A Fatherless Fathers Day

I just had my first ever Fathers Day without my Father. Another anniversary to tick off the list. Grief is an interesting creature. I say creature because, after the loss of my Dad , thats what it feels like:having a rather nasty invisible creature following me around being generally unpredictable and mean. Sometimes I will hear a song I knew my Dad loved and Grief gives me a little shove and I feel a gentle, soft sadness. Other times, when I forget myself and think " I must tell Dad that", and then realise all over again I can't, Grief is far more brutal and it feels more like it has pushed me to the ground, then given me a couple of kicks for good measure. It waits to surprise me at unexpected moments.

Its an odd feeling to lose an older parent. There is a feeling of suddenly being older yourself, a cementing of adulthood and a hardening sense of responsibility for family left behind. I have unexpectedly joined a club I didn't know existed - I see people my age who have lost parents and we exchange hugs and understanding glances in the street. Society has unspoken, but still very definite rules on what is an appropriate length of time to grieve, and how this should be done. This is partly because it is part of life to lose an elderly parent (although even at 78, I never considered my Dad to be elderly. He was just...Dad), it is inevitable , the natural order of things. Although there is comfort in knowing that someone lived a full life and made it to old age, there is still a life lost and a gap left in its wake. Age does not define a persons value or worth.

There are unspoken rules and codes of conduct for all types of grief. These rules are to keep us in check: we need to move on, to keep living, one foot in front of the other, chin up and soldier on. Time heals, as they say. I have talked to enough people though to know that most continue to grieve silently, long past what society would consider as acceptable. Grief is pushed into solitary confinement, behind closed doors and into long evenings when everything is magnified, and the vacuum of emptiness seems enormous. This is particularly true for elderly widows, where without family support and a strong sense of self with plenty of interests and distractions, grief can morph into chronic loneliness. We need to be mindful of this.

As far as my journey goes, we talk about my Dad a lot. We have little rituals : my children wave 'Hello' when we drive past the cemetery every day to go to school. We look at rainbows and think he is saying Hello back. We talk, we remember, we care for each other and we feel Thankful to have had such a strong, kind Father and Grandpa in our lives. We temper grief with gratitude and endless happy memories., and we soldier on.

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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