When Father’s Day Breaks Your Heart

Father's Day

7 has always seemed to be a number that brought joy and completion for our family. My husband and I ran a small family business for seven years together. We were members of the first church plant we had the opportunity to be a part of in Tampa for seven years. We had our first baby after struggling with infertility seven years after we got married. It’s always seemed that that amount of time marked the end of a good season or the beginning of something new and exciting until now…

This Father’s Day will mark the 7th one I’ll celebrate without my dad here on earth. I can’t believe I haven’t seen his usually stoic face crack open with a smile that spread wide from ear and ear and disarmed the room and me in a second in seven years. Or that I haven’t heard his reassuring calm and quiet voice or unmistakable laugh dancing in my ears in seven years either. He was the one that helped me with my math homework. He’s the one that taught me how to ride a bike and change a tire. He’s the one that showed up at every high school game whether I was going to ride the bench or not. He’s the one I called for advice. He was truly the strongest and steadiest human I’ve ever known.

My last memory of my father was waving goodbye and glancing up in my rearview to see him patiently standing watch from his usual post in the corner of the driveway of my childhood home. His position was intentionally chosen because it gave him the longest view of my trusty red Toyota Solara until I rounded the corner and started down the hill and was completely out of his line of sight. He was always standing watch until the day he wasn’t. His constant presence lent unwavering stability and the void his loss has left in my family’s life and my heart still feels like just as big of a gaping hole as it did that late September morning he died.

The first time I really fully understood what it means to grieve was when I learned that he had passed away and I was still over an hour away from the hospital. My husband was driving north on I-75 at breakneck speed to get us there in time to say goodbye, but it didn’t matter anymore. I don’t remember anything else about the drive until we arrived at the hospital’s emergency entrance. I have walked through more losses since that day…the loss of life, loss of pregnancies, loss of relationships and even the loss of homes. However, that’s the time that I remember being the freest to grieve.

If I can offer you anything as you head into this Father’s Day Weekend, it’s a simple reminder that you are free to grieve. There is space to celebrate your husband if you are married and other good men who are fathers in your life while still grieving the loss of your own dad. I read this in a recent Instagram post from Rebekah Lyon’s and it seems fitting:

“The surest thing I’ve learned about pain is you cannot escape it. You can shove it down, but it will come out sideways. It’s natural to mourn the loss of someone you’ve loved. It meant you gave your whole heart and it was worth it. So when you’re tempted to move on, don’t. You deserve all the healing God has for you when you’re ready.”

Suppressing grief isn’t going to help us along in our journeys toward healing. Let’s make some room for our pain instead of fighting so hard to move on. For me, that looks like letting some tears flow and sharing with my 3 and 1-year-old daughters pictures and stories about their papa. I think that just might be the most significant thing I can do in year 7 of living life without my dad here with us.

What is your favorite memory that you shared with your father?