Dear Grieving Child,
If you’ve ever heard and felt the saying, “Even in a crowded room, you feel alone,” you’ve likely experienced grief. In my almost 13 years of being a grieving daughter, I’ve learned a lot and also felt a lot of different things. If you’re reading this and you relate to this story, please know I’m so sorry that you’ve lost your dad. My hope in writing this letter is that if you are a grieving child, you might feel a little less alone this month. Everyone’s experience with grief and loss is different, however, there is an unspoken understanding when you’ve lost a parent.
Father’s Day can look different for so many people; it may be a holiday that comes with extensive plans, gift buying, fun activities or delicious meals. It can also be a holiday that is mailing a simple card or just another day. For the grieving child, it can be a holiday that carries with it more emotions than plans and more feelings than words.
I remember in the hours after my father passed away, trying to process that information and what that meant. I remember thinking, “I won’t be buying a Father’s Day present next year.” What an odd thing to think about at a time like this, I thought. I was almost a year away from the next Father’s Day, and there were no mail ads reminding me of the upcoming holiday or pressure to be making the perfect plans. Yet, it was one of the first things I thought of where it would be noticeable that my “normal” life was not going to feel normal anymore. I just lost my father, so what was I supposed to do or feel when the focus of the day was on the person I just lost?
Give Yourself Permission
As you are approaching the date, you may be feeling dread and anticipation of how the day might feel to you. In my years of grieving, one thing has remained true – it’s human to have assumptions of how we might feel, but grief can take the predictability out of almost anything. As you approach this holiday, allow yourself to wonder about how you will likely feel but also lean into the fact that it’s uncertain how your grief will present itself. We often tell ourselves the narrative we should be feeling or behaving a certain way when grieving. Everyone is unique in their experience, and each year can feel different from the last.
Lean Into the Grief Wave
At times, the wave of grief can be a slow build, we feel it bubble up and push it down over and over. We say things like “I don’t have time to feel this” or “I’ve got to be strong and not fall apart.” It’s true, there are times when we can’t lean into our grief for whatever reason. It’s also important to allow ourselves to let the wave be released before it becomes a tsunami. You might notice weeks before Father’s Day, there is a slow build growing. Store ads promoting “Ideal Gifts for Dads,” group texts with the family planning a cookout or Facebook memories popping up. Allow yourself the time and space to be still and lean into your grief, otherwise, your grief will decide for you when it will overflow.
Connect With Your Father
When your father dies, your relationship with him changes but does not have to end. This was a concept that took me a while to understand – it’s not instant. Spend time this Father’s Day connecting with who he was and who he will be to you now. What is his legacy to you? How would you define him? Was there something he had a passion for that you would like to carry on? Spending time reflecting on how his life and death impacted you is an important part of the process. These are the questions that can help you discover what Father’s Day might look like for you now. It won’t be in the form of a new necktie or a sappy Hallmark card; your gift now is what you can offer to the world around you because of the experience you’ve had with losing the person that helped give you life.
It doesn’t matter if this is your first Father’s Day without him or your 20th, it will forever be different. Even though grief has the power to make us feel like no one in the world understands, please know that this Father’s Day, you’re not alone.
Another Grieving Child