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How to Support Grieving Dads on Father's Day

child loss on father's day
Dad's hurt too

To my husband on Father's Day,

I see you over there trying to be strong. I see you with tears running down your cheeks. I see you trying to hold our broken, little family together. I see you struggling, too.

Since we lost our dear daughter Katie you have taken care of the unpleasant tasks that I didn’t have the capacity to do. You collected her effects from the police after they had been pulled from the wreck. You took care of taxes and banking and paying the funeral bill. I am so thankful that you walk beside me on this path.

Here comes Father’s Day, yet another day that Katie should be here, another day that will no longer be right without her. But, you are still a father and always will have two children, even though one of them is in heaven now.

I see you writing a document on the computer called “Things I remember about Katie” because you are afraid of forgetting the details-both the big and small things. I see you put your bookmark between the pages of your book each night; the one with Katie’s beautiful picture. And I notice each time you wear her signature necklace.

While I have been lost in my own grief, you have been lost in yours. Somehow, we kept our son afloat to help him through his grief and the last half of his teen years. You went to work so soon after Katie’s accident to be the role model that our son needed while I could barely run an errand. You have no idea how much I was dumbstruck yet envious of your ability to function so well.

I see you going through the motions and maintaining an outward appearance of resilience. I see you flipping through the photo albums with a broken heart and hear the longing in your voice when you wonder out loud if Katie would still be pursuing a career in nursing. I see your pain.

So much emphasis has been placed on my broken heart because I am the mother. So much so, that I feel you may have been forgotten. They say no connection is greater than that of a mother and child. However, I know you loved our girl every bit as much as I did and do today.

Men don’t cry; our society thinks.

This expectation of strength is not helping you or any father on this path through grief. A pat on the back and a “how are ya doing, Pal?” from a friend may be well meaning, but it falls short of true support. Men need their grief acknowledged every bit as much as women do.

I see you feeling left out when I meet with my grieving mom friends. I see you struggling each year as we deliver Katie’s scholarship to her high school, and the literary award to her elementary school. She was a shining star that should be here asking you for advice as she pursues her career, hopes, and dreams. Daddy’s girl.

Mothers and women come together to support one another. We talk, we cry, we hold one another. But I have come to learn that men and women, mothers and fathers all grieve differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but I am beginning to see that fathers are often forgotten because they may not be as outward with their emotions and aren’t as likely to reach out to friends for support.

I see you talking with friends and neighbours about golf, work, and current events- carefully avoiding the subject of our dead daughter. I see you hide your envy as other families observe their children’s milestones. I see you celebrate our son’s achievements but also see the sadness of a lost a future with our daughter and all that she would have achieved.

I want you to know that I could not travel this road without you, even though I recognize that our paths merge and converge and that we travel it differently. There is no one in this world that knows Katie and her life like you do. I can’t imagine trying to explain my pain or my journey to anyone else.

I see you walking beside me and supporting me in my grief. You have picked me up more times than I can count. I know I am sometimes so wrapped up in my hurts that I am not as supportive as I should be. I see your pain as I support our son more than you, but appreciate your patience as our marriage simmers on the back burner.

This Father’s Day I hope that you can:

1. Feel validated for all that you have gone through and continue to go through after the loss of our beautiful daughter. Know that I see you working so hard to be “ok” so that I might be “ok” too. Know that I see you struggling and holding the tears back. Please know that I want to make it better for all of us, even though I can’t.

2. Be broken, be proud, be however you need to be. You will always be a father to our two children and you should be proud of the role you have played in helping to raise them both. If you need to find some quiet time to shed some tears, do that. If you want to look back at the pictures of our kids during a happier time in our lives, do that. It’s so important to feel all your emotions and not push them down, even the ugly ones. You are teaching our son that it is ok to show pain and vulnerability.

3. Find time to work on your healing- today and every day. You don’t have to be the pillar of strength all the time. You can book a day off from work and do whatever your heart needs. Need a massage? Don’t think twice about it. Need to unload all that you are feeling? Make an appointment with a therapist. Then make an appointment once a month for the next year. Need a hug? Never hesitate. I love you and want to support you on our journey through this thorny path called grief.

4. Understand that our love will prevail, even if it doesn’t seem like it can when our sadness is meshed into every aspect of our lives. We vowed to stay together for better or for worse and losing Katie has been the worst. We have held onto each other for four and a half years and become stronger as we learn to cope and hold our little family together.

5. Know that you have always been a great father – kind, patient, and present. You always put your family and your kids first and helped build a comfortable and secure life for us. You have continued being that awesome dad to our son, despite our loss. And you were everything for our daughter for the 17½ years that she was with us. She will definitely be smiling down on you this Father’s Day.

You make me proud of the man you are showing our son to be. I know that one day he will be a wonderful father like you who has a compassionate heart and lives from a deeper place knowing how fragile life is.

I am so thankful for you.

Happy Father’s Day.

XO Lisa

No matter where you are at on your grief journey, feeling connected and understood can make all the difference. I have created a resource that is suitable for all parents who are suffering with the loss of a child. You can take a look at it here.

free grief support resource

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