Writer’s note: This article is previously submitted as an assignment for my Writing Journalism subject. Ray (not his real name, as the subject asks to remain anonymous) has gone through a period in life that most of us do not – seeing the death of his father at an early age. This is his story, as he tries to cope with the reality.

As 20-year-old Ray stayed up late to stress out about assignments with his peers, he realised, “Life has started to become normal.”

After his father died of cancer at the age of 53, Ray, 13 at that time, took the role as the head of the family. As the oldest son, he listened to his mother’s problems, and became a father figure for his younger brother.

Non-profit child bereavement organisation Comfort Zone Camp found one in nine children in the US will lose a parent before the age of 20.

But not all children who lose a parent learn to accept death the way Ray had.

“I was calm, though sad, and only cried when they were about to close my dad’s coffin,” Ray said.

“I just couldn’t believe I was not going to see him and learn anything more from him for the rest of my life. That was the only thing I was sad about, because I knew he was in a better place.”

In fact, 72 per cent of the children believe their lives would have been much better if their parent hadn’t died so young, according to the survey released by Comfort Zone Camp in 2010.

But this was not the case for Ray.

Ray shared that he was not attached to his father even when he was still alive. His father was “military strict” to him.

“Do you ever think protective and dictator dads exist?” Ray asked.

“My dad taught me about discipline and responsibility. He taught me about the harshness of working hard to earn a result. He was my hero, and he was a great dad, but any more of his pressures might just hinder me from growing up.”

But accepting the death was not the same as being “normal” for Ray. When children tried to cope with their parent’s death in different ways, Ray tried too.

Though addressing the issue calmly, Ray admitted the sudden lack of a father figure had caused him to build his self-esteem on the wrong things.

He pursued romantic relationships earnestly, but he was dumped three times as a result. Ray then started to go clubbing and street racing in search for acceptance.

“I’m still confused of who I am. I’m thinking, ‘Am I really that bad? Is all this rooting from the fact that I lost my dad?’ But I know that I have to be happy with my own life first before I can take a girl into it,” Ray said.

Children who lose parent still grieve as adults, but Ray believed this “tragedy” gave him a head start to learn life earlier than his peers.

“Losing a father actually forces you to face life even earlier than normal kids are supposed to, especially if you are the oldest son,” Ray said.

“And about two years ago, life became really normal again.”