I lost my Dad, Tom, five years ago, less than 6 months before losing my wife Judy.
As well, I lost my mentor Dan, a father figure to me in all ways, some ten years ago.
For many of us, Father’s Day can be a time of grief, as we miss and mourn those we have lost and who can’t be with us on this day of special recognition. We feel the absence of the men who cared for us and shaped us into who we are today.
For me, today is a celebration, despite not having these two amazing men here to embrace, or call for advice and coaching.
Let me share four ways I have moved from feeling the sadness and loss, to making this a celebration of their memory, legacy and impact on my life:
#1 – Practice Gratitude
First, I am blessed. I have been gifted with two amazing lives, as the father of two daughters.
My oldest Sophia just graduated Pepperdine and is on her way to becoming an RN at Emory University. She lives with persistence, integrity, spirit and purpose in everything she does. My youngest, Alaina, challenges me in all the best ways, just like her mom Judy did. She’s a free spirit creative, yet when she puts her mind to something, watch out … Tenacious A.
Practice gratitude and give thanks for what you still have in your life and the joy in the gift of Fatherhood yourself, if you have been so blessed.
#2 – Grace for You
Second, if you are holding onto hurts, you may not be able to achieve peace now that they are not with you. I have made peace with the fact that my relationships with these men were great, but not perfect … heck, who’s relationships are? As a result, there were missed opportunities and regrets, and because they were gone, unreconciled.
For me, it was about absence – periods of times in my life where I wasn’t present for them. Not spending enough time with either when I had the opportunity to do so. I am sure many feel this way, wanting one more moment to share: to ask that question and get that answer, or feel that security assurance is natural. But holding onto these unreconciled regrets and feeling guilty is not something to hold onto.
For others, there will be those perceived expectation shortfalls, harsh words, or bad actions towards their Dads that can’t be taken back. This can be harsh, because these men aren’t here for us to go to and ask for forgiveness directly.
You can take action though that is positive and healing. Give yourself some Grace, no one is perfect, and even better, ask God and their spirit for forgiveness over any shortfall, absence, wrong or regret.
Want to make sure this doesn’t keep happening? First, there are usually a few obvious things that you have done or said in your life that you regret when it comes to your Dad. Wrecking the car, wasting money, harsh words, bad actions … whatever, ask for forgiveness from God and your late Dad. Doing this out loud is best: not just in your own head but putting it out there into the physical universe.
Next, go a little deeper. Spend some time making a list of the additional things you think you did wrong with your Dad … Think way back and try to get them all down. And literally, for each one-by-one, ask for forgiveness from them and the Father.
#3 – Forgiveness of Dad’s Shortcomings
Although we may have put them on a pedestal, our Dads and father-like figures in our lives were human, with all the flaws and imperfections that entails. As a result, you most certainly didn’t get everything you expected, wanted or needed from your Dad. For many, we hold onto these shortfalls and wrongs, And because they are gone, these too can remain unreconciled, which will not provide us the Peace we need to find healing and growth.
Perhaps you didn’t get those words of affirmation you needed, or worse insults you didn’t deserve. My Dad was an athlete and when I was young, I was anything but – on my way to becoming an engineer, writer and musician. You can imagine how this athlete / nerd disconnect manifested in actions and words that were less than affirming, even if he never meant it to do so.
For some, there was an absence of quality time, as Dad commuted long hours or traveled. And for others, there were even more perceived shortfalls around alcohol, divorce, finances, absence or even abuse.
You can’t go to them and talk out the issues, but we know that holding onto these issues as they are gone hurts you. It just perpetuates the regrets and grief. It makes the loss hurt way worse, which isn’t healthy for you.
Similar to the shortfalls you might have had with your Dad in #2, there are some likely several shortcomings that come to mind, some of these may be painful. And now, here is the hard part – Forgive them for each, one by one, and do so out loud.
For some of the issues, forgiving is easy. You can easily see why they fell short, or acted the way they did.
For other issues that are more severe, granting the forgiveness will be tougher, as you perceive forgiveness as condoning the egregious words or actions. This is not the case, and for those items, I use the following words to differentiate: I don’t condone or even understand why you did what you did, but I forgive you for XXXXXXX.
Forgiveness is for your own freedom and relief, so you don’t keep hanging on to the hurts, perpetuating and manifesting them in your life.
Just like in step #2, once you have the big nuggets out of the way, make a list of all the shortcomings you have experienced with your Dad and forgive these as well.
#4 – Celebration
Let’s not get hung up on the negative here, this is a special occasion – a day of celebration for the fathers.. So let’s remember to celebrate the Dads and father-figures we might be missing today.
For me, this means sharing “old guy” stories about my Dad. I especially love sharing with my daughters how athletic their grandfather was…. His chicken legs and how lightning fast he could run well into his fifties … how he would run down and catch a fly ball in a magical way …and how they got many of their athletic genes from him.
And it means calling my mentor’s widow to celebrate his life, remembering how important of a light he was in our worlds, and continues to be.
It is important to not ignore the fact that they are gone, but make a conscious effort to include them in the day. Do their favorite thing. Make their favorite meal. Share the stories. Celebrate the life you had with them, and the blessings and lessons they delivered to you.
Thank You Dad and Dan
Thank you Dad and Dan for being there for me when I needed your incredible support strength and leadership most in my life. You are missed, and your are celebrated today in the lives that those of who knew and learned from you now lead.
For more insights and advice on Surviving Special Days like Father’s Day, checkout this article here: https://growththroughgrief.org/surviving-special-days/