Father’s Day. For three weeks I’ve written, revised, and discarded post after post, trying to decide what to say. It’s the night before, and I still don’t know …
I’m blessed and grateful that my dad is still here. He lives nearby and continues to be a rock of solid reliability. I can’t remember him ever directing an unkind gesture or a loud word my way (though when he spoke my full name in a certain tone I knew I’d crossed the line).
When I was a young, naive newlywed I remember my mother once telling me she hoped I appreciated how lucky we both were to have such good, kind men in our lives. I thought at the time that I did fully appreciate it.
Looking back now, I see how clueless I was, how little I understood. Since then I’ve seen glimpses, peeks at the hardships inflicted on many women and children because of the actions (and because of the failings) of the men in their lives.
So again I acknowledge how blessed I’ve been — how blessed I am.
And yet …
It’s another Father’s Day — DANG IT! — and my husband, the father of my children, is dead. This is our fourth without him. You’d think I’d be “used to it by now.” I thought I would, too. (It took years, but eventually I got “used to” the absence of my wonderful grandfathers. Sort of.)
But I’m not used to it. Not at all. Chances are that the widows and widowers you know, the mourning parents and the bereaved children of your acquaintance, or the grieving coworkers in your office aren’t “over it by now,” either.
Here are a few things you can do to show them your support:
- Say something. A text, a call, a private message, or a note can be brief. “I’m thinking of you today/this weekend.”
- Take the kids of a widower shopping so they can do something special for their daddy who’s trying to do two parents’ jobs.
- Take a small treat to a widow (and her kids) “just because” to let them know they’re thought of on a day when they’re even more aware (if that’s possible) of their loss than on other days.
- Let them know their loved ones aren’t forgotten — and neither are they.
- Invite and include (with sensitivity). If the kids in the troop are doing a daddy-daughter or father-son activity, TALK TO their widowed mother. ASK if she’d like a surrogate parent or relative to “step in” for the event or if she’d like to attend with her child. (The same applies to asking widowers about activities geared toward moms.)
- Listen. Whether the death happened recently or years ago, sometimes the bereaved need to share memories of their loved ones or feelings about their loss.
- Ask instead of assuming.
- “Are there ways I can help you with …?”
- “Would you like me to …?”
- “Would you like to talk about …?”
- Don’t dismiss or diminish their grieving.
- “At least …” anything. (Saying “at least” literally makes it seem as if the loss isn’t that important to the speaker, so why should it be so important to the bereaved?)
- “You should …” OR “You shouldn’t …”
(No one has the right to tell someone else how to go about the emotions or the business of grieving.)
- “I know what you’re going through.” (Each loss is unique.)
You can’t “fix” your friends’ grief, but you can — and should — comfort them by letting them know you support them in it.