I often feel sadness, anger and loss most intensely in the lead up to an anniversary or a day like Father’s Day rather than on the day itself.
On the day I hold my breath hoping that the children and I will be okay.
Then on the days following – like today – I exhale feeling gratitude and self compassion.
Last Sunday was our sixth Father’s Day without Mick and the second without my Dad. Over the years the kids and I have established ways of supporting ourselves as we anticipate the day.
We minimise our exposure to advertising.
The kids make cards at school for their living grandfather and their uncle. My son quietly, discretely and quickly makes the cards. No fuss. My daughter makes heartfelt detailed cards and bravely smiles as she briefly explains to her inquisitive classmates that her Dad has died but it is okay because she is lucky to have a wonderful living grandfather and uncle. She is lucky. We are lucky.
What she doesn’t share is that she deeply feels the loss of her father and my father every day and especially at this time of year. That would hurt too much. If someone asks her where her Dad is when she is at a soccer game or a class party she says “oh he is at home”. When she first told me that is how she copes I understood. Sometimes it is easier to move the conversation on rather than changing the mood by sharing our story and feeling the loss.
This year was the first time that our primary school held a Father’s and Carer’s Day stall. I was relieved when the kids happily went to school with money to buy presents. A friend who was helping on the stall warned me that most of the merchandise was labelled with “Dad” so it might be hard for them to find something neutral for their grandfather and uncle. She was right. At school pick up the kids shrugged as they showed me what they had purchased. They had visited the stall separately with their classes and the only options without the words “Dad” were jellybeans and whistle key finder keyrings. They both chose the whistle key finder keyrings. They said it would be ok. Their uncle and grandfather could always use two each. I agreed and said it would be fun to laugh when the presents were opened. I was proud of their resilience and positivity.
I was alerted to an award winning Australian web series, Amazing Grace. It is about and is acted by Grace who lost her Dad when she was ten. He appears by her side as she navigates her way through life. Grace imagines what he would do or how he would help when she faces problems. A special father’s day episode has been released. It is excellent. I considered showing it to my children but unfortunately there is one significant point of difference between my children and Grace. My children don’t have their own memories of Mick because he died when our son was 4 and our daughter was 3 years of age. They know Mick loved them and still loves them. I share stories of Mick as often as I can so they have a sense of him but it is hard for them to imagine how he would be in their own interactions with them. This dimension of loss is still very raw. I didn’t want to highlight this loss over the Fathers Day weekend. We will watch the series together another time.
In the morning on Father’s Day the kids were upbeat, keen to play games together and watch a movie. Their mood was contagious. I gave them both extra hugs and joined in the fun.
Dear friends of Mick’s invited us to hang out with them later in the afternoon. Their offers made us feel supported and loved. We are blessed that they live nearby and are always available to share milestones with us and remember Mick.
We declined their kind invitations because my brother also invited us to spend the afternoon and evening with him. This is his second Father’s Day as a father and we delight in his company, my sister-in-law and his 16 month old daughter.
As I watch my brother pour love into my children and his daughter I remember how much Mick loved our children. Mick made the most of every moment to tickle them, play with them and care for them. They may not remember particular moments but I am sure that all that love will always be a part of them.
Mick is with us in our hearts and everywhere we go.