“If you had a good dad, then Father’s Day can be sorrowful and maybe even bittersweet as you remember good times. If you had a more difficult relationship, the day can bring up feelings of loneliness and sadness. Or if you’re a father suffering the loss of a child, it can amplify those feelings of loss and bereavement.” “Walter Carter Funeral Home”
We find ourselves in strange times. Virus, pandemic, shelter-in, social distance; does it feel as if our grief is magnified? That’s because it is. Whether you’re a griever of many years or decades even, or you are a new griever, now is added the grief of our time. The stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, acceptance is what our world is experiencing and has been since February or March. This is layered on top of our grief over our loved one. We flounder to figure it all out with no end in sight.
Then the days of recognition of Mothers and then Fathers comes along. The calendar continues to move. The sun rises every morning and sets every night.
Where do we find ourselves at any given moment? One of the poems that has run in this newsletter for years has a phrase about children coming together from all over the country to be with their dad’s on Father’s Day. Today as I write this, that seems pretty questionable and, even, antiquated as one considers airplanes, rest stops, trains, etc. I will share with you that Mother’s Day weekend was pretty awful for me. I couldn’t do my usual with my family as we were all still sheltering-in-place. I couldn’t spend time in my garden because the weather was lousy. I was very low. When my daughter, Jen, and grandson, Ryan, popped in for 10 minutes in the late afternoon, I burst into tears and just sobbed as I hugged them. I wondered that weekend what it was like for you who had mom’s die or for parents who’d had kids die. I thought of siblings left behind. I heard stories about parents trying to “buck up” for their surviving kids and of kids trying to make the day extra because of that one who was dead. But it’s hard to pretend, isn’t it? Who are we really fooling?
Now along comes Father’s Day and what will we make of it? We can now meet in groups of 10 with social distancing and masks. 6 of us can gather outside a restaurant. I imagine many, many more will make an attempt to be together both as a family and…then…have some “alone” time to reflect. Those of us who have had moms and dads die by suicide feel that ever present sense of abandonment.
“Wasn’t I enough reason to stay?” we may ask. No, you weren’t is my answer because by the time they’d reached that dark place, they’d reassured themselves that we would be fine; we’d grieve for a while and then be ok. None of them knew the depth of what we’d be left with but then it isn’t even close to the depth of pain and despair that they were in.
I also add the layer of having had the May SOS meeting via Zoom. It is the plan in June to meet on the lawn of the church. Bring a chair and whatever you want to eat or drink. I have a call in to the church to see if we’d have bathroom access.
Survivors still need one another. We still need to gather and talk and be together. Maybe we can’t hug, maybe we’ll wear masks, maybe, maybe, maybe…. We need to be together to grieve as a community. We need to push through these layers of grief and reach out to one another and say, “Hey, Friend, I’ve been where you are.” Or, “Hey Friend, I need help.” Shared grief helps.
We will meet prior to Father’s Day just because of the way the calendar falls this year. The days leading up to any major holiday and/or observance are hard. Sometimes those days are harder than the day itself. However you remember your dad, it is YOUR way of remembering. For those dads who have had their sons or daughters die by suicide, your memories will be what they are.
This can be a very hard day for you. Sometimes I think acknowledging that is key to getting through the day. Reach out, cry, laugh, mourn…. simply “be”. On most days, that’s as good as it gets. It’s a “day”. It’s 24 hours. You will survive…Choose to survive…. Remember you are not alone. You walk with an army of survivors shoulder-to-shoulder…. lean on them….