The other day Kingston asked me what the difference was between gas and deisel fuel. "Um..." I said, stalling, "I think it's all about how the engine uses the fuel... but we can Google it when we get home.". What I was really thinking was that my dad would have known the answer to that question. A year and half after his death I still have to remind myself that he isn't there for me to call.
Last year was the year of "firsts" in my journey of grief. I dreaded Father's Day for months and spent the week weepy and feeling hollow. Finally, the day I had been anxious about arrived and I was strangely OK. I missed my dad and thought of the many things I loved about him, but I also enjoyed making the day special for Nate and his dad. It was one of the first times that I felt like I was able to understand the mix of sorrow and joy that often goes hand in hand with losing loved ones.
This year has been different. I still miss my dad, I still get weepy from time to time and I still can't bring myself to delete his contact info in my phone. But healing has occurred. When I think of him (which is often) I am able to smile and find joy and peace in the things I loved and miss about him. Like the way he could fix anything, and had a story to tell about everything. The way he said my name and the fluctuation in his voice when he said "This is your dad..." on the phone. He sounded like the Eeyore character from Winnie the Pooh. When I smell someone who has the unique scent of cigarette smoke and aftershave I breathe in deeply and think of him (and cough /get weird looks from strangers).
As I marvel at God's goodness to heal my heart and turn such sorrow into joy and hope, I think about so many of my friends who have lost parents this year. I'm not sure if more of my friends are experiencing the death of their parents because we are aging, or if I'm just more aware of it. Either way, I wanted to share some things that have helped me, in hopes they will make your journey easier too.
- Cry. Let it out. If I try to stuff my feelings in then I end up a gasping, hysterical mess (often in public) and I would much rather have this moment in private.
- Talk to other people who knew your dad. Share memories, look at pictures, don't shy away from these things even though they are hard. It brings healing to remember the sweetness of time shared, even if there is a mix of sadness that comes with those sentiments.
- Look for the ways God has provided other father figures in your life. I realize this may not be true for everyone, but I have an amazing father-in-law. He has loved me as his own even before I married Nate and I could not be more thankful for him. One of the biggest blessings of living with Nate's parents last summer was spending time with him when I needed a dad the most. Maybe this is true for you, or perhaps there is someone else who has invested in you or taken care of you like a dad. Spend some time reflecting on them and make sure you tell them how much they mean to you.
- While I don't relate to Nate as my dad, he is an AMAZING one to our kiddos. Focusing on him and finding ways to honor him throughout the day made it easier to be without my dad. It brought about a greater appreciation for so much of what my dad did for me as a kid. When I see the way Nate loves our kids when he is tired or has had a crazy day at work it makes me appreciate the times my dad did the same.
- Know that day by day, you will wake up and the sadness will be less. The weight in your chest will not be so heavy and you will smile and laugh again. You will feel God's presence and be able to praise Him for His goodness. These were all things that took time for me, and I didn't really realize they were missing from my life until they came back. I trusted God in those dark months, I prayed, I had faith, I read His Word and I have no doubt that God was with me all those days. But it was months before I FELT the light of hope again. It will come. God is faithful and gives us a hope that does not disappoint.
My prayer for you (and for myself) is that we would find joy this Father's Day, not only in the memories of our dad's, but in the love and healing of God the Father. Blessings!
*originally posted June 2016