Today is my first Australian Father’s Day in Australia in 10 years. The last one I celebrated here in Perth, my father had died 5 months before. I was a mess. In the 10 years that passed, my cousin and best friend lost both her parents within 1 year of eachother and a couple of friends from my childhood lost there fathers and wrote to me asking for advice on how to cope with the loss.
I have often paid tribute to my Dad on social media because being away from home, I felt I needed to anchor myself to the relationship I had with him. I didn’t have his favourite chair or watch or photos around me to comfort me with his existence because I was nowhere near the family home. Now I am typing this sitting in the bed he once shared with my Mother and I do my craft in the room he passed away in. He is everywhere around me and I find great peace in those reminders of him. However, in the first 5 years after his death, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being reminded of his loss every day.
Somewhere, someone will hopefully read this who has just lost their amazing Dad and they will want some sort of guide to know that things get better, that the hurting stops a little less. I want to tell that person, if that’s you, that it gets better and easier but you will never stop missing your Dad. I am 30 now but even writing this reminds me that my father will not see me get married or have a child. It still reduces me to tears. On Father’s Day, well it’s easy to feel the “absence” more.
So here are a few “tips” or words of advice to help you:
If you are suffering from a recent loss, take your time. I rushed to make myself feel better, I was hard on myself in my recovery from the grief. In a very “Asian” way, I told myself you need to “move on faster.” I event continued at Uni and didn’t take a break, I got the best grades of my entire degree the semester my father died. A sure sign that I buried my sadness in my books. So, be kind to yourself and take your time. Allow the wound to heal in its own time and it will.
Talk to people who can empathise about the loss. It’s a profound loss to lose a parent, my mother says it’s only second to the pain of losing a child. I had a lot of people who spoke to me, who “tried” to be nice after Dad died. One girl even said to me “I know exactly how you feel because I lost my running coach and we were really close.” I was overcome with unexpected anger at this. How could she compare the loss of my father to the loss of her coach? I stayed very clear of that girl from then on. So try and shut out the noise and sometimes it’s better to be alone with your thoughts than to have ignorant people chattering away at you.
Pay tribute and enjoy the memories. The best thing about being 10 years on and being home in Perth again is that I can talk about the wonderful things my Dad did without being sad. The sadness has been replaced by a profound gratitude that I had 19 years with a wonderful person. I feel sad for those who were too young to remember their fathers when they passed or who had fathers who walked out. Mine was so present for all the time I knew him. I love looking in the mirror now and seeing my face, an almost female replica of him as a young man. I am so proud to be his daughter. I am so proud of the mark he left on the lives of those around him.
A couple of weekends ago the most wonderful thing happened. My father’s best mate met my boyfriend. Harry said to Jon: “You would’ve loved Robert, he was a great bloke. Boy did he love his golf. He brought me out to the driving range and tried to teach me.” In that one precious sentence, I learned something new about my Dad. I never knew that he tried to take Harry golfing. I realised a little part of Dad still lives, I am still learning new things about a man who has been gone for 10 years. I realised our fathers do continue to live on. It’s not just something they say to children in Disney movies, my father lives on in memories and when we share those memories everyone benefits.
So don’t do the “Asian” thing like I was told by my Aunties. Pay tribute, talk about your Dad, post about the great things he did on Facebook or how you wish he was here to see something you’ve achieved. That’s how you keep that memory alive and you touch someone else who now gets to see what an amazing man he was.
To the fatherless, on Father’s Day, it absolutely gets easier and better. To our Dads!