pray that your Dad had peace in the end.
    As always, thank you for your blog. I know many people like me have benefited from your professional knowledge of color.

  • Karin Claessens says:

    Heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
    Your strength and the love of family and friends will undoubtedly support you as you process the loss of your Dad and its lessons

  • Dottie says:

    In your grief and sorrow you have touched all of us! Thanks for sharing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time.

  • Susan S says:

    Oh, Maria! That was so poignant and honest. And though there was pain involved with that relationship, you obviously learned valuable (good and bad) lessons which, when you think about it, may have been the reason he was in your life.

  • Sandy says:

    Hello Maria,

    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your father.

    My prayers are with you and your family during this time.


  • Jean says:

    Maria: My sympathies to you, your Mom and your family. Many (including myself) have less than what is our ‘ideal’ relationship with our parents. I’ve come to realize that sometimes it can be attributed to how they were parent-ed, sometimes its all they are capable of, and I don’t think “self-awareness” was a priority in that generation. They dealt with day-to-day life and didn’t spend a lot of time ‘analyzing’ relationships. Try to focus on what was good. You are in my prayers. Jean

  • Maria: I am on vacation so I am a few days behind. I am so sorry for your loss. Being a therapist, I understand that your loss began long ago as a teen. You have turned your losses into growth and an authentic life, lived with courage.

  • Maureen says:

    My thoughts are with you and your family at this time. I was touched by your honesty in sharing your father’s finer qualities as well as the not so fine ones. Your ability to accept him as he was and learn the lessons he had not yet achieved is something I am certain he would be proud of.

  • Maria, so sorry to hear of the loss of your dad. I loved this post. Great insight as to how you’ve become the person you are!

  • Lisa says:

    Sorry for your loss. And I admire the way you have thought through all of this so carefully. A sign of a mindful person.

  • Joanne G. says:

    I’m sorry for the loss of the relationship you wished you had.

  • Patricia Kramer says:

    Maria, I have been away from my computer for a few days. I am so sorry for your loss! You have a good balance in your life and that was part of the gift your dad gave you. Even if that example was a path that you didn’t want to follow! Big Hugs from me and the rest of us who love you!

  • Maria – I am so sorry for your loss. Understand that he is in a much better place now having received his reward. Time is endless and you will all be together once again. Once one passes over they have a new understanding of their life and the lives of those around them and will watch over you for everything you need help with. During the time on my TV show and working with psychics I now have an entirely new outlook on death and know whatever happens the end will be better.

  • Lorri says:

    Life is complicated. Bless you.

  • Tela La Mer says:

    Hi Maria,

    Your father was a very special man. I know you lost only the outer shell of him but you will gain much more. Your communication with him from the Spirit World will become an open door to the closeness you have wanted with him and to an expanded consciousness. Your loving, caring sharing is a great blessing you are sending out. It will return to you
    empowering you to greater service with Love, Tela

  • AK says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, Maria. Brava for such a touching and honest reflection on your father and your relationship with him. Wishing you and your family peace and comfort.

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