A column written for the Dallas Morning News on June 16, 2019 by DeAndrea Dare
Nothing can be said that can fix this pain or mend the hole in your heart that is the exact shape of your child. There is nothing that can be done to fill that void. But, what those of us who grieve our children who died want to tell you is this.
To the dads who grieve on Father’s Day:
A day like today is bittersweet. It is a day of celebration and honor, a day set aside to say thank you, to you. But the one (or ones) who should be thanking you, giving you cards, presenting you with yet another tie, are not here. It is a day filled with what should be, but what is not. Of what could have been, but instead is so different.
What can we say on this day, where words fall short and no Hallmark card can express the depth of what this day holds? Nothing can be said that can fix this pain or mend the hole in your heart that is the exact shape of your child. There is nothing that can be done to fill that void. But, what those of us who grieve our children who died want to tell you is this.
We see you. We know you. We are here for you. We love you.
We see you.
The one with the brave face. The one who carries on about his days in the same way that he did before. The one who can compartmentalize and stay in the routine because that is what is comfortable. We also see you turn away and sometimes step aside. We see you take a deep breath and put your arm around your partner or go to lift the spirits of your other children because the way you see it, you need to be there for them; they are your priority. We see you putting others before yourself. We see you doing the best that you can, day after day. We see your passion. We see your hurt. We see your love.
We know you.
We know that behind that stoic smile and the way you go about your day, there is a heart that yearns for the child that you can not wrap your arms around. We know you feel like you must be the strong one, the one who thinks that you cannot break down because if you break down, who will be there for everyone else? We know you are the fixer, but now there is nothing about this that can be fixed.
We know you hurt; we also know our culture does not give you permission to know that it is OK to grieve and to show your feelings and speak how you truly feel. We know that when someone asks, “How are you?” you lie, because you know that the other person would likely be uncomfortable with your truth. We know you, and we know your heart is breaking but that your heart is also bursting with the joy of being your child’s father. We know you, and we know this grief journey is anything but comfortable or easy.
We are here for you.
This is a lonely journey. Most people are unable to sit with pain, sadness, anger and uncertainty. But there are many who can and many who will. We want you to grieve in a way that is meaningful and helpful and in a way that allows for expression of all of your feelings, because they are real. It is OK to not be OK. You are living the unimaginable and yet it is your reality. You do not have to walk this road alone. We want to walk the journey with you. We want to remember with you. We want to listen, cry, sit with you and celebrate you because you are an incredible father.
We love you.
No one grieves the same. No one can fully understand how you feel because no one is you. You are often the overlooked one. After a child dies, most people focus on the mom while you are left to find your own way. But you are equally as important. Your feelings matter. Your relationship with your child matters and continues to matter. We may not be perfect in the way that we care for you but hear this: We love you.
No matter how long your child lived, we know that it never could have been long enough. Father’s Day is a bittersweet day. But, you, you are a father, nothing in life or in death can take that from you. You are theirs and they are yours and that is something to celebrate today and every day.
Happy Father’s Day.
DeAndrea Dare is the founder and executive director of A Memory Grows, a nonprofit in Fort Worth that provides retreats and special events for parents who are grieving the deaths of their children. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.