I don’t know what you’re carrying as you greet today, Father’s Day in the US. I don’t know what heavy might be weighing you down under the surface. For some, this is just another day. A day that comes around like any other. A day to celebrate the fathers in your corner or the people who play that role in your life. But for me, this day is typically a reminder of everything I didn’t get to have. It’s a reminder of the person I lost too soon. Of the father figure I desperately wanted and needed.
I’ve officially lived 14 years without my dad after he lost his battle with Leukemia. How do you even begin to heal from a loss like that? At the time, I certainly had no idea. I fumbled my way through grief. I tried covering it with my ego and busyness. I made myself essentially unavailable to my emotions. Sorry I can’t come to the phone right now I’m too busy to even consider you—that was me to grief any time it called. I genuinely hated being sad because I was afraid if I let myself welcome the sadness it would never stop. How do you stop feeling sad if the person you’re mourning is never coming back? The question itself was too scary, let alone the potential answer.
Losing my dad made me scared to love. Made me question whether or not I should even love someone again because what if they leave? What if I have to go through the grief again? The control I would need to release in order to make myself vulnerable felt like it took too much power away from me. I had put on armor and hunkered down, and I didn’t feel safe or secure enough to shed those things for anyone.
But through time and counseling, I was able to make room for healing. My body had carried the grief on my behalf for so long. For all the times I didn’t have a dad cheering me on in the crowd. For all the times I needed someone to help me back up on my feet or to tell me I was loved. For all the times I wanted to get lost in a big bear hug and be reassured that everything was going to be all right. I had to make space for the grief. I had to welcome it into my existence. Allowing myself to actually feel the grief gave me the opportunity to truly heal.
I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be able to wrap my mind around the fact that I am starting to experience a chapter of life that has more memories that don’t include my dad than ones that do. But I can’t help to feel as though he will always play a role—even if it’s from the background. People who have lost someone express this a lot: every joy or sadness you experience, you think about the person who is not there and you wonder what it would be like if they were there to experience the moment with you. I wish they would be able to… (fill in the blank). I will always live with that thought and through the years I’ve grown accustomed to that feeling. I’ve even learned to welcome it because it gives me the opportunity to acknowledge his presence. To remember the fact that my father existed and filled up space.
While my life moves forward, and new people become a part of my world (like my husband Aaron and my one-year-old son Ezra), my dad still remains an integral piece of the narrative even though he’s not here physically. My introduction no longer includes him but he’s ingrained in my make-up. I gained a lot from my dad. How to be strong. How to persevere and be disciplined. To not flake on commitments to others nor to yourself. To earn and work hard for what you want. How to claim my space and the unique presence I bring. Through the time I had with my dad, I discovered how to play and to play big. Grabbing the bull by the horns and taking risks. Expecting big things and dreaming even bigger. He never made me feel like I had to be small but rather that I could take up as much space as I wanted. Be as loud and as bold as I needed. I’m thankful for the life he lived and the legacy he left—because I had a dad who made space for me to be a powerful woman. And while I don’t have to carry the grief with me forever, I do get to carry and embrace the good.
For those of you who don’t have a dad or the picture-perfect moment to share today: You are not alone. I’m sorry you don’t have a dad today to celebrate. I’m sorry if you were looking forward to being a dad and lost a child too soon. I’m sorry if the relationship with your dad is hard or non-existent. I’m sorry if today is another reminder of the loss and pain you’ve endured. Father’s Day is just a day and tomorrow can be a reminder that you made it through another one. You’re moving through your grief, little by little, and that in itself is an act of defiance against the pain and an act of revolutionary healing.
We’re here to remind you of the truth that you are not alone. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.