Just like there is no guidebook to becoming a parent, there is no guidebook to losing a parent. It is a confusing path that we are forced to navigate as time goes by, marking our progress by how well we handle the random reminders of the profound presence that is missing from our life.
This week I was served a gutting reminder of what it’s like to live without a father as I checked my iPhone calendar only to see that this Sunday I would be celebrating Father’s Day; my first without my beloved dad here on earth.
I refuse to let this day be one of loss and grief. Instead I did the only thing I knew how to do; I asked my father for help. Almost as instantly as I said “Hey Dad, how do you want to celebrate this year?” I received my answer.
It was in that moment I realized that, for those of us without a father, by changing how we approach this day we can feel a deeper sense of connection to our loved ones rather than the overwhelming loss we may otherwise feel on Father’s Day.
One of the most healing actions we can take as we approach this day is to be willing to release the reality in which our dominant story is one of loss. Yes, my father is no longer here in the physical form, but if I attach myself to that reality it seems almost impossible to find any sense of joy in the day.
Instead, I choose to rewrite this story.
“The love we feel in our hearts for our fathers is just as real as the love we felt when they were here with us in the physical form.”
To own as truth that my father is gone forever is to completely neglect all of the wonderful things he left behind -- his stories, the people he loved, his art, the home he created with my mother and our family -- the things which are the essence of what his time on earth was all about.
Rather than owning a story of loss as our truth, we can choose to focus instead on all of the incredible experiences, people and things we have gained as a result of their existence in this world.
The truth that we often forget is that the love we feel in our hearts for our fathers is just as real as the love we felt when they were here with us in the physical form.
By tuning into the joy that we created with this amazing presence in our life, we can again experience the guidance and wisdom that they will always have to offer us.
The beautiful part about this process is that by discovering the symbols that help us tap into their eternally existing presence of joy, we begin a journey of remembering all of the wisdom our father’s left behind. This allows us to carry their presence forward each day that we choose to consciously connect with their spirits.
When my father passed, the Rumi quote “the wound is the place where the light enters you” played loud in my brain as if higher guidance was shouting “remember this!” I trusted at that time that the heart-shattering grief I felt was allowing for the spaces between the broken pieces of my soul to be patched together by holy, wise, and loving light.
It is this light that I am able to carry forward every time I speak about him, or when I enjoy his favorite foods or activities. It is this beautiful light that is a part of us forever, inspiring us and connecting us with our loved ones in every moment that we choose to remember. It is this light that allows us to witness that our loved one's presence truly is everlasting.
In order to support myself in the process, I chose to rely on my family, my community and the love they brought to me. As you approach this holiday, always remember to lean on the support of your family, friends and faith.
In times of grief we often forget that loss never occurs alone. If we are willing to see it, loss is always accompanied by an outpouring of love, support, community, and memories. It is this miracle of positive sight that allows us to walk into the shadows of our life with fearlessness and grace, knowing that we will be carried into the light by a force much greater than ourselves.
“In times of grief we often forget that loss never occurs alone.”
This Father’s Day I encourage you to make a commitment to celebrate your father with love. I look forward to the incredible experiences I will create with the memory of my father.
For those of you celebrating Father’s Day in the spirit of his legacy I encourage you to start your day off by dedicating an hour of your morning to connecting with his memory in whatever way that turns out to show up; it may be writing him a letter, talking to him, going for a walk or looking at old pictures.
This simple act of quality time is a way to connect with their spirit, by once again allowing yourself to experience all of the amazing times you shared together.
From there you can carry on the celebration in your own unique way; whether that is spending the day with family and friends, enjoying activities your father used to take part in, or simply taking the time to be by yourself and cultivate a loving experience in whatever way is meaningful to you.
At the end of the day, what is truly healing is that you beautifully keep alive the tradition of your father as you hold him in deep in your heart.
The ones we love will never truly leave us. Our fathers did not really die, they simply changed forms.
Their soul released the physical in order to join the limitless field of love that surrounds us always, guiding us and making stronger with every loving thought we choose to hold.
They have become a part of all of the other limitless souls that inspire us and teach us how to make our time on earth more meaningful.
When we really look at it, Father’s Day is an important reminder of the power and beauty of keeping the ones we love alive in our hearts forever.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.