I have spent the last 20 years without my dad on Father’s Day and I know firsthand that all of us who are fatherless dread this day. Some who are fatherless would give everything they have to be able to hug their dad one last time and tell him how much he means. Others are wanting to connect with an estranged man, hoping to begin a loving, trusting relationship. And, some will sit across from a man who shouldn’t feel like a stranger and wonder why he couldn’t love them enough. Either way, the pain for us is real, palpable and completely unforgettable on Father’s Day.
For me, I check the calendar every year on the first of June to see which Sunday this fateful day falls on and then I slowly count down the days until it actually arrives. I have coped with this day in all sorts of unhealthy ways over the years. I’ve ignored it, pretended that it was just another day, lashed out at those closest to me for no valid reason, had severe breakdowns, spent the entire day angry and sobbed my eyes out. Some years I did all those things in the course of 24 hours. And, I’ve finally come to terms with how detrimental this is and have bee working hard to implement new coping mechanisms.
So, in the spirit of regaining control of my life, here’s how I will be surviving Father’s Day this year:
I previously used retreating as an unhealthy coping mechanism. When life would become too difficult or overwhelming, I would completely disassociate from the rest of the world for days, weeks or months at a time. Often times, I wouldn’t even know why and instead, I would retreat out of habit. As I have gotten more honest with myself, I’ve realized that retreating is not always the best option; however, it can be beneficial in the right situation. For me, retreating on Father’s Day means that I get to feel and act however I want without having to explain myself to anyone. It means saving my mental sanity and making space to learn something new about myself or my loss.
Meditation is a newly developing part of my life and I find that it keeps me centered and grounded. I used to think that meditation meant sitting with my legs crossed in silence for two hours but I’ve realized that it’s about being alone with my thoughts in a way that is comfortable. I’ve also found that meditation often brings creativity which leads to some of my favorite writing. In addition to this blog, I frequently journal and have found so much beauty in my thoughts and words.
Listening to Old Songs
Music has a funny way of being able to take you back to any given moment in your life and dealing with loss is no different. On Father’s Day, I’ll be blasting some amazing music (MeatLoaf, CCR, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, etc.) and remembering singing those lyrics at the top of my lungs with my dad. Every time one of those songs comes on, I know he’s right there and I can’t help but smile.
Seriously. Food is comforting. And even though this isn’t the healthiest habit, I am giving myself a free pass to do it on Father’s Day. Why? Because much like retreating, sometimes you need to give yourself the freedom to cope in any (non-destructive) way possible.
Reaching Out to Other Fatherless Daughters
There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve found among fatherless daughters – we all seem to flock together. It’s like a part of our souls just knows without ever having to say a word. I am grateful to have women in my life who are fatherless in all different capacities. They help me understand, cope and love. On Father’s Day, I will both send and receive messages of love and encouragement from these wonderful women.
This is the biggest and most important one. If I’ve learned anything during this process it’s that lessons come in the moments when you’re being still. It’s hard to learn when you’re so caught up in the situation and unable to process what is going on around you. So, I will take this day to pause, reflect and see what surprises my dad might have in store for me. The Universe can do really beautiful things in your life if you just stop to listen.