Dear Mochi (Father's Day Edition)
Dear Mochi: “Knowing Father’s Day might be emotional for her, I’m trying to figure out the best approach.” You won’t be hurting her by bringing it up, you’ll be supporting her.
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My girlfriend and I have been together for about eight months, and I hope will continue to be together for 80 more years–we’re in our twenties, so it’s possible! She’s such a special person, quite honestly out of my league, and I want to be the best partner I can be. That’s why I’m writing to you, ahead of Father’s Day.
Her dad passed away three years ago, and she has said she doesn’t know when she’ll feel back to normal again. She hasn’t felt 100% since he died. I didn’t know her when he was alive, but it makes me sad that she hasn’t felt herself for so many years, and I wish there was something I could do. She’s a joyful person, so I wouldn’t say she’s still grieving, but her pain is a part of her I don’t fully understand. Without having lost anyone close to me, I often feel out of my depths when talking about loss. I don’t quite know what to do or say to make things better.
Knowing Father’s Day might be emotional for her, I’m trying to figure out the best approach. Should I suggest celebrating her dad on Father’s Day, or is it better to not mention the day at all? Or maybe something in between? I’m nervous to talk to her about it, because I think she is still fragile when it comes to talking about her dad.
Any advice on how to approach this would be appreciated.
The fact that you’re being so thoughtful about Father’s Day bodes well for your goal to have 80 more years of love together. :) You may be out of your depths, but recognizing that makes you quite a catch–your partner may not be so out of your league!
I hear a few things in your letter:
First, I hear a caring partner who wants to learn how to better understand the one they love. That is beautiful.
I also hear a partner who hopes to fix a pain: “I wish there was something I could do…I don’t quite know what to do or say to make things better.” This is also beautiful, but may not be possible. I’m a firm believer in life partners being able to help and heal all kinds of stress, but there are some scars that can’t be erased. Grief is one of those things.
That brings me to the third thing I hear: “She’s a joyful person, so I wouldn’t say she’s still grieving.”
For those who haven’t experienced losing someone who is truly a part of you, it’s hard to imagine how long one can grieve, how long one can feel “not 100%.” Your partner may not know this yet, but there are some losses in life that change you so much, the old 100% becomes meaningless, a measure one could only fulfill by going back in time.
My mom passed away nine years ago, and since then I have given up on a return to normalcy, to who I used to be. That’s not to say I don’t have joy and a good life–I absolutely do, but my mom was the first person I knew and loved in the world, the one person who was always there. Having her as my anchor was normalcy; having her be gone will never be OK.
But it is that very not-okayness that reminds me of how lucky I am to have had someone I loved so much, just a phone call or a hug away. That not-okayness reminds me to cherish and appreciate the people I still have and love in my life. And that not-okayness also makes me work harder to make this life what I want it to be, while I still have it. I am still grieving and always will be–I could only stop if my mom came back. But I still have joy and gratitude. And I have a strength that I didn’t have before–a strength that your partner certainly has, and that you will learn, too, when you lose someone you love.
So I do think your partner is grieving, but I don’t think she is as fragile as you fear. Ask her what she wants to do for Father’s Day. She may cry talking about it, but that isn’t fragility, that’s the strength of the love she has for him. You won’t be hurting her by bringing it up, you’ll be supporting her.
Give her an opportunity to share stories about her dad. What many of us who miss loved ones want is simply to be asked about them, to be given a reason to share stories of them. In that way, you can help her keep the memory of her father alive. We get to keep their memories alive and close. Maybe Father’s Day will be as simple as going out to lunch and asking your partner to tell you more about her dad. Or maybe she already has an idea. Go ahead and ask, and let her invite you into the depths.