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Grieving on Father's Day

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Technically, this will be my second Father’s Day without my father, but the first year couldn’t really count. Last year we spent the day at a funeral home for his wake, since he had passed away the Friday prior. I think I was too numb and shocked to have it count. I didn’t care what day it was… only that my father was dead.

For this entire year I’ve been grieving different aspects of the loss of the most significant relationship in my life. We all have that one person we feel we can’t live without, and for me that person was always my dad. He was the one person who loved me unconditionally without judgment, without limits or conditions. Ever since I was a child, I could feel his love, like a shield protecting me from the many dangers of this life. There were things his love couldn’t protect me from. There has been plenty of heartache and disappointment throughout my life, but somehow I was OK… my dad was just a phone call away.

Sometimes I stare at his contact information on my phone, his number tattooed in my memory, and I grieve because it feels like the very foundation of my life has been taken from under me. I feel lost and unsafe in this world like I never felt before. Sometimes I feel like a child even though I am 30 years old. Sometimes I can’t even believe he’s gone and I have to repeat it to myself like some really messed up mantra. He’s gone. He’s gone. He’s gone. He is never coming back.

Now that I’ve had a year to “process” my loss, I feel myself anticipating the arrival of Father’s Day as well as the first anniversary of his death. I’m a planner, so I always need even the vaguest of plans for an occasion. And I’m at a loss in this situation. What do the fatherless do on Father’s Day? What do we do when we have nobody to honor on that day? Yes, I know it’s mostly just another made-up holiday, but from now on it will only serve as a reminder of what I’m missing. It feels like it will always be a reminder of his absence and his horrible death and I just don’t know what to do to make it better.

I’ve asked others what the hardest part of Father’s Day without a father is. A friend told me that, for him, the most difficult thing is that his infant daughter won’t know her grandfather. A stranger told me that the hardest part for them is seeing Father’s Day celebrations on social media. I find both scenarios just as heartbreaking.

Perhaps I’ll just “celebrate” Father’s Day by drinking his favorite wine and crying over old photographs and memories. But then, when I think about my father and what he stood for, he motivates me to live life on his behalf. Maybe I should latch onto those good memories and carry them fondly in his stead. I should be generous, loving and kind, as I knew him to be, even for just this one day. Who knows how I will feel on Father’s Day, but I’ll be OK, because there is no right way to grieve or to love.

The author with her father

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Originally published: June 14, 2017
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