Father’s Day: An Emotional Day When You’re Celebrating Without A Father
Father’s Day is not what it used to be. I’ve gotten used to many of the milestones I have faced since I became a widow, almost 4 years ago. I can jolly us through Christmas and be thankful on Thanksgiving. I can even look at his birthday as a celebration of his life. But Father’s Day is a day devoted to celebrating fathers. And the fact that my kids have lost theirs…well…that can’t be glossed over.
Many widows will tell you that during a certain time of the year, they find that their milestones are clustered. Their spouse may have died near the holidays or near their wedding anniversary. It’s really weird how that happens. And I’m no different. Father’s Day starts my “cluster.” After that, my birthday, the anniversary of his death and our wedding anniversary (2 days after he died) come at me in rapid succession, all within 30 days of each other.
It’s like being bombed by grief with no where to hide.
I’ve gotten into a routine with most of it. I can grin and bear it on my birthday. I spend the anniversary of his death with friends. And by the time my wedding anniversary rolls around, I’m usually so drained by all of the milestones that that day is very anti-climactic.
But Father’s Day…that’s different.
We usually spend the day up in Buffalo Creek, CO, where he is buried. The cemetery is set in the woods, overlooking the Platte River and I can honestly say that my kids enjoy going. It’s become just another outing and they love running around and exploring, throwing rocks in the stream and looking for mud to track into my car.
I remember the first Father’s Day we celebrated without him. I knew it would be hard and I tried to prepare myself the best that I could for such an emotional day. He had died almost a year before and I really thought I had gotten past most of the shock of him being gone (I would find out later that that shock would revisit me again and again as the years passed).
But I wasn’t prepared for actually sitting at a headstone, while my children, who were 6, 4, and 2 at the time, played and ran around through the woods. One thought kept running through my mind over and over again.
“I can’t believe we’re here. I can’t believe this is how we’re celebrating Father’s Day.”
Even though I’ve come to terms with a lot of how my life is now, Father’s Day will never be easy. I have that same shock, year after year. That same feeling of how utterly unnatural it is for my children to be visiting their dad in a cemetery…instead of watching him burn burgers on the grill.
After 4 years, I can’t believe that’s how we spend the day.
I’m so fortunate that my kids don’t look at it with the same grief that I do. They hop in the car, excited to pick up balloons to release to their dad and ready to try and build a dam in the slow moving part of the stream. Later in the day, we’ll celebrate with my own dad and brother-in-law and it’s just become a normal part of their lives that their dad isn’t with us.
That sense of normalcy for them is something that I’ll always be grateful for.
I wanted to share this with you, not to bring a depressing thud to your own Father’s Day, but to really make you think about what Father’s Day means. You can give your husband a card. You can give him gifts. But really, truly try and celebrate it in your heart. Be grateful for his partnership, his parenting and his support. Do your best to overlook the times he played “Angry Birds” while you loaded the dishwasher or watched football while you bathed your kids and put them to bed on your own. Remember the times he patiently tried to explain to them how to fish or sat with them for hours trying to teach them the “new math” that even you didn’t understand.
I’ll be remembering those good times too. And wishing we had more of them.
Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow and mother of three. She is the founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. Along with being published in several books on grief and renewal, Catherine is also a humorous motivational speaker who focuses on ” finding joy in a life you weren’t expecting.” She is also a volunteer speaker with the Donor Alliance of Colorado.