Reading Mr. Lileks’s Strib tribute to his father and hearing him on the Flagship pod, I was reminded of my own father’s passing. Grief that comes from the loss of a family member is always hard, but the separation of father and son is unique, at least in my experience.
My father died 29 years ago, and a number of friends offered wise advice that helped me through my grief. Here is the general advice I usually offer others whose fathers have died, not that Mr. Lileks needs any, but prompted by his experience:
- The obligation to honor our father is independent of our emotions. My father had been ill for quite a while, but his death was sudden. He had not prepared well for his passing and that left my mom with practical challenges in addition to her own grief. So, I was angry at him for a long time. That ended when someone reminded me that the commandment to honor my father was as much for my mental health as it was for his legacy. I was able to separate my feelings about him as a husband and person from my appreciation for his role as father to me and his many accomplishments in that role. That was a very healthy thing for me, and it ended up being something my mom appreciated too.
- You can honor your father in the days and months after his passing by being the kind of man he would have wanted you to be. This means being willing to be sacrificial in doing the things that need to be done, being a peacemaker as difficult decisions need to be made, and showing your children how a man grieves.
- Continue to mark your father’s birthday (not his passing). My mom pays for flowers at her church during the week of dad’s birthday (he was born on San Jacinto Day, and when he worked for Texas state agencies, he told people his birthday was an official state holiday). My brother and I have also done so in the past. We post something on Facebook or we remember to call our Mom. Being annual is a good way to keep him in our thoughts, and doing so on his birthday affirms his life, not our grief.
- Tell your father’s story to your family. Our younger daughter wasn’t yet two when Dad died, and our older daughter was only five, so they didn’t remember being around him. So, we’ve made a point on Father’s Day to remember to tell stories about my dad. Living in Austin, our girls spent lots of one on one time with their grandmother, who also told them about him. He lives on in their memory now too.
My own experience was helped by similar words from other guys in similar circumstances. Just as men like to show each other how to build stuff or fix stuff (I would if I knew how to do either), I think this is a way for one guy to show another guy how to do something. I pray that it might help other men.Published in