My dad died, and I loved him very much but he restricted parts of my life that are no longer restricted. Is there a word for the uncomfortable and sometimes disturbing feeling of enjoying that?

  • 11
    In your situation/scenario, this a 'bittersweet' reaction to the the father's death. Apr 12, 2017 at 2:44
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    This seems more a question about psychological concepts than word choice. Would it be fair to say that you feel guilt and ambivalence?
    – user227547
    Apr 12, 2017 at 4:20
  • Through death sometimes comes liberation. Apr 12, 2017 at 5:03
  • 4
    Would "silver lining" not work in such a case? (asking not just the OP) Apr 12, 2017 at 9:43
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    It's an exact duplicate of the scope of that question, @1006a, but let's not close this discussion. Condolences on your loss, Ms G.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:30

12 Answers 12


I wonder if the the adjective bittersweet covers the OP's situation.

Bittersweet: "Arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain". (Oxford Dictionary)

  • Seems a bit wistful for the more powerful sensations @IzzyG was mentioning but it's certainly an otherwise accurate term.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:27

Condolences on your loss.

The phenomenon you're experiencing is called cognitive dissonance.


It is the mental stress and discomfort caused by having two or more contradictory feelings at once.

  • 4
    Not quite right IMO. "Cognitive dissonance" is, by definition, concerned with conflicting cognitions. Are feelings cognitions? That would be hard to justify. Apr 13, 2017 at 1:46
  • It is plausible that the discomfort the OP experiences is due to conflicting beliefs about the death of his/her father and the accompanying freedom it brought. Death is bad, freedom is good, but when death causes freedom, you have cognitive dissonance.
    – asgallant
    Apr 13, 2017 at 2:01
  • Feelings one is aware of are definitionally cognitions. Eric's word is directly apropos. @IzzyG has two clear sensations and is asking about the discomfort of experiencing them simultaneously. She should check this answer, since it's precisely the correct term.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:21
  • Of course feelings are cognitions. What else would they be? Apr 13, 2017 at 16:13
  • I don't think cognitive dissonance has much to do with what OP is describing. Cognitive dissonance deals with two or more conflicting beliefs that a person has, and the person is generally unaware of the conflict between them. OP is talking about conflicting feelings that (s)he is aware of. Apr 13, 2017 at 21:11

Guilty pleasure

according to Merriam-Webster: "something pleasurable that induces a usually minor feeling of guilt"

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    I've always thought of guilty pleasure as something more cultural, like a person secretly enjoying One Direction songs. Apr 12, 2017 at 9:59
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    @TheWanderer. That is just sick! Apr 12, 2017 at 14:46
  • @TheWanderer It fits pretty well, actually; it basically refers to anything that you feel like you shouldn't like. Often, it's a cultural trend, convention or taboo that makes you feel like you shouldn't like the thing, but in general, it's anything that you take pleasure from while feeling guilty for doing so because you feel there's some reason you shouldn't find it pleasurable. Apr 12, 2017 at 15:20
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    @anaximander I have only ever seen this term used in the context of a recurring temptation, either in the present or past. I'd argue that using it to describe a singular, resolved event lies outside it's common meaning.
    – eclipz905
    Apr 12, 2017 at 21:16
  • Definitely not appropriate in this context. A guilty pleasure is something like chocolate or red wine. "Pleasure" is a weird word to use in the context of OP's situation.
    – Paludis
    Apr 14, 2017 at 4:21

If you're really feeling discomfort from the antithetical feedback you're getting from wanting to be a good daughter and a free and independent person, it's really cognitive dissonance as @EricLippert said. Still, the more common expression for the more common experience of simply feeling conflicting emotions is

mixed feelings

It's such a common expression and experience that you may feel it doesn't do your situation justice, but it's still there. In any case, keep on keeping on as best you can, since regardless of the details your father doubtless wanted you to have a comfortable and happy life and to remember him as fondly as he deserved.


Possibly not what you're looking for, but there's the word ambivalence.

From Wiktionary:

  1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings (such as love and hate) towards a person, object or idea.
  2. A state of uncertainty or indecisiveness.

In this case you might describe yourself as being ambivalent about your father's death, because you miss the good parts but are glad that your a free of the negatives. The conflict of loss and gladness results in ambivalence.

(Note that this is explicitly not the lack of emotion, which is indifference).

  • Yeah, the latinate version of mixed feelings that I posted. I'm as ambivalent about my answer as you are about yours since both phrases seem too weak. Still, they fit the situation.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:43
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    The big problem with this is that most people only know definition #2, so even when speaking to someone that knows both, you still have to specify that you mean the proper, but less common, definition. Definitely one of the words I am saddest to see get ruined by modern usage.
    – KRyan
    Apr 13, 2017 at 17:00

Every cloud has a silver lining. Meaning I believe, exactly what you are experiencing. goenglish has this to say about it.

Every cloud has a silver lining means that you should never feel hopeless because difficult times always lead to better days.

Example: "What am I going to do? My girlfriend has left me again!" Reply: "Don't worry. It will be all right. Every cloud has a silver lining."

Difficult times are like dark clouds that pass overhead and block the sun. When we look more closely at the edges of every cloud we can see the sun shining there like a silver lining.

Example: "I found a new job after all, and I like this one even better than the last." Reply: "You see? Every cloud has a silver lining."

Every cloud has a silver lining means that the sun shining at the edges of every cloud reminds us that every difficult situation has a bright side.

Example: "This really is a tough situation. Do you think things will work out for the best?" Reply: "I'm sure they will. Every cloud has a silver lining."

I hope that this helps you understand the feelings that you are currently experiencing.

  • Every cloud has a silver lining is advice to look on the bright side of an unpleasant situation. The bright side of the situation is perfectly apparent to @IzzyG. That seems to be her entire problem: she thinks she should feel more unalloyed unhappiness.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:18

Although it may be a very Catholic faith specific term, that very feeling is called guilty conscience.

It's a sort of anxiety that comes when you did something wrong. And you know know it was wrong, yet it felt oh, so good.

Abounding on this choice of words:

Perhaps that pleasure is not a consequence of a deliberate action on her part, yet somehow she feels anxious (uncomfortable and sometimes troubling feeling is a good description of anxiety if I ever heard one) about being relieved of those restrictions. So, something is wrong.

Taking care of her father is an act of piety to which she is no longer bound, along with the restrictions that may have been silently resented but lovingly overlooked.

Peasure at the release from the obligations and restrictions that came with piety are percived by her -perhaps in a subconscious manner- as wrongdoing.

Hence, the conscience of guilt, a guilty conscience

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    No, guilty conscience does not imply that you're still thinking about the pleasure you obtained by your sins. It means you're troubled by the wrong you've done. Apr 12, 2017 at 12:18
  • Is that specific to the Catholics? Apr 12, 2017 at 14:47
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    This doesn't fit the OP's situation, she hasn't done anything wrong to feel guilty about. She may feel guilty for being glad that her father is no longer able to impose restrictions on her life, but she hasn't done anything bad.
    – TabbyCool
    Apr 12, 2017 at 16:13
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    I don't think one has to necessarily do anything wrong to still have a guilty conscience. An owner of a candy store could tell me that I can have any candy bar in the store for free. I take a Snickers Bar and thank him as I leave. I could still have a guilty conscience for not paying for it when the other kid had to pay for his Snickers even though I did nothing wrong.
    – iMerchant
    Apr 13, 2017 at 12:02
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    @TabbyCool Cognitive dissonance is the term OP is asking about: the discomfort she feels about being happy and unhappy over the same event. I'm not saying it's deserved but, as you say, part of the discomfort she is feeling is quite clearly guilt at being happy about something she feels she should be sad about. It's a guilty conscience.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:26

Izzy, I will state this simply. You are feeling guilt due to the anxiety you feel over the happiness you feel for your liberation.

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    – NVZ
    Apr 13, 2017 at 9:09

"survivor guilt" This refers particularly to good things that come from someone's death, OR to an irrational guilty feeling that you should have been the one to die instead.

Not sure what the term is for feeling bad about recognizing the benefits of other bad things, like appreciating sleeping in after you lose your job.

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    Survivor's guilt is specifically feeling guilty because you think you should have died with whoever really did. It doesn't apply here.
    – anon
    Apr 12, 2017 at 12:09
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    Survivor's guilt is really tied to the death itself; the idea that somehow it's your fault, or you could have prevented it, or you should have died instead or as well. It also doesn't have the positive connotations that the question is after; it's a largely negative emotion. Apr 12, 2017 at 15:17
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    Suvivor's guilt is a negative feeling - feeling guilty that one has survived where others have died. The OP is not asking for this, the OP is asking for a positivie feeling coming from a negative situation. It may be related to guilt, but it is certainly not survivor's guilt.
    – Pharap
    Apr 13, 2017 at 2:40
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    As above and for the reasons above, this doesn't apply at all.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:28

Serendipitous conflict ... there is no real guilt, only a sense of loss that can never be "filled" again.

My dad died decades ago and I remember the feeling well ... it comes back once in a while, but it's not melancholy. It just is what it is ...

  • Not really what serendipity means...
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:14
  • ser·en·dip·i·ty ˌserənˈdipədē/ noun the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. Apr 13, 2017 at 18:54

I believe this could be defined as dark humor.

  • 1
    No, black humor or dark humor would be telling a joke or enjoying the comedy of a terrible event. There's no comedy or humor here; the uncomfortable pleasure is coming from a different source.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:06
  • How about redemption?
    – Rui Nunes
    Apr 13, 2017 at 15:59
  • I suppose a good enough answer could redeem IzzyG from her unpleasantness, but the feeling she's experiencing now isn't covered by the word redemption.
    – lly
    Apr 13, 2017 at 16:10

Schadenfreude per M-W: "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others."

Not exactly right, but a comparable or kindred concept.

  • 7
    Doesn't really fit IMO. OP is not taking pleasure directly from their Dad dying, they are taking pleasure from the freedom it allowed them.
    – SGR
    Apr 12, 2017 at 7:55
  • I'm sure I was reading about another German expression recently (other than Schadenfreude) that more closely matched this meaning, but I can't think of it right now.
    – Muzer
    Apr 12, 2017 at 8:50
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    As a German, i might add that "Schadenfreude" is something different. It's happyness (freude), that derives directly from someone suffering a loss/misfortune/bad luck (schaden, lit. damage). So.. you fall down the stairs, i laugh. Schadenfreude. Your dad dies, you feel relieved because you don't have to take care of him 5 hours / day every day anymore? Relief. Not Schadenfreude. Actually, using "Schadenfreude" in context of death would be considered suuuuuper insensitive and rude by the majority of Germans. Apr 12, 2017 at 11:47
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    @AndreasHeese It is good to know that the meaning has not been corrupted in English. Apr 13, 2017 at 3:41

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