Perhaps because of gender stereotypes or how the people at Hallmark decided to spin it, Father’s Day has always felt a bit different to me than Mother’s Day. It was often about tools and gadgets and dads getting permission to drink beer and watch sports without apology.
Comparing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards this year, thinking about this contrast, I was struck by how much less emphasis there was on the uniqueness of fatherhood or the relationship between a father and child (a lot more good jokes though!). Father’s Day is, at its core, unquestionable about love. It is just a bit more . . . hidden. You know, like when two brothers give each other that one-armed, pound on the back, hug. You know there is love hiding in there, it just isn’t quite so obvious.
Layer grief on top of this and the contrast feels pronounced. Mother’s Day, at least for me, has always created a gentle, emotional space where we acknowledge relationships and the feelings of gratitude that we don’t always take the time to appreciate. When those relationships are lost, there is a space on Mother’s Day, however painful, to acknowledge those feeling and that loss.
I can’t speak for anyone else but for me, Father’s Day has felt a bit different. It wasn’t a day that created the space for the same level of emotion in life, so it seems to make it a harder day for me to know what to do with the emotions of the loss. I wonder if others feel this. Be it fathers who have lost children, or children who lost fathers, if the day didn’t carry the same emotional weight when a loved one was alive, does it make it harder to figure out what to do to acknowledge the day when they are gone?
I know I am not alone in the feeling that I don’t have any particularly strong or important memories of Father’s Day with my father – I have talked to others with similar feelings. I know there are many fathers who deeply appreciated Father’s Day but might not have shown it or felt the weight of it in a significant way. Still, that doesn’t make the loss any less. The day still represents a relationship, one that many of us, fathers and children, have lost. We are still faced with reminders. We may, in fact, be feeling an added layer of regret that we didn’t do more or appreciate more those Fathers Days we had together.
So where does that leave us? What do we do? Well, I have posted about sulking for Father’s Day. We have posted on supporting kids who can’t remember their dads on Father’s Day. We have posted deeply moving words from one grieving father to another. But what we haven’t talked about, despite it being something I make the conscious effort to do this time of year, is storytelling.
Without many specific Father’s Day memories, what this day pushes me to remember and share are the little things about my dad, who he was, and what he did. It makes me want to share stories and anecdotes with the people who never met him. It prompts me to spend some time remembering the little memories that start to fade and to share them all over again. I know many of us do this often anyway, but it can be nice to have a reason. It can be nice to share with someone for the first time something about your child or about your father that you have never told them before.
I appreciate so much when people trust us enough to share their memories of loved ones. We know it isn’t easy, so we never take for granted how nice it is to be let in on those memories. I shared this on Instagram just the other day, and I’ll share it again here:
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This is the window in our office, the one you often see in our photos from the inside. When we first came to see this space a year and a half ago we raved about how beautiful the window was and the light it let in. Once we got to talking with the landlord about what we do, he shared that he and his dad bought this amazing old building together nearly thirty years ago. He told us that the old window was falling apart was nearly irreparable. But rather than let it go, his father painstakingly took the whole window apart, saving and restoring the original wood and glass, committed to the integrity and history of the building. His dad died a number of years ago, but he explained that the window always makes him think of his dad. And now, even though I never once met the man who restored this window, I often think of him. I remember that story, with so much gratitude, when I look up at it on my way in, or when I appreciate its amazing light in our office. Especially around this time of year I sometimes find myself sad about all the people in my life who never got to know my dad, and who never will. In those moments I try to think of all the people who, though they never met him, get to know little bits of him through me – through little stories and anecdotes. All this to say, with Father’s Day coming up, tell your stories. Share your memories. Love lives on in so many ways.
And today we have loved reading the legacies of father’s shared here:
Though at Father’s Day it is easy for me to get stuck on not having a (living) dad and all the people who never got to meet him and all the new memories I’ll never make, telling stories and hearing stories always reminds me of the ways our love and our legacies continue. Children remembering fathers, fathers remembering children, finding the strength and moment to tell someone who never met our loved ones just how great they were, and to share memories with the people who can remember with us. And grief theory supports it. Don’t believe us? Check out the Continuing Bonds model of grief.
If you’re a person who likes to write more than talk (or someone who likes to do both), we made some printable sheets to get you thinking and remembering (and maybe sharing, if that’s your thing). Click on the image for a printable Father’s Day Grief PDF.
Leave a comment with the memories of your father or your child. Talk to someone about your dad or your child. Introduce them to someone new through your stories. Or, if this isn’t your thing, tell us in the comments what is going to help you survive Father’s Day.