The only way out is to go through it


Fear, for our girls, ourselves, and pretty much anyone else going about their daily routines, running errands in deceivingly safe public places.

Anger, at the ability of one person to alter so many lives and taint one of the most basic needs—a sense of security—for the rest of us.

Grief, even if it can only come through empathy.

Sadness, for Kelsey Smith’s family and equally, for the little boy who doesn’t know the (alleged) murderer by his name. He just calls him Daddy.

Father’s Day is around the corner and it will never be the same for Kelsey Smith’s dad.

And for the little boy, Father’s Day will never be what it should have been.

We can’t underestimate the influence of fathers on their families and, good or bad, it’s sure to last a lifetime. Now, for both of them, the word “Daddy” will roll off of their tongues just a little differently than it used to.

Father’s Day also will change for a friend of mine, who lost her dad just a couple of weeks ago. He had been sick for some time, which gave his family the chance to prepare, as much as anyone can, for their good-byes. He came through for his family one last time by making it to his 75th birthday party, which they were able to celebrate shortly before he died.

A nice way to say good-bye, if there is such a thing.

But I feel for her because I know what it’s like to spend that first Father’s Day at the cemetery, in front of a headstone. But you can’t get around that. You have to go through that first one to get past it.

Even (or especially) in loss, sources of comfort find their way to the surface, like forgotten memories, pictures, histories, and stories from family and friends. There’s comfort in knowing that someone else has felt the feeling. There’s comfort in having other dads around, our husbands, in-laws and grandfathers, to celebrate with.

Eventually, there’s comfort in believing that one day, it will make sense.

For reassurance, all you can do is look for that support and talk to someone who says exactly what you need to hear. For me, my kids have assumed that role more often than I could have imagined.

My youngest daughter, now 2 years old, was born several years after my dad (aka Grandpa Choo-Choo) died, so she only knows him through photos and stories.

One night, during her precise virtual bedtime task list—one book read twice, a prayer and five songs—she broke the routine and began randomly naming every person she could think of. (I had no idea her social circle was so wide.) Finally, she came to Grandpa Choo-Choo.

“And where is he?” I asked, ready for her usual answer of “in heaven.”

But once again, she surprised me with her wisdom.

“He’s home.”

Never question the insight of a toddler.


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