It’s Not Too Late To Buy the Perfect Father’s Day Gift… unless he’s dead.

It’s hard to forget about father’s day, especially when I keep receiving emails from The Source and Canadian Tire reminding me that “It’s Not Too Late To Buy the Perfect Father’s Day Gift!”, and in my case, it kind of is. Way too late because he’s been dead for 17 years. Anyways, alive, he wouldn’t know what to buy at those stores unless they had a special limited edition of cashmere sweaters or guitars. The emails offered me different categories:the  “Classic Dad,” the “Backyard Dad,” the “Active Dad,” and the “Tech-Head Dad,” but no one seems to have any gifts for the “Dead Musician Social Worker Dad.” A new market to study?

What is a classic dad? My friend’s dad has been laid off for two years and sits on the couch all day watching cricket, another started an affair after 30 years of marriage and gave away most of his family’s saving to invest in his mistress’s restaurant, another friend’s husband works in finance until 2 am every night and his new daughter doesn’t recognize him. Maybe other markets Canadian Tire could dominate could be “Sad Dad” or “Cheating Dad” or “Workaholic Dad”.  Maybe they would have Sunday specials on psychologists, condoms or espresso machines?

On father’s day whether we’re mourning a dad who is physically dead, or unavailable for another reason, the grief might hang in the air like smog. It’s not necessarily harder on this annual event. Like having an amputated leg, grief is always there. I am steadily aware of not having a father, a dull pain in the stump where a leg used to be, and I still have a fantastic life full of laughter and great relationships.

Father’s Day used to be really upsetting. Today it just adds this element of feeling like I’m at a carnival (hooray!) and this voice announces into a megaphone “Now it’s time for the relay race!” And I’m like “Whoohoo, I love activities!” Then I realize I can’t really participate, unless I hop awkwardly and my team is prepared to come in last. Then everyone else pairs off giving me looks of half-pity half-embarrassment, hoping I would just not be there so they could enjoy the carnival.

In these moments it is still easy to be overcome with sadness and bitterness. I did for years. I let that pain pull me down a distracting cycle of bulimia, partying, and unfulfilling relationships. This avoidant pattern lasted for over a decade until I realized that when I chose to get lost in moments of mourning and anger is when the foggy isolation of grief was thickest. As  C.S. Lewis said on losing his beloved wife “And suddenly in that very moment when I mourned H. the least, I remembered her best.” So mourning can be soothing and necessary on one had, and excessive and isolating on the other. Both of these things are true. There lies the complexity in grief.

On this father’s day, I still allow myself to open fully to the pain that comes up, and be with it in nourishing ways. These days I put on an essential oil diffusers in every room (Peppermint to feel uplifted and awake), make alone time for a longer than usual meditation and yoga practice (the Yoga  for Grief sequence I teach and practice always amazes me with its potency), or get inspired by the song he wrote in 10 minutes for my mum when they first met in the 80s, and write my own music.

I let myself feel the pain and try to make little decisions around the food I eat (nutrient dense) and my activities (outside in nature, with music, and movement ideally)  because it allows me to feel a little bit better. Often my bitterness turns to sadness then ripples out into acceptance and compassion for others who might be in their own pain, worse than mine likely, for many reasons today. Then I can get back to serving and enjoying the life that’s here.

Other times, I may still feel angry and dramatically drag the Canadian Tire email selling me fishing lures towards the trash icon, then delete it while making a bomb exploding sound with my voice then yell “Take that you insensitive scumbags!” And that’s okay too.

How about you? Are you grieving the loss of your father today? Are you feeling the pinch of wishing he were different? Are you parenting younger children without their father?  How have you talked about the reality of grief in your family? How have you spoken of the love that continues, even with the empty space? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you to Alison Zeidman for inspiring some dark comedy

Thank you to Megan Devine for inspiring me bring a brave raw perspective on grief