Hurting Fathers on Father’s Day

I really don’t want to go to church this Sunday. That may sound extreme to some, especially since I’m a pastor, but with Father’s Day on the way I find myself a mix of emotions. Part of me screams for people to recognize that I am a father; that my son not being here doesn’t negate his existence. Another part of me just wants this day to vanish. I want to crawl into a hole and to emerge on Monday as if nothing had ever happened.

As I struggle with these emotions I feel very alone. I know I have a loving wife and family who are there for me, who love me, and who support me. I know that when Father’s Day comes, they will accompany me however I need them to. Even so, I feel alone…and I’ll tell you why.

In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, there was a flurry of blog posts about respecting mothers for whom reproduction was difficult, who had lost children, or whose lives just didn’t lead down the motherly path. People were writing, posting, and re-posting on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and there was a network of people that understood and supported struggling moms.

In turn, this week has been complete radio silence.

Aside from a few expected posts about how great dads are, or what to get dad for his special day, I’ve seen no one talking about those dads for whom this day is less than happy. It’s as if struggling with loss of children or infertility is a uniquely feminine quality. Like moms are moms at conception, whereas dads become dads somewhere between the birthing room and the car ride home.

So when there is a loss we need to care for the women; after all they are the “weaker sex”. Men, however, just need to man up. Get over it! That happened months ago! At the very least we’re supposed to put on our poker face, acting as if nothing is wrong. Men are expected to be a rock on the outside, even if their soul is rotting inside.

I refuse to do so.

For myself, and for any other men out there who are just like me, I won’t play this game. I won’t put on the poker face; I won’t act as if nothing is wrong. It’s time we learned that men are parents at conception as well, and loss hurts us, too. Father’s Day sucks for us men who have suffered loss or inability to procreate just as much as Mother’s Day does for moms who suffer these things. And the church needs to recognize this.

So I reiterate what many said on Mother’s Day, but that so few are saying now: as you celebrate Father’s Day at church on Sunday don’t forget to leave space for grief. Men grieve too, even if they don’t always show it, and you, church, are responsible for helping all people see God in their lives, whether in the joy of life or the tragedy of death.

So, church, choose your words with care on Sunday, and remember those of us for whom this day brings more pain than joy.

Categories: Cultural Reflections | Tags: , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Hurting Fathers on Father’s Day

  1. Carla Breeding

    Thanks, Blake…. I lead the kids mission group at our church, and we learned about your family when you were “featured” in the CBF literature. I rejoiced with you from afar as you waited for Silas, and wept from afar as you have made this journey since Silas’ passing. I will pass on your words. Thinking of you, Bekah, and Silas, especially this weekend.

    • Blake Hart

      Thank you so much for the continued thoughts, prayers, and advocacy. Blessings.

  2. Donna Gasperson

    I, too, will be remembering the three of you this weekend and beyond.

  3. I too have lost a child. Loosing her to cancer when she was but 15 years old. Did i grieve? yes, of course I did. We all, who loved and knew her, did. I have three (3) sons who remain with us. I do not blame God nor, in any true form, did i question His wisdom in taking her. My belief, for her, was that due to her young age, she would be with God (Christ Jesus).

    God has a plan for all of us. I sometimes think it was the work of satan which caused her to be taken so early in her life. I don’t blame the devil either – for even were it true – God would have, and mostlikely did, make it right for her.

    You see God’s in control – and will work out every detail of our lives if we only trust Him completely and in all areas of our lives.

    May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours. May you find peace in the Comfort of God. Amen.

    • Blake Hart

      Thank you for your prayer, and thank you for sharing your loss as well. Grace and Peace to you and your family.

      • Jim Oliver

        Thank you for your heart felt words Blake. Though I have not lost a child to death I have in essence lost both my daughters in life. Their mother and I split up many years ago in part due to my alchohol and substance abuse. Even though I sobered up and worked hard at having a loving relationship with my girls, old demons reared their heads and unaddressed issues of abandonment cut me off from them once again. I have had no contact with either girl or my grandchildren in over two years. I’ve tried to keep the door open through cards and notes but they have all gone unanswered and I fully understand that I may never be allowed in their lives again. I understand my role in the pain I caused them and that at this point, the only amends that I can make to them is to keep an open and loving heart available to them at all times. But the pain is at times overwhelming especially on family centered holidays. In some ways, we fathers who have been shut out have suffered a death as well.
        I will follow your lead tomorrow and let my church feel and hold my pain with me and just maybe I can be of comfort to a dad experiencing what I’m experiencing and where perhaps a Happy Father’s Day may not be possible, just maybe a peaceful father’s day can be. Thanks again Blake, and a Peaceful Father’s Day to you with my very best wishes.

      • Blake Hart

        Thank you, Jim, for sharing this. It is true that you have suffered a form of death. You will be in my prayers as you walk your road. I pray that true reconciliation may take place, and that there can be restoration. But most immediately, I pray for a peaceful Father’s Day for you as well.

  4. Thank you, Blake…

    btw – I love Chile – the home of my heart. My sister, who lives down the street, is hosting an exchange student from Arica this semester. My wife and I hosted a geologist from Arica for dinner last year – he was hear on a goodwill “get to know the country” program with the state department.

    The connections are cool. I am grateful that our prayers tomorrow will storm heavens gate in harmony!

    thank you.

    • Blake Hart

      What great connections. It’s uncommon for people to even know that Arica exists! Thanks for the prayers and many blessings to you and your family!

  5. Sean

    Blake, thanks again for offering another perspective and opening my eyes to another lesson. Praying that you have happier Father’s Days in the future. (And happier Mother’s Days for Bekah)

    • Blake Hart

      Thank you, Sean. I hope you have a joyful day tomorrow. Grace and Peace.

  6. mamasmurph

    Thank you for sharing. Sending love, prayers, and hugs across the miles.

  7. Thank you for posting this! I linked to you on my blog which I started after our son died. This has been an extra rough year with what would have been our son’s birthday last week and a failed adoption earlier this year. I was going to get my husband to write a post but he’s crazy swamped at work so I wanted to get some words from men out there to the dads who read my stuff. My prayers go out to you this weekend. I don’t want to go to church, either.

    • Blake Hart

      Thank you for sharing this blog. I hope it is a blessing for others as it was for me to write through my thoughts and emotions. Prayers and blessings…

  8. The death of someone you love is not something you get over–ever. It’s something you learn to live with and in spite of. Those who haven’t walked the grief road generally don’t understand this. There’s only one way they really could, and of course I wouldn’t wish it on ’em. Having said that, some loss-and-grief education for the church and society would be a good thing. Of course, first you’d have to get them to listen about this topic, not an easy task in our society.

    The whole men-shouldn’t-show-emotion thing is a load of crap, and I say Bravo! to you for refusing to live like that. Scientists have studied emotional tears (as opposed to reflex ones like from cutting an onion) and found that they contain toxins, so crying literally detoxifies the body and is therefore quite healthy. In my opinion the socialization that it’s not manly to cry could itself be one of the reasons why men on average live shorter lives than women.

    I hope Sunday’s not as hard for you as you fear, and wish you blessings.

    • Blake Hart

      Thank you for your words. I’ve often thought the same, that grief/loss education is something that is needed in many churches to help us be more effective in caring for each other. Many blessings to you as well. Grace and Peace…

  9. It is indeed true that men often do not receive the sympathy and support they need where a woman would.

    However, a strongly contributing factor to Mother’s Day being the more important is money: There is often simply more money to be made of women than of men, which explains e.g. why the wedding industry is gigantic and why the ground floors of large stores are typically dedicated to make-up, jewelry, and the like, while cd, dvds, and home electronics are either not represented at all or in the top floor. Similarly, a “remember Mother’s Day” ad is far more likely to be a good investment for a seller of goods than a corresponding ad for Father’s Day.

    (Of course, the money does not necessarily come from the women, even when they are what directly or indirectly causes the money to flow. Often, e.g. with Mother’s Day, men are the ones paying the lion’s part.)

  10. misscaramichele

    Blake, I am so sorry for the loss your family has experienced. These big days are hard, I think, because always someone is left out, someone is grieving with intense pain, and it is not always seen. I think, every year, about a dear boy, lost to the world too soon, loved with great intensity by his parents: my favorite professor and his wife. As a single woman, hoping for motherhood and marriage and other good gifts of God at some point, I find holidays like mother’s day hard to bear. Even today, as I ponder Father’s day, I think about the great pain that exists in my relationship with my father, though our relationship is better than many, and how hard that has been to square with my Heavenly Father and His infinite love and care for me.
    These are hard things.
    I will be thinking of you (and your wife) today and praying for comfort, grace and hope of Heaven.

    • Blake Hart

      Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Such holidays can be difficult for many people. My hope is that we find ways to honor without estranging. That we, as church, can figure out how to mourn and rejoice at the same time. Blessings.

  11. Annette

    Thanks for saying this and for making room for so many others to say the same!

  12. shannon

    I am so glad that you wrote this post. Father’s Day is especially hard for my boyfriend as his father died when he was three and it is doubtful he will ever have children. For those of us who have always dreamt of having children, childlessness is at times an overwhelming grief… for both men and women. I have gone through periods of deep despair for almost seven years now. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, but thank you for giving words to those who have. I truly hope your sorrow lessens in time.

  13. Sarah

    As I was reflecting on the “silence” around Father’s Day I was also questioning, Why? One thought that occurred to me is that traditionally the woman has been seen as the nurturing parent. This tradition is changing, male and female can equally nurture offspring, and consequently equally mourn the loss or absence of children. In the American culture, the definition of father and dad are changing rapidly. We are learning not to attach adjectives to people based on gender. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your words are a powerful testimony from a loving and nurturing father.

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