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Friday, September 22, 2023

Dealing with a Father’s Pancreatitis Diagnosis

Dear Amy:

I have recently found out via my younger sister that our father has been diagnosed with pancreatitis. This is the first time I’ve heard this, and am hurt that he hasn’t said anything to me.

My father has always had a problem with alcohol. Last Christmas Day, my fiancé and I had a sit-down with him – an intervention, if you will.

I expressed concern that this alcohol problem would lead to illness, and warned him that if he didn’t stop drinking, it would eventually lead to his death.

He brushed it off as if he knew better.

My first son was born March 2022, my second in January 2023.

I want my dad to be a part of their lives, as he is their only living grandfather.

Once I learned of his new diagnosis, I feel like my dad doesn’t want to admit that he has a problem and that I’m completely right about him.

I’ve got my own family now and I can’t ALWAYS be there for him.

We live out of state, and for months he has been “planning to visit.”

I feel as if we are always the ones going to visit him, which is difficult right now.

My fiance and I are in the midst of starting a business together. Plus – I just found out that we’re having another baby!

I haven’t told my dad about the new baby yet, but he knows that things are tight for us, with everything going on. Yet he still insists that we make time to visit him and his new girlfriend.

I understand if he feels scared, I’m writing to you because I’M scared. He knows we care about his health!

How do I go about bringing up the diagnosis?

Should I bring it up at all, or wait until he tells me himself?

– Another Amy

Dear Amy:

First, take a breath. Hug your children. Anchor yourself to your own life.

I suggest this because of the almost frantic tone of your question.

You are upset, scared, and worried. You are also exhibiting the classic control issues consigned to you as the sensitive, caring, and competent child of an alcoholic.

Here’s how you ask your father about his health: “Dad, my sister just told me about your diagnosis. How are you feeling? What is the treatment going to be like?”

Listen. Ask questions. Express support.

What you don’t need to do is to lecture him about his drinking. He is living his life, making (unhealthy) choices, and now he is facing the consequences of his choices. You cannot change this outcome, or his selfishness regarding you and your children. I hope you can accept this painful reality with grace. Attending a “friends and family” support group would be very helpful for you.

Dear Amy:

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