A Different Dad's Day, with Grief, Happiness, & Guilt
Father's Day sucked last year, so I spent the last week preparing myself for a terrible day this year. Except... this Father's Day didn't suck. Instead of feeling sadness, I felt happiness. And guilt.
Last Father’s Day absolutely sucked, to say the least. I spent the whole day missing my dad, and it was one of the worst holidays I’ve had since his death. From when I woke up to when I went to bed, all I could think about was my dad, and how he wasn’t with me.
Holidays have generally been hard since my dad’s death. As time has passed, I have slowly been able to start enjoying them again, but all of my happiness on those days is clouded by my grief. Every minute I enjoy seems to lead to two minutes of missing my dad later.
As I began to think about Father’s Day coming up this year, I fully expected my day to be absolutely terrible. With a bad previous Father’s Day and sad holidays since my dad’s death, I was preparing myself to spend a day laying in bed, doing absolutely nothing, and being quite miserable.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. I woke up early from a dream about my dad, quite shaken up, like I always am after I dream about him. I thought that this sad start to my dad confirmed my fears, and that it was now guaranteed that I would have another terrible Dad’s Day. Except… that dream was the worst part of my day. Everything else was good except for that.
The first really good holiday I had since my dad’s death was yesterday. Father’s Day.
It’s ironic, I know. Father’s Day being the first time I’m fine on a holiday since my dad’s death. Shouldn’t it be the holiday that stings the most? I enjoyed yesterday, and I didn’t know how to feel about that. When I thought about what day it was I was sad, but besides those moments, I was fine. I was happy.
I’ve tried to figure out why this is. Why this Father’s Day was my best holiday so far. The main thing that I’ve come up with is that I was okay because, unlike most holidays, this one wasn’t really celebrated. I wasn’t surrounded by a tree and celebrations like I am for Christmas, so it was easier to sort of not acknowledge and focus on the fact that my dad wasn’t there. And, a lot of time has passed since his death, so I might genuinely be okay.
Those two explanations make sense to me. They made sense yesterday when I came up with them. I was feeling guilty, though, and those explanations didn’t change that. Like when I accidentally stopped counting the weeks since my dad died, I felt horrible about not feeling bad. It took a connection to when I had stopped counting the time since my dad’s death to make me feel a lot better.
If you haven’t read the article, let me quickly explain: After my dad died, I found myself counting the weeks since his death. I did this for months until, one week, I forgot. I felt guilt for forgetting, and swore that I never would again. Except… I forgot the next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. I felt so guilty for losing count for a long time, until I realized that I needed to move on. That it was okay to count, and it was okay not to count. My dad wouldn’t want me to feel guilt over counting weeks, and he probably would’ve thought that I was being silly for even being a bit upset over it.
It took me weeks to realize that. Weeks of guilt and being mad at myself. As I thought about my guilt for Father’s Day, I realized that I was going to come to the exact same conclusion, whether it took me a few hours or a few weeks.
It may feel like your world is crashing down when you feel okay during a time when you “shouldn’t.” The first holiday when you are happy and suddenly realize that you are. When you lose count of how many days, weeks, and even months it’s been since your loved one died. When those, and more, happen, it can feel like a betrayal. It’s not, though.
Spending Father’s Day being sad is okay. Spending Father’s Day being happy is okay. If yesterday sucked for you, I’m sorry that it did, but that’s okay. If yesterday was just another day for you, or an amazing day, that’s okay.
I think a big reason I felt so much guilt yesterday was that I felt like I had to be upset. Everyone else who had lost a dad seemed to be having a terrible day, and if I didn’t have a terrible day, then it was like I wasn’t grieving properly. I am, though.
Here’s what I’m hoping you take away from this: Feel your emotions, and don’t be guilty for them. It doesn’t matter if you’re like “most” people and felt upset yesterday, or if you were like me and felt fine. My dad, and your loved one, wouldn’t want me or you to feel guilty about what we feel.
Yesterday didn’t suck. And, honestly, I’m okay with that. I’m okay.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.