What do I do? How do I handle a day set apart for celebrating “Fathers” when my Father and husband (father of my 3 children) died 8 months apart from each other. Dreaded? Painful? There are no words to desribe the void. I couldn’t avoid it, reminders were everyone . . . . advertisements for Father’s Day gifts in the mail, on the TV, in shopping malls, radio . . . .special recognition anticipated at church (to be honest I avoided church on Father’s Day for several years after my husband and father died).
The first Father’s Day with both of these men out of my life, I came up with the brainy idea to take my 14, 12 and 8 year old on a backpack trip(first time by myself) . . . . after all, their dad loved to backpack so it would be honoring to him and we could somewhat avoid the “in your face reminders” of our fathers not being present.
With all gear in tow including a back pack stove(our means for cooked food that I had just learned how to use a couple days prior), we set out for a short backpack to Twin Lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This journey of grief I was on was like this back pack trip, I had to learn to do things differently on the adventure called “life”.
Tip #1 Do things differently
Of course things are different! I’m talking about to be intentional about doing something different coupled with something familiar. We had been to this same place a several times but not without their father. It helps to make some plans. It doesn’t have to be as intense as week-end backpack. Maybe this Father’s Day you can intentionally do something different and that’s also honoring to your children’s father.
After arriving at the place where we parked our cars, put the back packs on (heavier than I wanted) . . . a stark reminder that my husband had always carried the bulk of the weight, but not today . . . today we would trudge ahead not knowing what was around the bend but looking for the good. I looked at our 3 children and was proud - all decked for the hike, hauling their own heavier than usual backpacks, none the less, ready to go.
I was doing these things “solo” now and didn’t like it but I had no choice so I trudged ahead one step at a time. Our youngest started to complain about the weight of his pack and wanted someone to carry it for him. Not an option for this trip. My pack was already heavier than it had ever been. Instead I encouraged him to put one foot in front of the other, slow and steady.
Tip #2 Take one step at a time
The load gets heavy. It may feel like you can’t go on. We would like the rule book . . . .you know the the abc’s of how to walk through grief and face days like Father’s Day. It doesn’t exist. I encourage you to take one step at a time, put one foot in front of the other, face one moment as you walk through Father’s Day.
Walking along the trail, I was struck with a fear of being the only one responsible for these precious children. I had to face the fear to keep from getting paralyzed in my own thoughts. Praying as I walked, I chose to focus on the present beauty around us. Dense forest of evergreen trees, colorful wildflowers in the meadow, my brave and beautiful children. Courageously we trudged along the trail, (luckily it was well marked), we came to the top of the first mountain and were met with the vast beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with snow covered tops. Breath-taking.
Tip #3 Focus on the present
There’s temptation to live in the past with constant reminders of “how life use to be.” I urge you to look right now . . . yes this moment . . at who and what is right in front of you. . . . your children, each with their own uniqueness, other people in your life, the beauty around you (may be hard to find, but it’s there if you look for it) and the blessings. Notice it and take if all in.
As we descended the mountain crossing along others, we came around a bend to find snow, not just a patch, the whole area was covered in snow!! I had to chuckle . . . my husband actually liked “snow camping” something I had never wanted to experience. Here I was with our 3 children trudging now through snow, a new experience and not so easy with full backpacks strapped to our backs. It was an adventure. Their dad use to say, "The adventure begins when you leave the house."
Tip #4 Be open to new experiences
Do something new, something that may be an adventure or bring a chuckle to you and your children. Open their eyes to realize . . although hard, . . life can still be good. If you only focus on “what was”, you can get stuck, unable to move forward. Being open to “what’s around the bend” New experiences, build resilience, new memories. and give hope for a future.
Fortunately we did not have to pitch our tent in the snow. We did find dry ground, we spent two days and nights in the wilderness, caught trout for dinner in the stream, gazed at the starry night and remembered the wonderful memories we had made at this same exact site. We laughed, we were silly and we shared stories. Had my husband not chosen to include his wife and 3 little ones in his love of hiking outdoors, we would not have been there on the 1st Father’s Day without him.
Tip #5 Remember the memories
Tell your stories, the blessings of a father’s touch on your life. This is different than being “stuck in the past.” There’s a joy to remember memories and live in the present. Sometimes your children need a boost to get started. Start off a story with . .”remember when we or dad” . . . . As mom begins to remember, their memories kick in gear and the blessings begin.
These tips are not without pain and struggle. It is hard. It's difficult. I urge you to trudge forward and face the difficulties. But you do not have to do it alone. I'd love to share some resources with you. Give me a call for a free phone consultation at 559-577-3994 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org