When Jack died on This is Us this week, I didn’t expect to tear up. Not that I’m an emotionless robot, but it’s been 40 years of fatherlessness for me, and I expected to be ho hum during the episode.
But the tears erupted.
And I once again knew this: you never outgrow your need for a Daddy. No matter how damaged your father was, or how absent, or how gruff. The truth is, losing a father is a pain-filled ordeal of sadness and grief, and if you lost him young, you no doubt had no words to frame your feelings. Instead, you may be like me and stuffed them really deep, determining to soldier through because that’s what everyone wanted you to do.
But oh that hole he left behind.
A hole I still have.
I have no one to ask fatherly advice of, no one whose smile after a job well done resonates deep within my soul–the way a parent’s is supposed to. My photographs are orphaned after ten years old–more like ghosted. One day my life was full of the potential of father daughter memories, the next day, “the end” was written on the last page of the photo album.
No more images.
No more conversations.
No more I love yous.
And for the most part, I’ve moved on. But does one really move on after grief? Grief is a longtailed beast, and it surprises you when you least expect it, like when Jack’s heart gives out. I experienced what his kids must’ve–a sudden reversal. One day he’s alive, talking, sharing, loving–the next everything is silenced.
I never saw my father dead. Never touched his lifeless body. Which gave way to all sorts of internal conspiracy theories about where he actually was. I daydreamed of meeting him in Africa–all this death stuff just a cruel hoax.
But Africa did not spit out my father when I was ten, eleven, twelve, fifty years old.
I’m grateful to say that God provided a few men who have mentored and loved me. I am grateful that Jesus filled up a big portion of that hole my father left behind. I am grateful I have a husband who listens to me, tells me I’m pretty, and applauds success. All good things. All wise things. All needed things.
So I’m writing this to all you folks out there who still miss their fathers. Who watch This Is Us and shed a few tears over what might’ve been had he not left this earth. I’m writing this for those whose father’s were complicated enigmas, who are hard to grieve because of their complexity and sin. I’m writing this simply to say this: I’m sorry, and I know it hurts.
I am asking others who love you to not rush your grief, to sit with you in it, to hold your hand while tears drip to your knees.
I am writing maybe just to know I’m not alone in this grief. That I see you in your grief journey. And I understand.