To The Grieving Dads On Father’s Day

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Ethan Sykes/Unsplash

Trigger warning: child loss

Since my daughter’s passing, the rest of the world seems to focus on my wellbeing while somewhat forgetting about my husband’s. To this day, I don’t understand it. When did we start lacking such great empathy for the bereaved father? My newsfeed is flooded with heartfelt posts in the days before and the day of Bereaved Mother’s Day, but it’s seldom I see much about the grieving father on any given day, let alone, Father’s Day.

But he lost a child too.

Understand this, I had never seen my husband cry until we lost our daughter. Never. And to witness such a strong man vulnerably grieve, plea, and sob aloud over the death of his then-youngest child, something he could never tangibly fix himself, is a chilling image that will forever be etched inside the innermost parts of me.

For the first time, we were faced with something that was infinite in the most traumatizing, profound way. We will never meet another person who understands so intimately what it was like to lose our daughter. His hurt is my hurt, and mine is his, in a way I’ve yet to find outside of child loss.

Courtesy of Caila Smith

Although mothers and fathers may grieve the death of their child differently, their hearts are crumpled up, stomped on and mangled all the same, and we need to normalize this. Today. Right here, right now, on Father’s Day. My heart is damaged for me, but it throbs in pain far more for my husband and every other bereaved father grieving in silence due to the stigmatization toxic masculinity has brought on. What a sad day it is when society creates an image of how one ought to be, and its hold oppresses a man in mourning.

We talk about the grieving mother, but how can we forget the father? Why are we dismissing the one who brought his grief to work with him in those early days, because this world stops for no tragedy? When did we forget long nights spent making funeral arrangements for his child alongside his mother too? Though he smiles, inside he grieves deeply and sincerely. Time will have moved on, but he will have stayed. He appears whole, but just beneath the shallow surface of that exterior, whole pages of his life’s story have been ripped out before they had a chance to be written.

On the morning my own daughter died, I rode with the EMTs to the hospital with my daughter in the ambulance. As the paramedics started running out our front door, they said one parent could ride along, and I didn’t give my husband a glimpse of an opportunity before I started running toward the ambulance.

My mom was already at our house to stay with our older children while we went to the hospital, and she still remembers my husband caving to the floor and sobbing the deepest, saddest sobs before coming to the hospital.

It was the cry you make when you know your child is dead, but you’d been holding back your emotions because your wife still had some small hope. He knew I needed it, even if it were just a few minutes’ worth.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a grieving father on Father’s Day, but I find those tangled into this unlucky club to be the strongest and most admirable men out there. And if this is you, I don’t know why the world falls so short at acknowledging your hurt.

It will never be okay that something so unfixable and permanently tragic had to happen to your family. It’s not alright that you have to grieve on a day you are meant to celebrate and feel appreciated. These aspects and this version of your life will never be okay. But it is okay that you, yourself, were and are unable to fix what has already happened.

Courtesy of Caila Smith

It’s all right if life is not as it once was, and some days are filled with more sorrow than the others. For that is grief. You haven’t failed because your child died, and your family needs more than just outright strength to navigate the toughest days yet.

You’ve shown your strength for so long already, and you are seen. Even in the fog-filled days of acute grief, you put your own needs aside for the well-being of your entire family. It wasn’t asked of you, maybe you didn’t even want that responsibility, but you grabbed it by the reins because you are Dad.

Your child died, and it’s not okay. But you are more than the father who lost his child. Though a piece of your heart is and will always be missing, you are still you, your family is still a family, and you are still Daddy.

It’s Father’s Day, and I hope you, the Bereaved Father, know I’m thinking of you again.

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