At Smudge we acknowledge that not every holiday is met with excitement and joy. Today we examine Father’s Day and the feelings of grief and loss that many experience on this day. Featuring guest writer, Claire Messano, enjoy this touching and heartfelt piece on how some approach this often-unspoken and complicated emotion.
There were two annual days I absolutely loathed in elementary and middle school: the Presidential Physical Fitness test where I was required to run a timed mile and Grandparents Day. I despised the first simply because I despise running and I think anyone who chooses to run for fun is downright unhinged. Sorry runners, I am simply not sorry! The latter could be attributed to being a grandparent-less child after losing all of mine in the span of two years. How depressing for a young girl trying to make her way in the world!
TBH, I felt like an absolute loser on Grandparents Day. While my peers enjoyed picnic lunches with their grandparents and showing off their latest school projects, I was resigned to a depressing meal with one of my parents who attended in an attempt to fill the void left on this significant day. I would be remiss not to mention that I loved having lunch with my parents (on any other day) and appreciate them stepping up to the plate. Unfortunately, in this circumstance, their presence only served as a reminder of my Grandparents’ absence.
I was thrilled to eventually matriculate onwards and upwards to a new school, leaving behind dreaded Grandparents Day forever and the uncomfortable feelings associated with the school sanctioned holiday. I was confident that I was in the clear and can honestly say I have enjoyed seventeen blissful years free of Grandparents Day and its complex emotions.
Alas, nothing good can last forever and as I find myself approaching my first Father’s Day sans father, I’ve become intensely reminded of those emotions again and the overwhelming feeling of being left out.
Holidays like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are a blast when you’ve got someone to celebrate. I’d even finally reached an age where I could treat my parents on their special day with a nice meal and gifts. For Father’s Day, I’d always head home to celebrate Ron Messano – the man, the myth, the legend – at our summer home on the Chesapeake Bay. It was a laid-back celebration for a laid-back man and one I always looked forward to.
It’s often easy to forget how difficult these holidays are for so many when you’ve got parents to fête, and last year, I woefully transitioned into the group of fatherless children with no dad to salute.
Needless to say, today’s holiday has left me with an overwhelming sense of impending doom. To make matters worse, it’s not just Father’s Day that’s a hurdle for me but the entire three-month period I’ve come to detest called summer. It’s everyone’s favorite season, right? You all just love going to the beach and having BBQs? Well, I hate it. Summer for me is nothing but a three-month period loaded with emotional triggers that might as well be land mines. The sunny season includes not only Father’s Day, but the first anniversary of my dad’s death followed shortly after by his birthday. To say that the anxiety surrounding this season has single handedly fueled my weekly therapy sessions would be an absolute understatement.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be just like you. Summer was the absolute best. It was by far my dad and my favorite time of year where we spent every weekend on our boat in the Chesapeake Bay. The season served as our reward for making it through yet another year and we always enjoyed those three blissful months of fun together. Summer was filled with ample family time, parties and day drinking, and sunny days spent out on the water. Now, summer only serves as a painful reminder of absolutely everything I have lost in the past two years. I don’t mean to sound so depressing, but my dad is LITERALLY dead so cut me some slack!
How have I been managing this Father’s Day anxiety, you may ask? My perspective, mood, and plans for the big day shift daily but I can say that I’ve been having some fun with it.
My dark humor often prevails, and I’ve been flexing that comedic muscle with large-scale corporations promoting Father’s Day gift giving. I’ve found myself replying to any Father’s Day themed emails with one very simple response: “My dad is dead! Thanks for reminding me.” I’ve also been using that adorable one-liner on social media and unfortunately for them, my co-workers as well.
I even went so far as to pre-plan a celebration for fatherless girls just like me with my brilliant concept, the Dead Dad’s Club! I’m a woman who loves to entertain and I thought a summer soirée themed towards our dead dads was a million-dollar idea. I envisioned curating a beautiful menu, tablescape, and afternoon of activities celebrating our lost loved ones. I was so confident the idea would slap that I was already planning the second-annual meeting for next year before I had even announced the first. You can imagine my surprise when the response was lackluster. It turns out most fatherless girls have sourced new ones in the form of stepdads and father in laws. Needless to say, it was Grandparents Day all over again and I was back to square one.
No one can ever prepare you for losing a parent. On top of that, no one can ever prepare you for the complex emotions and real-life challenges that accompany losing a parent in the days, weeks, months, and years after the loss. For me, these harsh reminders have a broad range. I still get a punch in the gut when I pick up my phone to FaceTime my dad only to realize there’s no WIFI on the other side. It was an even harsher reminder when I somehow owed $3,000 in taxes this year and couldn’t figure out how the hell it happened without him here to help me.
The emotions I’ve been working through in the past year have been of Mount Everest proportions. I’ve divided my time here on earth into two segments: Before Dad and After Dad, and there are still days where it swallows me whole that I have 30+ years left of life without him.
That’s the reality of this loss that’s shaken me most.
It terrifies me when I take a step back and look at the long road ahead of me, thinking of all I’ve left to do in life, and how he won’t be around for any of it. At times, I find myself absolutely irate at that fact. I’m also now no stranger to turning green with envy as I see others around me who get so much more time with their fathers. I can only imagine this feeling will surge on Father’s Day.
It’s easy to plummet in these feelings of loss. I spent around five months emotionally deteriorating last year before New Year’s brought a fresh perspective and I realized it was time to either sink or swim. My dad’s death is still incredibly painful for me daily, but I’ve shifted my outlook and have learned to embrace that pain as a blessing. A friend shared a very touching letter with me after my dad’s passing and in it she wrote that grief is the price we pay for love. It’s a sentiment that’s carried me on the hardest days. How lucky are we to love so hard that losing someone close to us has the power to stop our world from spinning? That is a magical, powerful thing and something I reflect on whenever I’m especially hurting.
When Father’s Day rolls around and I have no elaborate brunch to distract me, it’s going to be tough but it’s going to be fair. The enormous void my father’s passing has left can never be filled and I’m okay with that. That hole in my heart is the ever-present reminder of how deeply I loved him and how much I know he loved me. He was my best friend in the world, and I miss him every moment of every day, but I am so, so glad he was mine to miss.
Claire Messano is an exceptional young lady. By day, she takes the fashion industry by storm as the Director of Brand Experience at a lifestyle and travel accessory brand. By night, she writes, dreams, and party plans all to the soothing sounds of This is Josh Groban on Spotify. She currently resides in New York, NY with her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Sophia Mathilde. Photo credit: Sylvie Rosokooff