Whether you’re cooking them breakfast in bed, taking them out for a pub lunch or simply spending the day with one another, Father’s Day is a time to celebrate the paternal figures in our lives. But for those whose fathers are no longer with us, it can act as a painful reminder of grief and loss. Lush studio and digital intern Lauren Collins shares her experience of grief after her father passed away in 2014.
Grief was once described to me as drifting afloat after a shipwreck.
At first, all hope seems lost. It is dark, the wind is howling and the waves are as tall as tower blocks. They crash over you with such force that it takes all your strength to remain above water. There is no respite, barely time to breathe before you are dragged down over and over again. When you can, you cling to whatever fragments remain of the wreckage - a painful reminder of what was once whole and beautiful. Be it a photograph, a song or even another person afloat, for now, all you can do is to hold on and weather the storm.
Over time, the crests begin to wane. The surges that overcome you grow fewer, and in between the waves you are granted time to catch your breath. The sun reappears from behind the clouds, its warmth familiar and welcome. The water is easier to tread, and eventually you can let go of whatever you’ve been clinging to. As anniversaries and birthdays loom, the waves will continue to come. But you can see them from a distance now, and you know that when they wash over you they won’t drown you. You will come out of the other side - sputtering and wet, but alive.
As Father’s Day looms every year, so does the wave that threatens to pull me under. It has been six years since spending Father’s Day with my dad, and each year it is still a struggle to keep my head above water.
From an early age, my dad was a man full of tips, tricks and jokes - a fountain of knowledge and fun I could turn to when my mum said ‘no’. My childhood was filled with his laughter and his wisdom, and many of my fondest memories of growing up would be the day trips we would take together, just the two of us. We shared a love for the same literature, the same food and the same jokes no one else would laugh at. His passion for writing and photography inspired my own - after all, it was he who put a camera in my hands for the first time, and always encouraged my creative hobbies with love and support.
At the same time he also taught me how to be strong. While he may have been the youngest of eight siblings, it was my father who became a full-time carer at only 12 years old for his own father after he suffered a stroke. His kindness and compassion led him on a career path that would see him care for and tutor children and adults with severe learning disabilities. He dedicated his life to caring for others. Even then it was always us, his family, that he would put above everything and anything life threw at him.
His unexpected death in 2014 came in a period of my life already filled with change. Half way through my college education and looking at living away from my family at university, the sudden absence of his advice and support brought me to a crossroads at the beginning of my young adult life.
We all have something that keeps us going through our darkest days. For me, it is the knowledge that my dad would want me to keep on weathering the storm, and to find the silver lining, no matter how dark the clouds may be. It is the strength and resilience he passed on that has helped me stay afloat when the grief seemed ready to drown me.
Father's Day is one of the harder anniversaries to endure. There is nowhere to hide from the public outpouring of fatherly love shown on every social media outlet and in every shop window. It is a constant reminder that my dad is no longer here, and it feels as if there is an unspoken pressure to somehow mark the occasion. Each year I used to worry and fret over an appropriate way to honour his memory on the day, and to not do it some form of injustice.
I came to the realisation that whatever I could think of, be it a letter or poem or even a sombre social media post, would pale in comparison to the Father’s Days of the past. It is a sad and sobering thought, but not one that has left me feeling sad. They say that our loved ones live on through those they leave behind, and I choose to honour my father's memory every day by staying strong and living my life to the fullest.
Even in the early days of grief - the expression ‘life is short’ had never resonated with me more than aged 17 and stood at the precipice of a future without my father in it. So I went travelling, and the adventure across the globe that we had once planned to take together, I took alone.
A wound like this cannot every truly heal, and there will always feel like a part of myself is missing. But he left no stone unturned in his journey - from the DJ nights of his youth to owning his own ghost hunting business, he took every opportunity that presented itself to him, and he never ceased to surprise me.
Father’s Day will always remain hard, and I will always miss my dad more than I can express in words. But the lessons he has taught me, and the strength I have grown, will be his legacy that I carry with me, and onto others, wherever I go. And that, I hope, would make him proud.