I’ve avoided the greeting card aisle for weeks now, since Mother’s Day in fact. (All of my June baby friends receive calls and emails instead of stamped envelopes filled with clichéd catch phrases.) I have tried to ignore the ads for power tools and beer mugs. I have stayed away from Sears and Best Buy and any location that may remind me of what I don’t have but desperately want to. I have tried to place myself in a bubble, but with my own husband now being a dad himself — and an amazing one at that — I know I can’t. And it hurts. It hurts today, 19 years later, and I know it will hurt tomorrow.
I’m sorry you know what that hurt feels like too.
While we all come from different places and different stages of grief — mourning the father we lost or lamenting the one we never had — we all find ourselves coming together one day a year, on a strange Sunday in June, when we feel alone but know we are not. We are brought together by emptiness and sadness, by memories left unmade and words left unspoken. We are brought together by a dull ache, a longing for what we want to have and need to have but cannot. And we are brought together by fate and by the simple fact that we are fatherless on Father’s Day.
I am not here to tell you I am sorry for your loss. I have heard that more than I needed to since my father’s own passing when I was just 12 years old. Those words seem so trite and trivial. They did then, and they still do now, especially for a pain that runs so deep — a pain that settles in you, cavernous and basin, while simultaneously running through. And while I know not everyone longs for a dad, on Father’s Day or any day for that matter, for those of us who do — for those of us newly grieving, still grieving, still searching, or still standing in a doorway and hanging onto hope, it is one of three days we try to avoid each year. (The others being our father’s birthday, if we know it, and the day our father passed, if he is deceased.)
What I can tell you is that I’m sorry you hurt. I’m sorry you know this pain, but know you are not alone, and it’s okay. It’s okay to cry or be angry and, in some cases, resentful. It’s okay to long for what you cannot have and, even with the best uncle’s or most well intention in-laws, will never have. You do not need to be ashamed or apologetic; you just need to feel — to feel your way through the day, and everyday. I cannot say it gets better or easier, but I can tell you days now pass where it doesn’t come to mind. I don’t wake up and cry; I don’t wake up and hear my mother crying.
When I grieve this Sunday I will flip through the photos (actual print photos, none of those digitized images we have nowadays) and remember the life my father lived, and be thankful for the memories we do have. 12 years was not enough, but it was 12 years none-the-less. My father taught me how to swim, how to ride a bicycle and how to burp the alphabet. He taught me how to laugh and how to be strong. He taught me how to be accountable for my actions and showed me it was okay for men to cry.
So whether or not you have memories of your father this Father’s Day know that — whatever you are feeling — you are not alone.
This essay originally appeared on The Good Men Project.