On June 11th, 1976, whilst we were on holiday in Wales my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 34.
I was 11 months old.
Whilst growing up, Father’s day was irrelevant to me. He was rarely spoken about and Father’s day was never acknowledged. It is only now, in my 40s, that I have really started to take a moment on this day to think of him and carve out my own special way to have a connection with him.
It can be so easy to hold onto the narrative that when a child is so young, they will not be affected by a parent’s death as they have no memory of him.
My body remembers.
My heart and my soul remember.
I created a story that I was glad my father had died. That I was better off without him. I was fiercely proud of how my mum had raised me single handily and did not believe I had missed out on anything. I had heard negative stories of his personality and had clung onto those so that I did not have to feel any of the pain of the loss and abandonment that may be lingering underneath.
Aged 23, I developed gallstones and went to see a Holistic Therapist who told me gallstones can often be the result of blocked emotions and asked me if anything traumatic happened to me when I was younger. Looking blankly, eventually I said that my father had died. She responded by saying, “And you took on your mother’s grief.” She asked me his name and as I said “Andrew,” tears started to fall. I was shocked as I had no awareness I felt anything for this stranger. That evening I went and called a helpline, began Counselling and slowly started my own journey with my grief.
Throughout my life I often sought male validation in an attempt to fill the void that was left by my father. I have also grown up with an existential outlook having come face to face with death at such a young age. An important part of my own healing was getting to know him. I created my own photo album, read obituary letters written about him and slowly started to build a connection. I needed to bring him to life and get to know him in order to grieve him. A few years ago, I took my own children to watch a pantomime put on by the amateur dramatic company that he was a huge part of shortly before he died. I continue to find ways to keep my connection alive with this man I unfortunately only knew for 11 months of my life. That void inside is no longer empty.
Working as a Therapist, I see daily how important it is for children to know they are loved by their parents. They need to know they are loved and that they are important. Unfortunately, the majority of adult clients I work with lack this belief because they did not receive this message clearly enough from their parents.
So, on this day, I applaud all those fathers out there who show up for their children and I want you to know how incredibly important you are. Children are very good at believing your absence may be their fault. So, as you receive your Father’s day messages, make sure your own children, whether they are 5 or 50, know that you love them and that they matter.
If anyone is seeking any grief counselling then please get in touch at Counsellingamelia@gmail.com.
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