Father’s Day is the hardest day of the year for me. Harder than my wife’s expected due dates that pass by with achingly empty arms. Harder than the anniversaries of the long awaited positive pregnancy test. Harder than the anniversary of finally getting to hear a heartbeat. Harder even than the anniversaries of the loss dates.
All of the other dates are private, our own grief, our own remembrances. Rarely does anyone else remember and acknowledge those dates, which does carry its own pain. But Father’s Day is so very public. There are all those saccharine sweet commercials everywhere in the weeks leading up. You can’t escape the countdown to the dreaded day on the TV, radio, in the stores and in conversations at work.
And the societal bias against public grief is immense. We, the Still Fathers, are often told by words or attitude, that we aren’t “real” fathers who should be acknowledged on Father’s Day. We are told to swallow our pain and celebrate those who are more worthy than us, those who have their children with them. And don’t you dare bring up your deceased child and bring down the mood of anyone else!
But society is so very very wrong.
My fellow fathers, this day is about you. You are still a father. I know it may not feel like that but you are; death doesn’t stop your love for your child and it doesn’t end your fatherhood. And you do deserve to be acknowledged on this, and every day. Sadly, too many of us have families who will not acknowledge us. So please re-frame your thinking to give yourself permission to honor your own fatherhood, however that will look for you.
For some of us, that means going out to eat on Sunday and saying yes when the waitress asks if you are a father, or standing in church when the pastor asks all the fathers to stand. For some of us, that means practicing some self-care by avoiding unnecessary triggers and spending the day avoiding the world and pretending it is any other day.
Whatever you decide, please be gentle with your broken father’s heart.