Father’s Day Void
I spent two years interviewing men that have experienced the death of a child. As you can imagine, I heard a lot of heartbreaking stories. All were different, and all were bad. I also learned a lot about my own pain and suffering caused by the aftermath of burying two children. Those interviews, and my own hard lessons, are captured in my book Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back.
I’ve tried to become an advocate of sorts for grieving dads. My goal is to make sure these men feel like they have the permission to grieve, to feel the impact and express their pain without society trying to hush them because the topic of a child’s death is uncomfortable for those who haven’t experienced it.
Because of my book and my advocacy, I receive a lot of requests to write Father’s Day articles about the dark side of the day from the perspective of the guys who have had to bury a child. Is the day harder than most? Yes, but to us grieving dads, it’s not much different than the holidays, birthdays, and death anniversaries. They are all difficult to navigate, and each one stirs similar, but different, emotions.
There isn’t a day that goes by that we do not think about our absent child. Regardless of the circumstance of their deaths, we miss them deeply. However, there are days where we feel this pain more acutely than other days. Days like Father’s Day remind us that they are not here. We are keenly aware of their absence every single day, and on days like Father’s Day, the hole they left grows a little bigger.
We feel a sense of emptiness on Father’s Day because there is an obvious void that tends to suck the air out of the day, creating a difficult space that we do not know how to navigate. We try our best, but it is hard to explain our feelings to those that haven’t lost a child. It is not fair for us to expect you to understand; you’re one of the lucky ones that have never had to walk in these shoes.
Most of us will try to keep our minds occupied with other living children, or by filling the day with busy, mindless tasks. It’s a defense mechanism that helps us to hide from the harsh reality that lurks in the darkness, seeking our whereabouts. It’s a constant battle that we often lose in the early years. Yes, I said years.
This isn’t something that goes away after a year. It’s a burden that weighs heavy on our souls for the rest of our lives. However, the weight lightens dramatically as time moves forward and we continue to process our loss. The death of a child becomes who we are. It doesn’t define us, but it certainly changes the course of our lives and destroys the naivety we once had.
Regardless of the day, most people will not bring up the fact that your child died because it is too awkward for them. They are not sure if they should acknowledge this day. Let me resolve this confusion: you should acknowledge Father’s Day.
It certainly isn’t a “Happy” Father’s Day. So, what should people say or do?
Try saying something like, “I know this must be a difficult day, but know I am thinking about you.” This statement, or a variation of it, goes a long way with the men that are on the receiving end of it. It might trigger a visible emotion, but know the emotion constantly lurks just below the surface regardless. Though you just don’t see it, it’s just waiting for an opportunity to escape.
I wish all fellow grieving dads a peaceful Father’s Day. If you know a grieving dad, pay them a visit or make that phone call to tell them that you are thinking about them and their child.
Kelly D Farley
Author of Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back
Photo Credit:Coed Celyn PhotographyFlickr viaCompfightcc
FOR ALL HUSBANDS WHO HAVE LOST A WIFE TO TRAGEDY THIS SONG IS WHAT MY GOOD FRIEND WROTE AND SANG FOR HIS BELOVED WIFE CHRISTINA MAUSER, WHO LOST HER LIFE IN THE KOBE BRYANT HELICOPTER CRASH IN 2020. GIVE IT A LISTEN AND SEE HOW MUSIC HEALS.
I lost my son two years ago on Father’s Day last thing I told
Him before he passed was I loved him and got a big hug I found him the next morning dead from
A drug overdose
Thank you for acknowledging this day…it’s our first…one of many…
I am so very sorry for the loss of your children! We lost our son, John, on 10/11/04 to an aortic dissection aneurism. He was 22. Our saving grace has been John’s eye, bone and tissue donation that reached 37 recipients. Our passion is to promote and encourage everyone to sign up to be a donor. This also allows us to introduce our John to those groups we talk with about Donation.
I came across a poem a few years ago (author unknown) that beautifully expresses how you and I NEED to hear the names of our children we have buried.
May your Fathers Day have continued measures of comfort and healing settle upon your heart!!
“THE MENTION OF MY LOVED ONE’S NAME MAY
BRING TEARS TO MY EYES,
BUT IT NEVER FAILS TO BRING MUSIC TO MY EARS.
IF YOU ARE REALLY MY FRIEND,
LET ME HEAR THE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC OF HIS NAME!
IT SOOTHES MY BROKEN HEART
AND SINGS TO MY SOUL”
You hit the nail, precisely, on the head, Kelly. Thanks for all your work and book.
God bless you 🙏
Thanks Kelly. Needed this today. Miss you Jeanne bean.
Thank you Kelly for this great advice – and for all of the work you are doing to help grieving dad’s (and everyone with whom they interact). Your work is so valuable, and otherwise so unavailable elsewhere. I truly appreciate it, and not to speak for others, but I have a strong feeling that all the other grieving dad’s out there appreciate it too.
So thanks again, and I wish you the peaceful Father’s Day this Sunday, however you mark it.