Dear Grieving Daughter,
Grieving the loss of a father is heartbreaking.
My heart breaks for you. It truly does. I don’t know if you grew up with an absent father, if he passed away, or if he was the best father in the world but no longer on the planet. Whatever your story, I am sincerely heartbroken for you. I know the sting of Father’s Day without a father every year. The pain of that loss is inevitable in just about any holiday, or big moment that you imagined your father to be present.
The loss of a father is a huge loss with big holes to fill.
Unfortunately, I know the hills and the valleys, and I know what it is like to join that club that nobody wants to be a part of. Do you know the one I’m talking about? It’s the Club of Fatherless Daughters in the World. No, it’s not a real club, but it’s a club none the less, wrought with emotions, and one that nobody wants to be a part of.
I am grateful to say that I had a father in my life as I grew up. I lived my first 11 years of life under the same roof before he and my mother got divorced. From that point forward, I saw him every other weekend, most of the time.
I wish I could say I never worried about him canceling our weekend, but I did because sometimes, he had other plans. I wish I could say he was at every single piano recital or dance recital, but he wasn’t. Sadly, I can’t recall him being at any of them. I also wish I could say that he didn’t miss a marching band performance, however, he missed most of them.
He did come to my graduation from high school and as time wore on, he began changing, showing up, and being more active in my life. He was there for my Bachelor’s graduation, which pushed him to his physical limits and beyond. Unfortunately, he was physically unable to make it to my Master’s graduation, but I knew he was celebrating that victory without his presence. By this time in life, I really did know his heart.
If I blame him for the bad, I got to blame him for the good too.
My Dad was truly one-of-a-kind, and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you a bit about him.
He was the smartest man I knew, with a 9th grade education, full of emotional strength that never gave up on anything, the go-to guy for advice of any kind, the businessman, the entrepreneur, the fish-fry man, the picky man, the straight-forward man, the one who loved the water (lake, boating, fishing, beach), the Harley guy, the traveler, the one to give you the “shirt-off-his-back” if you needed it, the one who gave the biggest bear hugs that sometimes I couldn’t breathe, the one who taught me to make chocolate gravy just right (among other valuable lessons), the one that took care of his family and provided well, the one who worked even after his “retirement” up until the very day he died, and so much more.
His expectations were very high for us kids and he only wanted the best for us. He would definitely let us know when we screwed up, but he was so proud of us in any accomplishments that we made. He was a great cook (even though he liked to eat everything burnt to a crisp), but he would do his best to cook your food the way you wanted to eat it.
As adults, he always made us a big breakfast when we visited, with the best chocolate gravy. Just saying.
He loved to make people laugh and when I was younger, I was always anxious about friends coming over because he would always tease us and embarrass me because he wanted us to have fun and laugh. My friends always loved him.
Over the years, he told me to listen to him because he was always right. There was this one time he thought he was wrong, but then determined in the end, he was in fact right about that thing too.
He certainly wasn’t the perfect father by any means, but that’s okay. He was my father, and I was thankful to have him in my life at all.
Looking back, I know he did the best he could as he lived out his own struggles, regrets, and triumphs.
It’s been 4 years since I was woken up in the middle of the night with one of the most dreaded phone calls ever. That call was from my step-mother, and because she is one of the strongest women I know, she was able to get the words out of her mouth to tell me that my father had breathed his last breath here on Earth.
Grief is so hard!
After 4 years of not hearing my Dad’s voice, laugh, or no longer feeling his big bear hugs, sometimes it feels like an eternity… but then other days it seems like this all just happened the other night. The strangest, most insignificant thing reminds me of him, and I hear his voice in my head frequently.
I still miss him daily. There are good days and bad days, but in the end, I know I will get through it. Life just looks different without him here. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am strong.
I am strong. I can get through this because I am strong.
While I miss him, there is still so much to do in my life.
No, he wasn’t perfect by any means but that’s okay.
Like I said earlier, if I blame him for the bad, I have to blame him for the good too. If I honestly do that, I can’t ignore the love and value he brought to my life more often than the heartache and hurt. I knew he loved me and I can be content in that.
Without a doubt, I know that he would want me to miss him a little but pick up and do what I got to do to be the best person I could be. He would want me to love others and do for others. He would want me to continue to set goals, work towards them, and teach my kids the same.
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That’s my truth about my father. I don’t know what yours is.
BUT I know this…
I know the Comforter, so I know there is peace where God dwells.
I know there is a Heavenly Father that is available to fill in any holes where there may be lack, hurt, or missing pieces.
Psalm 68:5 ~ A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
I also know that God is perfect. He will never let me down. That doesn’t mean that he protects me from the natural consequences of my own poor choices. That means He is there to be my strength when I have none.
Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
He is there to give me what I need to help others in their story. He is there to give me forgiveness when I mess up. And one other thing, He is there to give me what I need so I can forgive others.
I want you to understand that no matter what your story is and no matter how truly horrible it is, He is knocking at your door and wants nothing more than to come in and be your light.
There are 5 steps I take when grief or sadness overwhelm me.
*I acknowledge it is there, allow myself to feel the emotion and cry for a moment.
*I pray to ask God to reveal to me an area of thankfulness in the midst of the pain. If I acknowledge the bad, I want to acknowledge the good too. I walk through some good memories. It can be very helpful to talk to others about what your feeling or the memories.
*I ask God if there is any unforgiveness that I am carrying in me that I need to let go of and begin the process of letting it go. This can include writing a letter to the person or speaking out loud as if they are right there with you.
*I put on worship music, close my eyes, dance or go for a walk, and let God take over. Yes, even though I don’t feel like it.
*I add to my thankfulness journal and move on.
Just a little something to ponder …
I have not had to endure the pain that many have experienced. By some accounts, I have lived a fairly okay life.
With that being said, I have also known a lot of pain, hurt, and sadness along the way. I have had to overcome the challenge of insecurity and being a shy introvert in a world where extroverts are seemingly considered more of a norm. I have been bullied and made to feel, less than. I have suffered rejection from people I love and unfortunately, I have known many losses across my life so far.
But nothing that I have endured will ever come close to touching the vast amount of love God has for us all. As a parent, I only have a glimpse of that love in the way I love my kids. A glimpse. His love fully engulfs the innermost holes. His desire for us is stronger than I can imagine in my finite mind. His ability to comfort us in times of pain is completely unfathomable.
He can take the most broken parts of us and make them new again. We just have to earnestly seek Him. We can trust Him because He is faithful.
So, yes, I desperately miss my dad even after four years, but I go to the Comforter and know that my story isn’t over yet.
You may be interested in another story I wrote about my faith and how I coped with the loss of my firstborn son. You can find the 12-part series here.