My dad passed away on a sunny morning last July. Our family and friends had spent the previous 72 hours camped out in the ICU waiting room at Swedish Medical Center, hoping he would miraculously bounce back like he always had, but somehow knowing this time was different.
Congestive heart failure is exactly as fun as it sounds, and not something you generally get to bounce back from, but my dad made it work far longer than anyone could have predicted. He seemed invincible and unfazed, and his dry, dark sense of humor certainly helped us cope. (He suggested that after he die, we get him stuffed and turned into a taxidermy coat rack. I said it didn't sound very trendy. Or legal.) Doctors told him he wouldn’t live long enough to see my high school graduation, but he did, and was there for my college graduation, too. And he was also there to walk my sister and I down the aisle at our weddings.
I'm incredibly lucky to have had nearly 30 years with my dad, but the reality that we don't get to spend more time together is still pretty crushing. And I'm dreading my first Father's Day without him.
I know I’ll be staying far away from the crowds and avoiding the shitstorm of advertisements as much as possible. (Hey email marketers—please stop spamming me with ideas on what to get my dad this weekend. He doesn't need a beer making kit - he didn't drink. And, oh yeah, he's dead.) But beyond avoidance, there are other things I plan on doing to make it through this Father's Day that anyone experiencing a similar loss can follow.
Listen to your body. It sounds simple and stupid, but respecting what your body needs can go a long way. Let yourself sleep in if that feels right, or get up early before the hoards of families are out and get your blood pumping on a morning hike, bike ride, or yoga class. Running is a great release for me, and when I say release, I mean sobbing while jogging. If you need to cry or scream, let that shit out!
Don't feel like you have to be social. If you get invited to join friends and family, that might be exactly what you need; it can be very comforting to be around people who care about you and your wellbeing. But if being social is not your thing, or you're not up for it, don't feel like you have to go. And if you do, feel free to leave whenever you feel like it. It's going to be a tough day, and being stuck in an uncomfortable situation will only cause you more stress and grief.
Find ways to remember him. Whether it's cooking his favorite meal, binging his favorite TV show, or planning that trip he always wanted to take, there are many things you can do in memory of your dad to help you feel connected to him and celebrate his life.
My dad loved Pixar films so we decided to see Coco to celebrate his birthday. Don't do this unless you need to cry it out—it's a beautiful, PHENOMENAL movie, but equally emotionally torturous. He also loved Willie Nelson and crossword puzzles, so I plan to draw myself a bath (with calming essential oils and a Kush Queen bath bomb, of course), and blast Willie's greatest hits while tackling the Sunday crossword.
Treat yo self Treat yourself to something special this weekend. Visit one of Seattle's awesome soaking baths (I like Banya 5 and Hothouse Spa & Sauna), enjoy a fresh smoothie or stiff cocktail, put on an at-home face mask, or eat a pint of ice cream. There is no wrong or right way to self-care, just do what you have to do to make it happen. Whether it's your first Father's Day without him or time has passed and your grief is still fresh, it's going to be a hard day. Give yourself the space to grieve and honor your dad in whatever way you need to, and take time to treat yourself to something that might bring you joy. If your dad is anything like mine, it's exactly what he would have wanted.