Jimmy Carrane and his Dad

I am new to grief

Grief is new to me. I really have not had that much experience with it in my life, up until now. I have had grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends die, but I have never experienced this level of grief before. It is confusing based on my relationship with my dad. He was not my “best friend,” and I cringe when other people say that, because for me it’s an unbelievable concept. To say “he raised me” would be generous. And I get annoyed when other people say, “He just did the best he could.” It may be true, but it feels like bullshit.

But he was my dad and I only had one. As it was explained to me by a wise old friend, there is a bond between a father and son. And this friend went on to say that even though his dad was abusive to him when he was growing up, it was still hard on him when he died. He missed his dad terribly. This is how I feel; though my Dad was not abusive, he was neglectful, which is a different side of the same coin.

I guess going through this is a rite of passage. The memorial for my Dad is happening at the end of this week, and by the end of June, I will become a father. At 51, I am coming of age. This is either pretty sad or pretty humorous, but not surprising, since I am a late bloomer.

Grief is not one emotion, but an umbrella of many. I have felt sadness, anger, fear and anxiety or combination of them. They are unpredictable and intense. There are also long stretches of time you want to be alone. Returning a phone call or reading the paper seems impossible. Sometimes you want to be around people and sometimes you want to kill them.

There are short patches of time where you are focused, like now, as I try to write this blog, but most of the time, I am not on the same frequency as the rest of the world. I am tuned out, flaky and annoyed. It’s been four weeks since he died, and I thought by this point I would be back to writing about improv, but as you can see, I’m not.

Some of my feelings don’t come up as easily. They are trapped deep down there, like those coal miners from Chile who were waiting to be rescued.

Others, like anger, come right to the surface, like when I’m in traffic or in line with the slow cashier at the CVS. And still others need to be tricked to come up, like sadness by watching Titanic with my wife where we both cried and I got a new appreciation for James Cameron.

However they come up, I am glad when they do because I feel better for the time being.

This Saturday is the memorial for my dad, and I am planning to speak at the service, and hopefully avoid the drama of my family. The last time I spoke to my brother about the eulogy, he wanted all of us five kids to speak no more than two minutes about our dad. That is impossible and crazy. When I talked to my dad about speaking at his funeral months ago he asked that I be funny and not portray him as a saint. I believe I can do at least one of those things.

God speed Dad, God speed. I miss you. Love your son.

14 replies
  1. Frank Romano
    Frank Romano says:


    I am sorry for your loss. I knew your dad pretty well and your mom and him were always nice to me. He was a big part of my dad and my Uncle John’s life. Last time I saw your folks was at John Romano’s funeral.

    Grief is a tough thing to work through. Loss is loss and it sucks. I’ve been through all kinds of loss the past 6-7 years and it’s never good. Talking to people, writing about it helped. If you keep it bottled up inside, it will eventually eat you alive and then kill you.

    Keep writing, keep sharing with people. It helps. Lean on your friends and family, they will help you through it. Eventually the pain will subside
    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers

    Frank Romano (a cousin of some sort)

  2. Dave Dufour
    Dave Dufour says:

    Lost my wife almost a year ago. Everybody’s grief is different. And the same. A good friend who also lost his wife several years ago said that it gets better, but never goes away. You always miss the person who is gone, sometimes more acutely than at other times. Be prepared for grief to hit you at the odd moment, when you’re looking at something that reminds you, if only tangentially, of the person you lost. If if you weren’t always close, you’ll miss the good stuff. And that’s as it should be.

  3. Laura Volk
    Laura Volk says:

    Hi Jimmy,
    Sending loving energy your way at this time of loss and addition. Ironic how the two come together at this same juncture. I wanted to share with you something about the loss of my father. Somehow, we just had a bond at the cellular level. I didn’t need to see him or be with him or talk with him to know that he was special to me or visa versa. In fact, complex family realities kind of kept this underground until my mom died. After that, I felt like I had discovered an attic in my house that I never had realized existed. That magical place was my extra time with Dad. I treasure the memory of our visits for those four years. When I returned home, I was devastated for a minute with the realization that I always loved him more than he loved me. In reality, he didn’t really have much time for me. He didn’t really make any of his children a priority. The others totally resented him for that and I don’t think have ever forgiven him. But what I realized with clarity at this moment when I came home to begin my life again after his death, was that WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THE LOVE YOU GIVE. THAT IS THE DEFINING MEASURE OF YOUR LIFE. IT IS SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE LOVE YOU RECEIVE. So, Jimmy, realize that as your own little one is under production. We are all fucked up somewhere back in the past. But if we let us define us, they might as well put us away before we live out our whole life. The past does not fully define us. What we were denied does not define us. It is what we create from it all that defines us. It is the love we bring forward from the pain that is our creation. Yes, and….all the way.

  4. Toby Landesman
    Toby Landesman says:

    I am amazed you have access to so many feelings. My mom died in August and my journey since is hard for me to explain. I oversaw her care for over 9 years. I spoke with her almost every day of those 9 years. I still feel her presence. In my head I know she’s gone and yet, it seems possible that she has just gone off for some months (as she used to do annually) and will show up soon. My relationship with her was complicated. I’m complicated. Grieving is complicated. I have moments of sadness, panic, joy, remembering. I work to accept – myself, my feelings, the enormously unfinished aspects of relationships. Keep on being honest and real and open as you do so well. Keep loving. Those are my hopes/plan for myself. I smile when I think about you and Lauren welcoming your child soon. My guess is you’ll discover even more about you and your parents and parenting as your journey with your child evolves. I appreciate your sharing. I appreciate you.

    And, I remember looking at my mom one day and saying “You’re really funny” to which she responded with upraised brow, “where do you think YOU get it from?” She got me!

  5. dave zier
    dave zier says:

    Everyone handles grief in their own way, not something we want to do but we have to. This is a club that we all have to join someday, I did ten years ago and Denise two years ago. Her dad was a big gruff Italian guy who was never a great father, never around much. As much as she was constantly at odds with him and fought verbally for many years I reminded her of what you have stated here, the only father you have,etc. It does change you, we would both like to think it has strengthened our family by learning by example of what to do and not to do. Congratulations on Fatherhood! Now you’ve done it! Get ready for the ride of your life! All the best my friend!

  6. Ed
    Ed says:

    In addition, you miss who you wish he’d been. All those fathers that he was not. And the little you who would have been raised with those blessings. That’s a big task.
    Blessings and mercy,

  7. Karen S.
    Karen S. says:

    Thank you, Jimmy. My parents are getting older and I fear for the time when they won’t be around. I can’t prepare for it, but it helps me to hear your experience, especially the “umbrella of emotions” concept and how you can feel so different from one moment to the next.

    I love that you’re sharing this. It helps.


  8. Kevin McGrath
    Kevin McGrath says:

    Hi Jimmy, What to say here? I’m a few years older than you, yet thankfully I started improvising with a wonderful community here in nola called the new movement two years ago–I’ve learned so much about myself and continue to do so. And you, well I found you when I started, and I read your stuff and listen to your podcasts…tho we’ve never met, I am a student of yours. You teach me things. I learn from you. You are a positive influence in my life and hopefully, one day, I might make it to Chi town one summer and take your workshop. Ya know, I wonder, if you and your dad’s relationship wasn’t what it was, if you’d have ever found improvisation, if you’d have become the man you are today, if you’d have found the love you have now in your wife and this ‘kid’ that will soon be here, looking up to you literally and figuratively for the rest of your life. Would you be in my life? Probably not, I submit. I’ll leave you with a sad, funny, real life one-liner that I hope to use onstage one day somehow: ‘I guess all my problems really began when my birth mother gave me away’… Yeah, I was adopted as an infant, and since starting improvisation, I’ve realized that all my life I’ve been trying to just fit in, be accepted, maybe even loved. Not given away again. Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful to be alive, but, I’ve never felt like I truly belong. Anywhere. Even with a long-term marriage, four healthy kids and three grandchildren. But now that I’ve had this realization about my ever-longing, I can work to accept it and move on. You see, apparently, I’ve always been grieving. Maybe soon I can put it away, pull it out when I want to, control it a bit at least. But I’m glad now to realize the ‘why’ and that this has helped shape me into the man I am today, perhaps like your dad helped shape you. You are so important to me; I know you are such a kind, empathetic person. Let’s enjoy our lovely lives. I hope you don’t mind this note. loveyapal….

  9. Doug Pruim
    Doug Pruim says:

    Beautiful, touching, and heartfelt sentiments … thank you for sharing. My sympathies for your loss.



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