What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

I never quite know what to expect on Father’s Day.

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It always includes celebration of my husband who is a selfless and engaged father to our girls.  I feel thankful for my father-in-law who is so attentive with my girls and supportive of our family.  I spend time reflecting on the step-father in my life who embraces my family as his own and loves us so completely.

Mostly, though, I think about my dad who has been gone as many years now as I knew him…. half of my life. Sometimes I have happy recollections and feel gratitude for the time I had with him.  Other times, Father’s Day is a dark day, full of anger, resentment at the happy celebrations around me, and feelings of abandonment.

This past Sunday was somewhere in between.  I was doing okay until I watched this short film:

And What Remains  It is beautiful and moving and for whatever reason, sent me into a spiral of grief and sadness.

They whys and hows of the waves of grief have no explanation.  I can just tell you that I had not felt so overwhelmed by grief for a very long time.

My compassionate and ever so patient husband does everything right in those moments.  He doesn’t press me to talk or try to fix anything.  And yet, in that moment, his attempts at comfort were not what I needed.

His dad lives 20 minutes down the road and can be reached within seconds on the phone, visited within a half hour in the car.

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I have a long-time friend who lost her father suddenly a few years ago.  She is one of the most genuine, honest and insightful people I know.  In that moment of my grief, I sent her a text to “check on her,” but what I really wanted was to remind myself that I was not alone.

Here are some excerpts from our text conversation (shared with permission)….

“A very hard bond we share.  Oddly today is harder than years past.  I suppose because I haven’t thought about him in a while.”

“I am struggling today for some reason.  It’s hard sometimes, recognizing the memories are fading.”

“Yes.  The realization that there won’t be new ones and we’ll keep reliving the same ones.”

“I feel like I’m grasping to hold onto them, yet it’s not working.”

“I remember him now more as an idea than as a person.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes it does.”

“I’m sorry yet thankful to share this hard bond with you.  Most people our age don’t understand.”

“They don’t.  I’m thankful for you because it’s hard for anyone to grasp until they experience it.”

“I see pictures of him sometimes and realize I had not imagined his face in a long time.  His voice is hard to hear.”

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This conversation brought more comfort than I can convey.  Just knowing that she was experiencing some of the same emotions I felt so strongly made me feel that I wasn’t alone.

I sent messages to a couple other friends who have lost their fathers recently.  I wanted them to know they weren’t alone either, and that I was praying for them.

Isn’t that what we all need at our very core?  To know we aren’t alone?

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Later that evening, I felt compelled to look through old photos.  I came across this one, saw the date and couldn’t stop staring.

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This was my school photo, taken my junior year, weeks before my father’s death.  He was actually dying as I smiled for the camera.  I found it so astounding to look at this photograph and feel I was looking at a stranger.  There are so many things I would love to tell this girl in the photo.  I would tell her it is okay to be sad and to hurt.  I would tell her pretending won’t get her anywhere.  I would tell her the guy she is already in love with will never leave her side and will be her husband.  I would tell her God will send strong, loving men into her life to be father figures to her.  Mostly, though, I would tell her she’s not alone.  I would tell her that God will step in as Father.  And I would tell her that she has friends who care and always will, even 16 years from now.

Thanks to my friend (you know who you are) for reminding me I’m not alone.  Love you.

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Are there particular holidays or days of the year that are difficult for you?  We all have lost someone we love…. do you find it is helpful to talk with someone who has been through a similar experience?  Do you find comfort in using your difficult experiences to help others going through similar situations?  I would love your feedback!

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Read more about my struggle with faith after my father’s death on my post, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.

What I Gather About Snares

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If it had not been the LORD who was on our side – let Israel now say -

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,

Then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

Then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

Then over us would have gone the raging waters.

Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124)

Flood, torrent, raging waters…. Mine was grief.  A flood of grief.  A torrent of grief.  Raging waters of grief.  Grief swallowed me alive at times.

My father, a shining beacon of strength and faith, was taken, ravaged by cancer, at my young age of 16.  The grief was natural.  I probably unknowingly went through the classic stages.  Somewhere along the new trajectory of my life, though, the grief became a snare.  What had been a natural response to the loss of a loved one became a snare that caged me in.  I was angry at God.  I blamed my poor choices on my monumental loss.  I set unrealistic expectations for myself, trying to honor the memory of my father.  I rarely expressed my grief out loud.  Panic attacks began, but few knew.  I became a pretender, capable of appearing fine to anyone and everyone.  Meanwhile my broken heart affected nearly every thought passing through my head.

The transition to healing is fuzzy in my mind.  My broken heart was eventually mended by my Healer.  Part of the healing process took place as a result of that line in bold in Psalm 124.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

In my times of prayer, I had an image in my head of myself as a bird, flying out of a snare.  To my amazement, after leaving, I would turn around and fly right back into the trap.  That soft, still voice began to deal with me.  He wanted the snare to be BROKEN.  Only when that snare of debilitating grief was truly broken could I be truly free.

Grief certainly isn’t the only snare I have faced in my life.  Many of us find ourselves in snares, sometimes without even realizing it.  Maybe it is a snare of:

Grief

Fear

Anxiety

Depression

Bitterness

Anger

Maybe it something else entirely.  Many of these emotions are natural.  But when they become a flood, a torrent or raging waters that swallow us alive, we must reach out for help.  Often turning to a trusted friend is helpful.  Sometimes professional help is needed.  However, first and foremost, we must reach out to our Savior.

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

I believe that so often He is there, waiting for us to cry out to him for help, wanting to step in on our behalf. His love for us is immense enough that He doesn’t want to see us waste away in a snare.  He wants us to soar.  Beyond that, He wants to BREAK THE SNARE!  Through the help of Jesus Christ we can be victorious and never return to our prison of shame, anger or worry.  Too often we have some type of spiritual breakthrough and experience a moment of freedom, only to fly right back into our snare.  Why?  We are assured in Galatians 5:1:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Have you ever found yourself in some type of spiritual snare?  Has anyone ever felt a momentary breakthrough or freedom, only to return to the same cage?  This is a great opportunity to share your story of freedom!  I sure would love to hear it!

Also, if you need prayer or support for an overwhelming situation in your life, please feel free to contact me.  God Bless and BE FREE!!

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