My Dad is Dying and My Heart is Broken

Last night I was looking at photos from this past year and realized that it’s hard for me to remember what it was like before my dad got cancer. I know that life was full and beautiful, yet events that happened only two and a half months ago feel like they took place a lifetime ago. It was a different world for us.

I can’t imagine what life will be like in the future.

  • What will I do without my daddy?
  • What will I do with all the time I will have once I’m no longer helping with his care?
  • What did I even used to do with my time? I don’t remember.

Some of you may not know this, but my dad is John W. James, the founder of The Grief Recovery Institute. He started the institute over 40 years ago as the result of being unable to find the resources he needed to assist him in dealing with the overwhelming grief he was experiencing from the death of his own infant son – my brother. I was two years old at the time.

Being raised by my dad didn’t shield me from heartache. But it meant that I always knew that sad and painful feelings are a normal and natural part of life. I never had to “act strong” when my heart was broken or pretend like I was okay when I wasn’t.

That doesn’t mean I am emotionally open all the time. Like many people I have tried to avoid my feelings with food, shopping, gambling, spending hours on social media, binge watching TV and other distractions, but I know those things won’t heal my heart. 

Because of my dad and experience with The Grief Recovery Method, I try to allow my sad feelings to be okay without intellectualizing them away with thoughts like, “After he dies he will no longer be in pain” as if that means I shouldn’t, or wouldn’t, still be devastated myself. I also try not to isolate even if I want to.  

I’m heartbroken. My dad is my hero. Until I got married he was the first person I would call with good news or sad news. And now I get to help take care of him which is exhausting, heartbreaking, and difficult, as well as beautiful, tender, and an honor. 

While it’s painful and I’m pissed off and confused about the unfairness of it all, I am also grateful.

  • I’m grateful that our family knows that it’s okay to be emotionally honest. We’ve never been closer. 
  • I’m grateful that I get to kiss my dad and step mom every day and tell them I love them.
  • I’m grateful that I get to tell my dad the things I want to say to him before he dies, knowing that more will come up after he’s gone.
  • I’m grateful that The Grief Recovery Method has given me the tools to get complete with the unmet hopes, dreams and expectations I have about the relationship with my dad. Like the sadness I would feel if I have another child who won’t ever know his grandfather or all of the future life events my dad won’t be around for. 
  • I’m grateful to have such a solid and loving brother, Cole James, who consistently shows me what it means to be a good parent and person. 
  • I’m grateful that my mom has given my husband, son and I a place to stay so that we can be closer to my dad during this time. 
  • I’m grateful that my husband was willing and able to pause the plans we thought we had, so that we could be here for these moments. 

I wouldn’t trade one second of this no matter how painful and exhausting it is. Because of The Grief Recovery Method I know it’s possible to feel grateful and crushed at the same time. I know that I am not broken because my heart is broken. 

  • My wish for you is that you know that grief is conflicting. 
  • I hope that you find and use The Grief Recovery Method, so that you can get complete with the relationships and pain in your life. 
  • I hope that you will use these tools for years to come when your heart needs help too. 

Contact Anne today to start work on your own healing, so that you can have a better quality of life and be more available for the people that love you.

Written by Allison James Henry. Originally published on

Anne Storino leaning against bookshelf

Hi, I’m Anne,

I help those who have experienced loss open their heart again, recover from grief, and find peace and joy.

I would love to hear your story and help you learn to move forward.

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