Father’s Day evokes a wide spectrum of memories and emotions for many people, but for someone whose father is deceased, it can be particularly bittersweet. The role and significance of a father or a father figure in one’s life can vary infinitely—as much as individual personalities and extended families vary. However, in some unfathomable way—regardless of how intimate or conflicted the relationship; how dramatic or reserved our expressions of feelings for one another; how deeply we try to emulate or avoid any resemblance to our fathers—they leave an indelible mark on our hearts, and impact us in profound ways.
For many, losing our parents is the final step into full adulthood and into a greater sense of our own identity, as well as our own mortality. Alexander Levy, in his book, The Orphaned Adult, said: “In adulthood, parents are like the rearview mirror of a car, making it safe to operate, as we head into the unknown, by providing a glimpse of where and who we have been so we can better understand where and who we are becoming.”
Perhaps one of the ways we best honor our deceased loved ones, or honor our own pain, is to tell the stories of them that hold meaning for us. If you are grieving the loss of your father this Father’s Day, you might choose to tell those stories to your children, your siblings, or in a grief support group. Or you may choose to write your stories, or tell them through art or music, or through any means of sharing that resonates with you. Tell about going to your first Padres’ game together, or about a conversation with him you’ll never forget, or about the day he taught you drive a stick shift. Tell about his sense of humor or his ability to grill the perfect steak. Tell about the disappointments, and about the relationship with him you wish you’d had. Or tell about the day you said goodbye, and what you now miss the most. The important thing is to pause long enough to remember and express our stories—the simple, pleasant ones, or perhaps the more complicated, painful ones. Each in their own way, pay tribute to the person we knew and to the memories we carry with us.
Wherever you are this Father’s Day, may you be comforted and supported by those who care about you. And if you could benefit from additional support, please allow the grief professionals at The Elizabeth Hospice to come alongside and walk with you on your journey, helping you discover valuable ways of coping with your unique loss. We would be honored to hear your stories.
Paula Bunn, LMFT, FT
Manager, Grief Counseling Services
The Elizabeth Hospice