I lost my 3-year old little girl on October 30, 2015. Her name was Canaan and she and I had one of the strongest bonds I’ve ever experienced with another human. Her brilliant spirit, the determination in her eyes to get through another day and her ability to snap me back to reality when I started losing sight of what really matters, touched and transformed the very core of my self. It took me a while to realize that I spent so much of my energy looking for a miracle for Canaan till I realized she is the miracle.
The minutes, to hours that turned into days and months without her were heart wrenching. I would mourn for her — for her human experience being filled with so much physical challenge, I would mourn for me because I’m not longer needed to care on such a vulnerable way and I would mourn for the absence of her presence. Grief is a beast and one that cannot be mastered. It’s a process that gets easier and more difficult and then a bit easier again. I guess, it’s more about learning to dance with it then it is getting through it.
So, it’s my second Father’s Day without her. No tubes, no alarms, no screeching and no E.R. visits are going to happen today. Even with four other children, Father’s Day is still all too quiet, all to inactive. There’s a few things I’ve learned the last two years that have helped me remain mentally sound, while honoring my loss.
It’s okay to be sad.
Be sad. It’s okay. Social pressures could tempt you to feel like it’s wrong to be sad. It’s only natural that when you lose someone, that you loved so radically, to feel sad. I learned early on in my grieving process that saddens is neutral and that I could either try to ignore it or indulge in it, neither of which are a healthy response. When I simply acknowledge the sadness and allow my heart to feel it, I find it serves me in healing, remembering and being more present. Yet, if I ignore it or indulge in it, I’m left defeated, angry, depressed or in deep frustration. So, if you’re a dad and lost someone dearly close to you, be sad. It’s okay.
It’s okay to be happy.
In Western society we don’t do too well with the type of thinking that leads to paradoxes. How could I be sad and happy in the same moment? Well, you can. I found that when I allow the sadness to be present, it actually sobers me to be more aware of what I have today. I have four beautiful children still living, I have the most gorgeous and powerful wife on the planet and I have a job that I adore. I’ve learned to hold sadness and gratitude, which leads to happiness, in the same space, at the same moment.
It’s okay to not know.
You may have no idea what to do today, how to “be,” or how to respond to your internal emotions… and that too is okay. Give yourself some slack, some space, some grace to not have it all figured out. Many times, the answers you’re looking for come from simply accepting the confusion, the cloudiness and the inability to figure it out. Let go of logic for a moment and let your mind work on your behalf in a place of letting go of the control. You may be surprised how intelligent your subconscious mind can be.
From one grieving dad to another, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for the pain, the loss, the black hole of your child/parent/spouse not being with you today. There is no resolution to the pain of loss aside from fully embracing it and allowing it to speak to you. Today, I’m with you. I’ll be sad and happy and have many unanswered questions right along side you. Honor yourself today and tell yourself, “it’s okay.”
Guest story by Joey Papa