For the last 17 years, the third Sunday in June has always been a hard day. And this year, that would be today. Father’s Day. Now, in a perfect world, we’d all be sharing a magical, love-filled, joyous day with our dads tomorrow, but there are far too many of us who are members of the club that no one ever wants to join: The Fatherless Club.
This open letter is for you. For all of us.
I haven’t been to the store in three months because of COVID and, honestly, I’m sort of glad about it, especially during the month of June. Ever year, I dread seeing the rows and rows of Father’s Day cards. And the Father’s Day mugs that cheerfully proclaim “Best Dad Ever.” And the Father’s Day shirts. And, well, Father’s Day everything. It’s all on display and it sort of feels like a knife to the heart every time I see it. It’s another reminder of my grief, of my loss, of the fact that I’m not going to be buying a gift for my dad.
Not last year.
Not this year.
Not next year.
Not ever again.
For people like us who live with this grief and missing our dads every day, Father’s Day feels like a neon sign making those feelings even more intense and palpable. It sends us down memory lane once again and we remember the memories that make us smile. For me, I remember summer days with my dad at the local pool and walking to his office to visit him during a hot June afternoon. I also remember he loved being a father — it was his favorite job and he was the best of the best.
But when you’re fatherless today, you also remember the not-so-happy times. You remember the final days (maybe even final moments) that you shared together. You remember all the things you wish you could have done differently — you know, the ones that still tend to keep you up at night no matter how many years have passed.
It’s those good and bad memories that you remember together. They sort of blend together like a patchwork quilt that tells all of your story. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 17 years of being fatherless, it’s that you can’t help but feel all the emotions.
And guess what?
THAT’S PERFECTLY OKAY.
Let yourself feel today. Let yourself feel everything without judging yourself or thinking you’re a “bad” son or daughter for feeling the way you do. The worst thing we can do is ignore or deny our emotions. If you’re missing your dad today, miss him. If you’re angry at your dad today, be angry at him. If you just want to smile today, then go ahead and smile.
After all, there’s no playbook for this sort of thing. Trust me, I wish there was, but when you lose a parent, you just have to make up the rules as you go along. Do what’s right for you. Feel what’s right for you. And know that I’m here for you. For all of us just trying to navigate this life as a member of the club we never wanted to join… xoxo
P.S. My CNN op-ed from 2018 on the bittersweet nature of Father’s Day.
[Stencil by Poppy Chancellor]