By: Mark Mikel, October 2017
I would like to say that the first Father’s Day after Kelsey’s death was the hardest. But I cannot. They are all hard, and to rank which is the hardest is impossible to me.
I remember that the most important thing for me on that first Father’s Day was to have the entire family together. I did not care where we went, what we did, or if we went anywhere or did anything. I wanted to be with my three daughters and with my wife. I wanted us all together, even if only for a few hours.
Emily, our oldest daughter, was in Muncie that summer taking some summer classes at Ball State, so we decided to drive to her rather than have her come home. We had lunch (Jimmy John’s, I think), went to a movie (don’t remember which one), and did some shopping. The details weren’t important. I just wanted to be with my kids.
Losing a child is devastating, and the milestones, anniversaries, and holidays that come up are often times we relive and revisit those awful times when our child died. For me, every Father’s Day is rough (just as every Mother’s Day is tough for Kathy). The gaping hole we have in our hearts becomes a little more acute on those days, and as much as we may try to remember the great times and the happiness we shared when our child was with us, it still hurts.
Father’s Day is another time to remind myself that I need to be gentle with myself in my grief. The grief does a good enough job of beating me up. I don’t need to pile on the misery. Yes, there are times I think of the mistakes I have made as a father – with Kelsey and with Emily, Mattie, and McKenna. And yes, Father’s Day is one of the days it is easy to slip into the mire of self-pity and self-depreciation because my mood is often already lousy. But to do so is an insult.
It’s an insult to Kelsey and the love we shared as father and daughter. But on a grander scale it’s an insult to the other three, because I’m neglecting the here and now of our relationships. I’m neglecting to celebrate with them the good times I have had and still have with them. I’m forgetting the struggle they have been through losing their sister. I am being selfish on a day when I really just want to be with my daughters.
Take time on Father’s Day to reflect on those good memories with your child who has died. Take time to feel the loss and sorrow – just don’t stay there. Look around at the love that you have in your life with your spouse, your significant other, and especially any other children you have. Celebrate with them and honor your child and their gift of life by truly living on Father’s Day.
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