By Liane Fry, LMFT, FT
Holidays typically evoke discomfort in those grieving as the deceased person is sorely absent. Our heart aches when we recognize societal cues of the approaching day, including stores targeting wares. Our own angst causes grief to surge.
Fathers come in many forms. Some seem to be the poster parent and emulate competence and care in their roles. Others massively disappoint and fail their children as they strive to fill a role that is challenging beyond their own mental health or capability. And yet our fathers show us themselves in all their colors especially when we live in their company in childhood and adolescence. Through their actions, values and presence, we receive life lessons.
A trusted father imparts love, love that is big enough to accept our known failings and our greatest strengths. This is the essence of what attachment theorists call a safe harbor that exists within a secure attachment. A safe harbor means our dad has “our back,” no matter the circumstances. We seek proximity from them when we perceive a threat, and their physical or psychological presence comforts us and allows us to withstand that threat. This secure base supports us whether we live under the same roof or reside in another country.
Upon death, we are forced to reckon with our father’s absence, its ramifications, as well as who they were as human beings. In the grieving process we may eventually adopt an expanded view of them.
In the wake of their death, chances are you will be reminded of their achievements and find further evidence of their limitations. While they won’t be there to provide their perspective, you will layer yours on top of what you know theirs to be. Regardless of a judge or jury, your father provides you with a legacy. This legacy can refine, reinforce, and influence your own values causing shifts in the meaning and purpose of your own life.
While grief is a natural and normal process, you may encounter aspects of that journey that are difficult to navigate. Counseling support is available to you through professional counselors at Grief Services at The Elizabeth Hospice. We offer grief group support as well as counseling for individual, couples, and families to anyone who resides within California. Please call 833-349-2054 to learn more or initiate services.
Liane Fry, MA, LMFT, FT, is Clinical Counselor Program Supervisor with The Elizabeth Hospice. For more than 20 years, she has worked in the field of grief and loss, incorporating evidence-based practices into treatment.