OTHER’S DAY: YOUR STORIES

OTHER’S DAY: YOUR STORIES

We started Other’s Day because Mother’s Day was really tough for us but it’s tough for Emma in a completely different way than it is for Robyn and it’s tough for Robyn in a completely different way than it is for Tom, Dick or indeed Harry. If you’re blue on a parent celebration day, the reason is going to be as singularly unique as you are. We always want to reflect as much of that spectrum of sad as possible so here we are, giving you some incredibly brave, moving and honest accounts from people who find it rough when Father’s Day comes around.

Helen Hosey-Davies explains the heartbreak about becoming a parent when you’ve lost a parent

As I face my third “others day” I am thinking a lot about the future. At 21 weeks pregnant I am thinking about the things my dad and my baby will never have; that first cuddle, ice creams in the park, sleepovers! Becoming a parent makes you think a lot about how your parents brought you up. I hope I can be half the parent my dad was and that by next others day he will be looking down on us bursting with love and pride for the grandchild he didn’t get to meet. I promise my baby will know you. I miss you. 

Becky from Death Dialogues talks about her difficult relationship with her Father

I was conceived into rage.

The very amniotic fluid I swam in pulsed with the hormones released from fear and doubt and regret and sadness. The thunder in the background was my father’s booming venomous shouts, the jolts and jumps were the tensing of my mother’s body. Ancestors surrounding my wee self, surely shaking their heads in disbelief but also knowing the why that lay before me. The why that tortured me throughout the soreness of my childhood.

Before I was even born, I’d lost my father. He had never learned love.

– An excerpt from the book I’m writing that, in part, finds me unpacking the complicated emotional leftovers of a traumatic childhood.  My father died in 1983. Father’s Days are actually easier since his death because as cruel as he could be, I didn’t like to hurt him by ignoring Father’s Day (f— you very much Hallmark).  And I hated betraying myself by portraying the hypocrisy I had simmered in on the Sunday morning church pews with my public-faced, charismatic, ever-smiling father.   Reality was— I was afraid of his wrath if I did ignore “his” day.  Now F-Day is a reminder of the exhale— of what being set free felt like. A sadness that he had no fathering role model. A meeting. We glimpse each other at the crossroads of our shit childhoods. A reluctant smile. A nod. A sense of recognition, a hint of understanding, and a guiltless goodbye. 

@anopenbook explains how she navigates Father’s Day when other family member’s make it difficult to celebrate

My dad re-married reluctantly (long story) eight years ago. My step mum does not like us – I have a big sister, there are four grand children between us. Since shielding (dad’s recovering from cancer) I’ve decided to sod the politics and arrange a zoom for his birthday/Father’s Day for all of us. It’ll be 15 minutes and she’ll not join in but we have to start celebrating the small things right? Or trying to celebrate even though it’s not ideal and we’re divided physically and emotionally?

@sourstache contributed this incredible poem about losing her father to addiction

There were times I thought of your absence
as a gift you made my soul
for it to be thickened
for me to grow sooner

There were times I imagined you’d come home
free me from dull days of monotony
that you wouldn’t pick a needle
or lift a single bottle

Those days are long gone and though I thank you
for the extra layer of psyche
I do now sleep soundly at night
but when I dare to dream

You’d still have chosen me

From an Anonymous Other’s Day submitter who wants to send her love to her fiance on his first Father’s Day after finding out they couldn’t have children

I’d like to wish happy Other’s Day to my fiance. We found out last year that we could haven’t kids. That decision has thrown all our perceived plans of having a family and being parents up in the air and as they land we’re learning how to deal with this. It is such a weird place to be at times- as friends and family take the baby step, we rarely feel seen in a world that focuses on having children.

My fiance is just an incredible man. He is kind, caring and bloody gorgeous to boot. We’re fortunate that this has brought us closer and we’re stronger than ever. I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey, as rough as it is sometimes. I can’t wait to become his wife next year and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do and where we’ll go.

So I say Happy Others Day, B-boy! I love you heaps and Wicket the cat tolerates you (but I think it’s bordering on love).

Redefining the F Word by Rosie Percy examines how the family we make can be equally powerful and nurturing as our biological one

Merriam-Webster defines family as “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two
parents rearing their children”. For me, it’s more complicated than that. It might be for you, too.

Those of us with circumstances that run outside of dictionary lines have to decide: what does
“family” mean to us? Past experiences may have made the “f” word something painful or
confusing, it could even make us feel like we’ve failed if we don’t fit the convenient definition.
It certainly has for me, having had to end a damaging relationship despite it being with a parent, someone supposedly biologically programmed to care for me, but doesn’t. It was alien and unfamiliar, until I realised that not maintaining what society demands doesn’t mean I’ve lost out: it’s an opportunity for me – and for anyone in a similar situation – to entirely redefine what “family” is.

The circle of friends that invite you into their extended lives like one of their own, regardless of bloodline. A best mate that checks in during Father’s Day minus your dad. In-laws that understand why you’re always with them at Christmas. A colleague that nods when you explain and doesn’t question your obligations. The partner who supports your decision and asks how they can help. An acquaintance in a Facebook group who responds with comforting advice when you feel alone, to confirm that you’re not. They can all be family: we’re free to define what we want the “f word” to be for ourselves.

Perhaps we are the undefinable. Working it out as we go along, understanding what we have in
spite of what we don’t and trying to be stronger for it. But however we choose to redefine family,
family does not have to define us.

Our Insta-community are amazing, and @motherstokes shared this powerful piece about growing up with an emotionally-absent Father

It’s only when I became an adult and in particular became a parent, did I realise what a deeply unhappy and hugely dysfunctional family I was part of.  Reading and seeing the wonderful photos of happy families, fathers and daughters today, brings it home again I’ve never had that. I have one photo of my father and I when I was a baby, and there are no photos of me from the age of 7/8.

Reading the heartfelt words to accompany photos adds that extra sting – I have never been able to say any of those things (funny, caring etc). My dad was in my life, he wasn’t an absent father in the physical sense, but emotionally he was never there. Bullied, humiliated, made to feel guilty for all he & my mother paid for, for me such as hobbies/clothes; [feeling] scared what mood he’d be in…

Also, something I’ve learned more as an adult (the actual joy he found in our family being dysfunctional and pushing people away/never inviting anyone to our home or welcoming them – I had to learn to copy people how to be a host in a home, how to engage with people as adults should as I never saw it growing up at all – I even attempted to host my parents for little tea parties/lunches etc…trying (faking) hard to make my parents engage with actually being a family! I could write all day, but I wanted to say that there’s some of us out here that aren’t grieving due to the loss of a much-loved and missed parent, we’re grieving the loss, and I guess envy, of never being able to say or feel that.

Megan Ace submitted a heartbreaking open letter to the father she lost the same night as her first child was born

https://www.instagram.com/p/Byx7T21HhPw/

An anonymous poem on the pain of losing a father and the odd comfort social media can bring

Filters

On the day you died my life went from
colour to sepia tones

My attitude towards life needed a filter
too. I had to be strong. There is a filter
for that too, smiling face, that’s life, I’m
fine filter

I wonder how you saw life before you
got ill, did you have any filters Dad?

So many things I never asked, so many
things I’ll never know. Never-mind, there’s
a filter for that.

Strange though that I find solace
through hashtags, #deaddadsclub
#grieving #bereavement – and every
filter I have lies outside of an app.

I miss you Dad, more than anyone could ever possibly know. Except for that
stranger on that app.

@xokylievirginia shared her feeling on loss through poetry

Flora Baker, whose debut book comes out tomorrow, had this to say on Father’s Day after the loss of both her parents

Growing up, I never thought that Father’s Day had much importance. It was mainly my mum eagerly lavishing my dad with gifts and making sure I signed the card she discreetly handed me! When Mum died eleven years ago, the day took on a new significance; I was responsible for making sure Dad felt appreciated in our little family of two. It wasn’t as big of an extravaganza but I still did something nice – cooked a meal he liked, gave him a card, bought a jokey present. Dad died three years ago and I haven’t marked Father’s Day since. Nor Mother’s Day, nor any other commercial holiday. I know there’s a pressure on us grievers to still do ‘something’ on Father’s Day – even if it’s sad – but for me, ignoring these occasions actually brings me a lot of relief. Besides, I remember my parents every day regardless! So I don’t need to actively mark a day the calendar tells me to. If you’re feeling that pressure, please remember that you’re allowed to behave in whatever way which comes naturally to you. You’re not letting your dad down if you’re not marking the way without him here. 

Lindsay Drabwell looks at the events leading up to her estrangement from her father

My mum announced that Dad was leaving because he’d been having an affair in front of a new boyfriend. It turns out that he started it four years ago. All the time I’d been at university including my study year abroad, my first year in London. All that time. He had a job transfer up to the Lake District and spent half the week up there, meeting someone in the office. A bit younger than my Mum, two sons a bit younger than me. She became the other woman, the one who eventually won the battle. Can you imagine the level of duplicity that is required to pull that off for almost half a decade?

I was furious, I slapped him, told him I never wanted to see him again. Little did I know that that was the penultimate time I’d ever see him. It was awful, of course it was. My Dad moved up to the Lake District permanently. They say time is a great healer, and I think that’s probably true in many ways albeit that healing looks very different to different people. At the time, every single day was horrible. My mum used to call my new job around 4-5 times a day asking what she’d done wrong. I was trying to help her but also deal with the fact that my own father had voluntarily walked out of my life – I wouldn’t say that happening at 22 is any easier than it being at 2 or 12. I saw my father once more the following year when he had a reason to be in London for something and we went for dinner. It  was meant to be an attempt by him to apologise but to be honest, I don’t really remember how it went. It was seventeen years ago and we’ve not seen each other since.

I think parental estrangement is a really difficult concept for people to grasp unless they find themselves in similar situations. I met Pete, my now husband, through work just a couple of years after everything fell apart. Thankfully nothing has dissuaded me from marriage or being a good partner and he has never put any pressure on me, simply saying that whatever I want to do, he’ll support me. I have friends though who have kept saying to me “he’s your Dad, you should make more effort to fix this and you’ll regret it if you don’t”. It’s TIRING. It’s no-one else’s business what decisions I make. When we got married, it had been five years since he technically left and despite next to no contact (the odd impersonal birthday card), I realised to not invite him to my wedding with no word wouldn’t sit comfortably with me. There was no doubt in my mind though that he wasn’t welcome. Consider that I effectively left home at 18 and was now 27, that’s a very different person right there. So I wrote to him, and not an angry letter, just a polite explanation and he wrote back saying he understood my decision. It was the right one.

It’s strange to think that if I take the time when he actually left, albeit we didn’t know, I was 18. I’m now 40. He’s been out of my life longer than he was in it. He’s also been in the lives of his non-biological sons longer than he’s been in mine. I spent a long time wondering why, why he didn’t choose me. Maybe I didn’t make him proud, maybe I did something wrong. In the end, I decided I had to let it go, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering.

I’m a firm believer that it’s life’s experiences that make us who we are and I’m at such a peaceful, content state of my life right now, and have been for a long time. I think our home, my husband and our little furry companions give me all the love, warmth, fun and kindness I need. We spend much of our time as children, teenagers and probably even adults thinking that parents are these magical, mythical beings. They’re not. They’re just people, like everyone. There’s not always a reverence or adulation that needs to be unerringly proffered from child to parent. As Hector Xtravaganza said “Blood does not family make. Those are relatives. Family are those with whom you share your good, bad, and ugly, and still love one another in the end. Those are the ones you select.”

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