When Father’s Day is painful

All the tweets, blog posts and Facebook messages about Father’s Day today set me on edge. Usually I can deflect the pain the day brings by focusing on my husband and celebrating him with my kids, but this year he wasn’t home. There was no buffer.

I couldn’t tweet, blog or post about my dad today, not because he wasn’t a beautiful human being, not because I don’t have fond memories of him, not because he wasn’t a great dad. I couldn’t do it because he’s dead, and tweeting feels trite and sentimental and dishonest. He’s gone, and a manufactured holiday like Father’s Day just zeroes in on that loss, shines a magnifying-glass-intense-sun on it until it burns anew.

Most Father’s Days for the last 11 years I’ve just gotten through, tried to remember the positive, reminded myself of the blessing my husband is as a dad to our kids. Today I could have focused on my little brother, a father for the first time just six days ago, the miracle of a new baby, a new mom and daddy and everything that’s all wrapped up in it. That deserves celebration, recognition, it’s really so beautiful.

But I confess: I had trouble getting there today. Today, the holiday just made me angry.

How do you respond on a day where everyone everywhere seems to go along with socially acceptable holiday traditions that only serve to rub salt in your wounds?

I could choose to rage, I could write a snarky post about how I couldn’t care less anyway and also I hate mother’s day even though my own amazing mom is still alive, I could scroll through the feeds and feel miserable, I could ignore it and stuff down the pain again, I could withdraw.

And I do choose. All of those things. After cycling through each one in their turn, I realize there’s another way: I could lean into it. Because all those other ways, even though they look so different, aren’t they all the same in the end? At their core, each one is just a different way of running away.

After listening to widsom and fasting for a while from the never-ending stream of social media sentiments, I choose just to sit with it. In my mind, I’m choosing a room. There are two chairs there, and I’m sitting down with the pain. I’m reclining with the grief. I’m choosing to sit across from it, look in its face, and have compassion on myself. Not to love the grief, not to hate it, not to cling to it, coddle or reject it, but just to sit with it. To just be, and let it be, too.

I want to write now about what I hope will happen, about how this diffuses some of the pain’s power over me, about how it helps absolve the grief, how it softens the sting. But honestly, I think it can’t be about an agenda and what I’m aiming for. The endgame has to be the same as the process. To just sit there is the whole point.

After we stare at each other awhile, my grief and I huddle together and build an altar here, right here, to say this is where we were today, we sat here in the presence of one another and God, and it was enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*

4 comments on “When Father’s Day is painful

  1. Monica says:

    I understand what you are going through, because I too have lost my mom, but think about it this way your dad is celebrating Father’s Day with God in a better place.

    Eternal Rest Grant unto him Oh Lord, and Let perpetual light shine upon him.

    I know times are tough but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your chin up and pray without ceasing. Please know that I am praying for you too. God bless you and your family.

    Your friend in Christ,

    Monica

  2. Vanessa says:

    My father died in 1989, my mom in 2010. I get it.

    Sometimes we can’t “rise above” until we have just sat in it with God. Fear can work that way, too. You have to face it and admit it before it will flee.

    Recently, I finally gave over my grief at losing a friend. It took four years of cycling in and out of all those coping mechanisms. Several times I’d ‘jump forward’ in healing – through prayer or revelation or love from others – only to stagnate (at least it felt like stagnation). Making resolutions and “just deciding to be done” never worked for me.

    So I think you are being wise.

  3. Amber C. says:

    “I want to write now about what I hope will happen, about how this diffuses some of the pain’s power over me, about how it helps absolve the grief, how it softens the sting. But honestly, I think it can’t be about an agenda and what I’m aiming for. The endgame has to be the same as the process. To just sit there is the whole point.

    After we stare at each other awhile, my grief and I huddle together and build an altar here, right here, to say this is where we were today, we sat here in the presence of one another and God, and it was enough.”

    This is so true, Kim. Oh man. I haven’t read too many people who are willing to be this honest about grief in a way that isn’t a) depressing or b) wrapping everything in a nice package. I like that you’re willing to sit with your grief and just be. I’ve found that this will likely never disappear. It’s not about whether or not we’re “healed” (what does that really mean?), but that grief is always going to be present, in some form, and we can either accept that and sit with it until the moment passes, or we can fight it or deny its presence. But the whole point, as you said, is to sit with it and let that be enough. In these moments, God is always in the third chair.

    • I love this, Amber. There was a third chair there all along. It’s amazing to me how it’s hard to write about grief, and I feel like I’m still not very “good at it” whatever that means, even 11 years later. Thanks for your kind words.