It has officially been a week since my article on a Fatherless Father’s Day was published, first here and then on the Huffington Post. A week later, what was originally an outpouring of emotion and pain has become one of the largest inspirations to me. You see, when I wrote that piece, I was sitting on my terrace in downtown Dallas with a deep need to unburden myself of the pain that feels so isolating. That sense of loneliness doesn’t ever really go away for those of us who have lost a loved one. That feeling ebbs and wanes, but always hovers nearby. We live in an odd twilight zone of emotion.
When I wrote, I knew I wasn’t the only one who had lost, wasn’t the only one who was struggling with a fatherless Father’s Day. So I took a chance, bared my soul, and hoped that it would help a few people along the way. I was thrilled when it was picked up by the Huffington Post- I knew it had relevance. After all, hadn’t I too put in the term “fatherless Father’s Day” in the search bar before? I thought to myself “Good, now others won’t have to be so alone this weekend.”
Those “others” turned out to be thousands from across the world. When I opened up my computer on the morning of Father’s Day, my inbox was flooded with hundreds of heart-wrenching emails filled with stories of loss, words of thanks, and a plea to keep writing. My article on the Huffington Post had been shared on Facebook over 2,000 times (shared, not even just viewed- which estimates a viewership of over 6,000 right now), emailed, tweeted, and pinned hundreds more. In shock, I pulled up my personal blog (here) and just let out a flood of emotion. Over 3,000 people from across the world had been to my personal site, read my story and bio, and left some of the most genuine and moving comments I have received to this point.
Tears streamed down my face as I read stories of hurt, loss, struggle, and grief. I used up a box of tissue as I emailed back and forth with readers, learning the depths of their pain and confusion. I have never in my life felt so humbled. The “thank you’s” for putting into words what so few could articulate were overwhelming. And for once, I didn’t feel so alone.
You see, grief and loss are incredibly isolating. Each person’s pain and struggle is a unique battle- they have their own memories, their own regrets, and their own battle to wage with emotion. No person’s story is the same, and so we feel like no one else could know the struggle. We retreat, whether to our own mind, our surviving family (if, unlike me, you are lucky enough to have it) or to your community of support. But we still feel alone in the middle of the night, still miss what used to be.
Hearing from hundreds of you, reading the shares on Facebook, and noting the different time frames of loss for so many, I realized something else grief does. It connects us. Grief is universal. It doesn’t matter what continent you live in, how old you are, or your socioeconomic status. It doesn’t care if you weren’t ready, or had prepared for months for the immanent loss. Grief still hurts. At some point in life, we will all know the loss of a loved one. When you find someone who has lost like you have, has known the irrational actions that grief causes and the haunting echo of that loss that still exists in your life, for once you don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to put on your “thank you, I appreciate your sympathy” face and you don’t have to pretend you are ok. Because you aren’t. Who you are has changed, even if you keep it private. And that’s OK too. Grief changes our outlook on life, the way we respond to trials and emotions. It gives us a new perspective. It also unifies us.
Thousands shared my Fatherless Father’s Day post. Thousands, my friends. That means there are THOUSANDS who have felt loss just like mine. Thousands struggle with that day, and the effects of missing their father. It doesn’t matter when they lost him, if they ever knew him, or how old they were when he passed. He is still missing in their life and it hurts, even if they only admit that to themselves. And if thousands know that feeling and voiced it, how many more struggle silently? We are not alone. There are others who hurt, who are angry and sad and happy all at once. There are thousands out there who know.
And for my blessed readers who do not know, I am so happy for you. None of us who know this pain want you to feel as we feel. When that day comes, and you too have lost, we are here for you. Not to tell you we are sorry, not to offer words of advice or 10 steps to overcome your grief- but to stand by you. To hold you up when you cannot stand or to kneel on the floor in despair with you. We are yours and you are ours.
Grief is not purposeless, and it is not painless- but it is the ultimate connector. You are not alone.