The Dad You Had, Have, or Didn’t

the dad you had, have or didn'tThe day to celebrate fathers is round the corner. But so many are mourning the dad who’s gone missing from their lives.

Dad died. Dad disappeared from your life. Dad was physically present but emotionally absent. Dad was awesome, amazing, a one-of-a-kind Dad — but he was next door.

As a hospice companion and Grief Guide, I’ve seen my fair share of Dad-mourning. I’ve watched entire families tell stories and play music and hold hands as they cry and send Dad off to wherever the soul goes.

I’ve also sat by the bedside of Dad (s) whose sons and/or daughters just couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him — even as he lay dying. So there I was, the substitute, the surrogate daughter holding a stranger’s hand and praying for his soul.

I’ve served a number of clients and seen how those who had a close relationship with Dad are devastated by his death. And others who are comforted that the Dad they loved so dearly is no longer suffering in a body that was battered by nine decades of life lived.

What is even more heartbreaking is holding space for a daughter (or son) who never knew Dad — because he was alcoholic, abusive, adulterous and angry. So she was forced to live life at a safe distance just so she’d be safe from the minefield of his life. The tears this daughter sheds when the Daddy she never got to have dies always takes my breath away.

That’s how complicated grief is. The dreams we were robbed of cause us more pain than the dreams we created which die eventually.

How then do you survive a day called Father’s Day — depending on the experience you shared with the man who was supposed to protect you and adore you? If you’re one of the lucky few who had that experience and Dad isn’t with you today, your heart will be broken. If you didn’t get to have the dream Dad, if, in fact, the man who brought you into this world betrayed you right after, you’ll still be heartbroken.

There is no perfect recipe in the world of imperfect Dads. No matter what your experience, send a blessing Dad’s way. The good Dad could always use a blessing. And the Dad who didn’t get it right depends on it.

As for me, I’ll miss the man who made me, loved me as well as he could, and blessed me his entire life. How are you celebrating your father today?

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