About five months ago my father passed away unexpectedly after suffering a heart attack.
As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been wrestling with the conflict between allowing the day to be an exciting and joyful day where my kids get to shower me with homemade gifts and lots of snuggles, and the feeling that the day will tear open the wound I still feel from losing my dad.
Usually right about now I would be panicking to find a really funny card to send my dad, and setting a calendar appointment to make sure I called him and wished him a happy Father’s Day.
A part of me feels guilty because there’s a sense of relief that I don’t have to chat on the phone or mail off a greeting card. But honestly there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to be able to call my dad right now.
It hasn’t even been a whole year since he died, so I’ve yet to experience holidays without him. I don’t know what his birthday, anniversary of his death, or what Father’s Day will feel like many years from now. I imagine Christmas, Thanksgiving, and all of the major holidays are going to be a little harder now that we won’t be getting a package in the mail from grandpa, or calling home to let him talk to the grandkids.
As I process these feelings, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned. If you or your kids are going to spend Fathers Day without dad, maybe they’ll be helpful for you.
- It’s ok to grieve on Father’s Day. Don’t let the day be ruined, but take a few moments to remember him and miss him.
- If your dad was a Christian, celebrate that. While I think it’s important that I continue to grieve, I also get to rejoice in the fact that my dad loved Jesus, and he gets to celebrate Father’s Day this year with his heavenly father. That’s a beautiful thing.
- It’s not all about you. I can let this weekend be a horrible weekend, or I can celebrate the life my dad lived and help my kids remember their grandpa and the legacy he left behind. I can be grateful that my kids get to spend Father’s Day with their dad, and I can make lots of memories with them so that when I pass away they can remember me and the things I taught them.
- Don’t seclude yourself. A big part of me wants to be selfish and ask my wife if I can have some time alone on Father’s Day. It’s my day after all. Maybe you feel the same way, or maybe you don’t have a wife and kids. I would encourage you to seek others that you can hang out with on Sunday, or volunteer at the church. I know I’ll need to be around people to help me enjoy the day, even though I’ll be tempted to hide.
- Continue to live life. Paul teaches that for the Christian, dying is gain because you get to leave this sinful world and be reunited with Jesus face to face. But he also says it’s our privilege to enjoy life and share the gospel if God chooses for us to live. So don’t waste away your opportunity to continue your father’s legacy, or redeem it for God’s glory.