My dad would have turned seventy seven this weekend.

My dad was mentally ill, violent and an alcoholic.

My dad died alone, it was five weeks before we were informed of his death.

My dad was estranged from his family because he was a bully. I was always scared of him, even as an old man and especially in death.

After his death I heard his voice almost everywhere. Not his exact voice but his words through the words spoken or sung by others. Particularly in Lana Del Rey's version of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. The pathos of it being Del Rey’s cover rather than Nina Simone’s is not lost on me.

I would play this song on repeat whenever I found myself alone.

As Del Rey sings “With a joy that's hard to hide / And then sometimes again it seems that all I have is worry / And then you're bound to see my other side / But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good / Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood” it felt like my dad was speaking directly to me. Asking me to understand not just him but the cycle that I must consciously choose to break.

He was telling me that he knew he was a bully but that he too had been a victim once. But he had never been able to transcend his victimhood and so lived out a destiny that he was born into. One which is both ancient and huge.

The sins of his father and his father’s father played out through his life and bled into mine and my brother’s.

And so these words became his words “If I seem edgy / I want you to know / I never mean to take it out on you / Life has its problems / And I get more than my share / But that's one thing I never mean to do / Cos I love you”.

In this ghostly way I was able to make peace with my father in death in a way I was never able to in life.


Seeing my dad’s dead body was at once haunting and healing. His mouth was open as if gasping for one last breath, and his eyes were neither open nor closed. In death as in life he was a figure of torment. To me and to himself. Death didn’t offer him peace.

His demons didn’t allow him to break the chains of the cycles handed down to him by his ancestors. His childhood, his neglect and his madness all controlled everything he did. He never gave himself the power to choose, his will was weak and all he could do was follow the pattern laid out for him.

He never lived in alignment with his true design. His paranoia forced him into a world of his own psychic reality that was often at odds with the physical reality of the world around him. The world within which his sons existed.

He not only died alone but he also lived alone. The torment he suffered exacerbated by the alcohol. The lessons learnt in his childhood taken out on his own children.

I know he had regrets. Lana embodied him just to let me know. And because of her generosity I have been able to forgive.

The truth is much bigger than one man and his sons. The truth is an ancient wisdom. The truth is huge. He had responsibility, but because of his illness he didn’t have the wherewithal to be responsible. I do.


I no longer listen to this on repeat when I am alone, but it still helps to remind me that it is our responsibility to be intentional in life. It is our responsibility to take on the sins of our fathers for the sake of breaking the cycles we are born into.

Our ancestors may not have cared to protect their future but we must lead from a different place. One of openness, vulnerability and true strength. Together we must start creating a future based on healthy arcs, where death is a necessary part of life. We need to learn to let go for the sake of new beginnings, new arcs.

The circles and cycles of our past must be shattered to make space for new habits and patterns of being, and these in turn will also need to be destroyed as the next new arc begins.

Every end is a beginning.


Feel free to share this post if you enjoyed it.

If anything in my blog has resonated with you I would love to hear about it. Tell your story or share your insights in the comments box below.


I am a fully trained Co-Active Coach. I work with people who yearn to live a fulfilling life but feel trapped or at a crossroads, as well as people who struggle with anxiety, so that they can experience a calmer more purposeful life.  If this sounds like you, get in touch.