Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. For Sons Losing a Father


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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There are 8 comments.

  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    What a thoughtful post! And excellent suggestions! You’re father raised a fine son who knows how to value and honor life. Good for you.

    • #1
    • July 14, 2019, at 5:04 PM PST
  2. PHCheese Member

    My dad died 45 years ago and I think of him everyday and miss him everyday. Great post. BTW my dad took 5 years to die and no one was prepared. He didn’t even have a will.

    • #2
    • July 14, 2019, at 6:13 PM PST
  3. Arahant Member

    Allan Rutter: (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)

    As far as I am concerned, this is the best part of your post. Your advice is fine. The points are lessons that were important in your development and may be important for others going through it. On the other hand, each person reacts differently to grief and part of that depends on the relationship they had: how they treated the person, what they said or didn’t say, and many other factors. Some people also seem to want to hang on tightly to grief as if it were a public badge of honor, while others move on quickly. I doubt I could give any advice that would apply to everyone or even most people. If I did, it would be this:

    • Be honest and open in your relationships now. There may not be another time.

    But when someone is grieving, that advice may be too late.

    I’d much rather hear the memories, the snippets of humor, to see the portrait of the man who was your father.

    • #3
    • July 14, 2019, at 6:54 PM PST
  4. Randy Webster Member

    My father is 93. He’s still great fun to talk to.

    • #4
    • July 14, 2019, at 8:02 PM PST
  5. Arahant Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    My father is 93. He’s still great fun to talk to.

    Cherish every day of it.

    • #5
    • July 14, 2019, at 9:45 PM PST
  6. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    My dad passed away in January of 2016. He was 85. His health was failing, but it was still unexpected. I think of him often.

    I think like most sons, I had a difficult relationship with him when I was a teenager and into my 20s. But the older I got, especially when I had a family of my own, the more I saw just how much alike we were. Like many stoic midwesterners, he never talked about feelings, but somehow I knew exactly what sorts of fears and insecurities he had because I had them, too.

    He lived a simple, quiet life, running a store in a small town and providing for his family. He enjoyed his retirement more than I thought he would. His funeral was well-attended, and that made me glad. 

    I miss him a lot, but carry his legacy. It’s not a burden; it’s a privilege.

    • #6
    • July 15, 2019, at 7:04 AM PST
  7. Michael Brehm Member

    I lost my Dad back in March of 2015 when cancer finally got the better of him. It still amazes me how he bore it right up to the end. He only took off work for his Friday chemo treatments, and he would try to work around the house the weekend afterward if my mom didn’t make him stay put. He was the chief forester for a lumber company and he was out surveying woodland practically up until the final time he was admitted to the hospital.

    After his final trip into the woods, he called my Mom and remarked that the pace was starting to get to him and that he was considering easing back. After that, It all caught up with him suddenly and he was gone within a week.

    I’m happy to say that he didn’t die in the hospital, we got him back home (despite a late March snow) in a hospice program. (A purely practical aside: if a hospice program offers to provide a hospital bed for the duration, take them up on it. I think we would have had an easier time of it if we had done so.)

    Dad was survived by both of his parents who are in their nineties and I’ve been trying my best to look out for them. It must be hell surviving your child. Fortunately, they’re both doing pretty well, all considered. They still live keep their own home, and Grandpa still drives in the daytime. They also have good neighbors who keep an eye on them when we’re unable to.

    • #7
    • July 15, 2019, at 8:56 AM PST
  8. Annefy Member

    Losing a dad is tough. Having three sons, two brothers and countless nephews, I agree that the father-son relationship is one that is different and needs to be honored (even when we chicks don’t get it)

    Jordan Peterson gives some wonderful advice: that when your dad dies, be the person everyone can lean on.

    My dad’s death was expected after a cancer diagnosis. He was 85 (and frankly well past his sell date) and opted for no treatment. He was gone in 10 weeks. It was sad, but not tragic.

    My brothers and my husband were stalwart though out. Each gave a eulogy and my husband’s was my favorite, as he simply celebrated what a wonderful life my dad had had. What fun he was. How you would never forget him.

    My dad’s BD was in March and he passed in November. On each of those dates there are dozens that share a Budweiser via text in his honor. (Budweiser??? really? We suck it up because we loved him so)

    Edited to add: hats off to hospice. What a blessing.

    • #8
    • July 16, 2019, at 11:49 PM PST