I lost my Dad almost 10 years ago. The pain is always there. Most of the time it’s a dull ache, a hole in your life that you can’t fix. Sometimes that pain will turn sharp and smack you in the face. You expect it on milestone days, weddings, holidays, and birthdays. It can happen without notice too. Hearing a song. Seeing a stranger that reminds you of that person. Or buying Father’s Day cards at Target.
I lost him before I got married. Before I became a Mom. It seems like he’s missed so much already in that short amount of time. I feel an obligation to keep his spirit alive, not only to my Dad but to my girls. They missed out on knowing a great guy and he would have adored them. I think it’s still possible for them to get to know Papa Pete, even if it’s just through me.
It seems to be that time of life where my friends are starting to lose parents as well. So many of us have felt the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve lost friends and loved ones not only to the disease but also to suicide and domestic violence during this time. It’s transformed conversations from catching up on life and kids and jobs and husbands….to remembering loved ones and sharing how we are all dealing with our grief.
I was having one of those conversations with my friend the other day – who had lost her Mom – about keeping a loved one’s spirit alive. We both were struggling with how to do that and if we were doing a good enough job with it.
This is what we do that makes remembering loved ones easy and natural.
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Remembering Loved Ones
Display their pictures – I’m not saying build a shrine and it doesn’t have to be fancy. I have a picture of my Dad and me on the fridge and Big Nugget will often reference it while we’re making dinner or hanging in the kitchen. We have a gallery wall and there is a picture of my Dad and me from when I was about 3. It’s one of Little Nugget’s favorite pictures to point and look at.
Tell their stories – When I was young, I loved sitting around and listening to my aunts and uncles tell stories about when they were growing up. My kids are no different. And we have some epic family stories to share. It’s fun to relive those happy times and see how my kids react to them. Big Nugget will even bring them up on her own – she especially likes talking about that time we drove through a zoo in our van…
Casually incorporate them – Someone asked me the other day how to help their sister-in-law who lost her father during their family’s Father’s Day celebration. I said just acknowledge him and her loss. Maybe make his favorite food to have at the celebration. Bring them up, tell a story. Remembering loved ones doesn’t have to be a sit-down formal occasion. We talk a lot about Papa Pete and his love for sports on the way to t-ball or hockey. It feels natural and makes him a part of our everyday routine.
Keepsakes – I have some things that my Dad loved around our house. I have his collection of mini classic cars hung up in our guest room. I also have a few amazing blankets and a quilt that my cousin made for me. She incorporated some of his old clothes into the design and it’s something that I will treasure forever. I know my girls will too. Check out her Etsy shop too!
Be open with your own emotions – grief is a nasty nasty unwanted friend that likes to sneak up on you when you least expect it. Regardless of whether the pain is new and raw or dull and familiar, it’s important to be honest with your kids when it affects you. Let them see it and see your vulnerability. You are modeling behavior that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Brene Brown talks a lot about this in Daring Greatly and it really resonated with me.