Motherhood

On Losing a Dad

On Grieving a Father

For our ongoing series of personal essays by contributing writers, we’ve been talking about our parents, including lessons they’ve taught and jokes they’ve made. But what about losing a parent? Journalist Katie Beck shares how her world was flipped upside down after her father died…


It’s still painful to think about my dad. It’s been over a year since he died, and although some of the sharpness has receded, I still feel a pang in my chest when he pops into my head. I comfort myself with the hope that losing him has somehow given me a sliver of the compassion he had for others.

He and my mom visited me in Australia right before my son was born, and I asked if I could record him reading one of my favorite childhood books — one that he’d read to me thousands of times growing up.

I thought it would be nice for Frederick to hear his grandfather’s voice between visits, and maybe, somewhere deeper in my subconscious, I wanted to hold onto a piece of him forever. There was a piano in the house my parents had rented and I slyly recorded my father playing it one afternoon. Ever since I was a baby, he had played the same melody, a beautifully haunting tune that he’d composed and never written down.

Now that’s he’s gone, those recordings of his voice reading The Big Orange Splot, and his piano music are so precious to me and simultaneously so difficult to think about. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to either.

I went into labor just after sitting down for dinner one evening in my parents’ rented house in Sydney.

I am forever grateful that they were there with me that night and so glad my partner snapped photos of my dad as he held my son the day he was born, his face so full of emotion. But those photos are hard to look at now, too. I have to brace myself before taking in his familiar face bedecked with his signature grey mustache and affable smile.

After he died, I flew home to be with my mom.

In those first few days, in the sleep deprived depths of new parenthood, I was moving through the world in a sort of numb bewilderment.

I kept looking around at the things that were still here when he wasn’t: a jar of his favorite black cap raspberry jam in the refrigerator, the neat little piles of coins on his bedside table, and thinking, “How can that still be here and he’s not?”

The most confounding of these things, was my son, Frederick. He was just two months old when my dad died.

I was struck by a brutally honest question asked by a woman in an online group for moms who have lost their parents: “Do you ever feel like you love your late parent more than your baby?” she wrote.

It’s a jarring thought. Of course not! was my first reaction. But I kept coming back to the question, grappling with how I felt about it.

I’d only known my son for eight weeks when my dad died; by contrast, I’d loved my dad my whole life. I’d had 33 years of unconditional love and support and kindness from him. I’d never imagined a world without him.

It breaks my heart to know that Freddie won’t know my dad, and that my dad only knew him as a tiny, frail, newborn and not the bouncing, joyful little boy he is now. I feel guilty sometimes, for feeling sad that the two didn’t get more time together. I know it’s selfish when I have so many friends whose parents never got the chance at all.

Some people have told me, Frederick is the reincarnation of my dad, that their souls are somehow connected, one passing into the next. I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t think so.

The two are certainly linked, though. I see my dad in Frederick. His soft, floppy hair and the way he wants to share everything with everyone. One of his first words was “hereyougo,” always said while handing you whatever he has.

I’m still in the midst of this grief. I haven’t come to any grand conclusions yet. But I’m hopeful that I can come to welcome the interconnection between something so sorrowful and something so joyful.

But I hope that as time passes, I will be able to tell Frederick about his grandfather and convey to him the compassion and humor that he possessed. I hope that one day Frederick will love hearing the Big Orange Spot in my dad’s deep, gravely voice, and that his beautiful piano melody will become as familiar and comforting to Frederick as it is to me.


Katie Beck started out as a producer for BBC News before quitting her job to travel. She now works as a freelance video journalist and writer splitting her time between Portland, Oregon, and parts unknown.

P.S. A mother’s mantra, and how to write a condolence note.

(Illustration by Kristen Solecki for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Jan says...

    My dad passed away two years ago in September, just three days after my only son turned five. His wish was granted, because when he fell into ill health when my son was two, he said he wanted to live to see him turn five. My heart still aches for him, to hear his voice, his laugh, or to see his smile. Thankfully, our son will remember him and constantly talks about grandpa. Several things of my dad’s are still in place because my mom was diagnosed with cancer a week after his death, and the one thing that he always does is goes and puts on grandpa’s cologne and then runs and gives MiMi a big hug. The smile she gives him just melts my heart. I know that my dad is smiling down from Heaven.

  2. Sophie says...

    My mom died almost three weeks ago. I wasn’t able to read this essay when it was posted on Oct 31 because she was so close to the end and I couldn’t handle it. I was finally brave enough to read it today and it felt incredibly poignant. Especially the part about the physical items that remain when a loved one passes away. Her glasses, her hand lotion, the books on her nightstand.

    I don’t have children yet but it breaks my heart, too, knowing that when I do, they’ll never know my kind, funny, wise mom. In her last days, I asked my mom for her top 10 parenting tips but that’s no substitute for having her here. Anyway I just wanted to say thanks, Katie, for writing this beautiful and touching piece.

  3. i lost mi dad a year before graduating college. less than six years later, i lost mi little brother, a year before he graduated college. i often feel very empty, the relationship btwn mi mom +i is as strong as ever but it has taken a lot of deep emotional work from both sides.
    grief is an ocean w various tide patterns, of all kinds..

  4. Jen says...

    My beautiful father poured love and strength into me for nearly 43 years so why do I feel so lost, weak and even angry without him?

  5. Melissa says...

    My dad died two years ago this October, when I was 27, and right now I’m in the middle of the job search. I got a job offer yesterday and all I want to do is call him and talk it over with him, hear his voice telling me he’s proud. I can’t shake this strong desire to talk to him about it, and can’t shake the depth of missing him that comes and goes in waves at each little life milestone. I also can’t stop feeling like it’s childish to be a grown woman now almost 30 years old needing such support over a decision like this. But at least on the flip side, his absence causes me to reach deeper into the relationships with people who are still here and are on my team supporting me in a way that I may not have if he were still here. Thank you for this piece, it is comforting. and absolutely beautiful. I can’t say enough how beautifully you wrote this and how much it resonates with me. Thanks!

  6. Nicole says...

    My dad died 21-years ago, when I was fifteen years old. It was two days before Halloween. My mom died almost two years ago, on Thanksgiving Day. Fall is an emotion filled rollercoaster of a season for me, yet every day I make a conscious choice to find the joy in it anyway, to not let it get lost. It’s easier some days then others.

    Loosing one did not prepare me for loosing the other. Grief is a shapeshifting ugly and sometimes even beautiful thing. My teenage grief over the loss of my father, was a very different animal than my grown woman grief over the loss of my mother. Both have rendered me parentless, without anchor, adrift in a world where they aren’t. Though they have also left me full to the brim, and grateful beyond words for the memories I have.

    Finding community in a comments section of a blog (which I adore), in the midst of this season is like a gift in itself. I read a quote once that said something along the lines of “grief is like another country…it’s a place.” Thank you all for reminding me that even if grief is a place, that at least we aren’t all stranded out on that island alone.

    Peace to all of you.

  7. Susana Silva says...

    I hesitated a lot before reading this post…I lost my dad almost 9 years ago and I still run away from dealing with the loss…I still avoid the music that reminds of him and I still miss him a lot. Sometimes I find myself acting like I think he would as a way to perpuate his presence. My son was born the same year my father died and I remember saying to a friend that I had been forced to give up on one to have the other…looking back I don’t think that’s rational at all, but from time to time my pain speaks louder than me. The only reason I can say time helps is because I do’nt burst into tears everytime I speak about him nowadays, although inside I’m crying out loud. I resemble my father very much physically and I totally have his character…before he died now and then we used to argue with each other a lot, because I wanted him to be happy and saw him really sad. Nevertheless he called me princess until he died and he gave me that “so proud” look that I now give to my son. My son, emotional as his mother, sometimes cries because he didn’t have the chance to “meet” my father (he was 8 months old). My father’s death turned my world upside down, 7 months later I lost my adorable grandmother and 2 years later I separated from my father’s son…still feeling the consequences of all that. I guess things just happen and that they happend for some reason and I know that there is a lot of suffering out there. However pain has to be adressed by “topic” as I ususally say – everyone deals with its own.

    huge hug for everyone in pain

  8. Ellen H. says...

    Reading this piece and reading through the comments is such a gift. Like so many here, I have lost my dad. And at the early age of 16, like others here. There aren’t really words for it. I don’t really know why I’m compelled to write something other than to say: thank god for this community. I don’t know any of you personally, but you’ve all touched my heart today and I can go forward with that little seed of strength knowing that I’m not the only one shouldering this loss and sorrow. One thing the school counselor said to me all those years ago that has stuck: you never get over it, but you always find ways to move through it. Sending a little thought of love and gratitude to each of you. xx

  9. i’m almost thirty, and i lost my dad when i was 16, though it doesn’t feel like nearly 15 years ago. as i reach the inevitable time that i’ll start a family soon, i find myself wondering how i will explain my dad to my children. as someone who never had grandparents, i want my kids to still know who he was and the important role he played in my life and somehow, even theirs. what a heartwarming article.

  10. Susan says...

    My father passed away while I was still pregnant with my first child. All throughout labor I prayed he could see her somehow. It was brutal the months coming after her birth, without him. What a profound question, “do you ever feel like you love your late parent more than your child?” I had 26 wonderful years with my dad. And now only 4 recorded years with my daughter (one of which was very sleep deprived!!). This essay made me cry, especially as I am about to have my 3rd baby any day now. Hoping my dad can see him too. Xo

  11. Justine says...

    My father passed when I was 13. It’s been 14 years and I still miss him terribly, particularly during happy moments and milestones in my life. People say the pain dissipates over time, but in reality grief never goes away when you have loved so deeply and wholeheartedly. We are lucky to have experienced such joy and love in our lives. Grieve at your own pace, but don’t apologize for your emotions—they are reflections of the memories and moments you’ve shared.
    My best to you and your family.

  12. Erika says...

    Thank you so much for sharing. Reading this and the comments has been a great comfort and I can only echo the sentiments other have shared. My father too had a grey mustache and recorded a story (Night Before Christmas) for me weeks before he passed away 9 months ago. My hope as well was that my future children could cherish that and make it part of their memory. Thank you all for sharing. xx

  13. I lost my sweet Dad in July 2015 so I can empathize. Nearly every day, I encounter someone or something that reminds me of him. His name was David so each time I meet another David, I’m thrilled. Or I see a cardinal, something we always enjoyed together. I’m grateful for these small reminders, even if they hurt.

  14. This was really sweet. I lost my dad many years before my son was born, but I tell my son stories about my dad and show him pictures. I tell him how his middle name was his grandfather’s name, and I always tell him, “He would have loved you SO much.” The other day my son asked me, “Did my grandfather get into lots of mischief?” I told him, “He sure did!”

  15. My dad died this last May and I still cry often. I am crying right now, just reading the title of this post. I miss him so… Grief is so profound and numbing.
    I wish I could hold his hand one more time, or just watch him smile at me.
    Now that time has passed, I started to tell my children stories where he is the protagonist. The stories talk about his adventures growing up in the dessert of Chile. I make them up as I go.
    My kids love these stories and i feel more connected to my dad when I tell them, even though his physical presence is long gone.
    I also wrote an essay about his death. Here is the link if anyone cares to read it.
    http://jestcafe.com/2016/07/28/bye-bye-dad-adios-papa/
    A friend of mine told me that the pain of loosing her dad has never gone away (her dad died decades ago), and I believe her. The pain recedes, is true, but it never goes away.

    • Sarah D. says...

      I read your beautiful essay. Your dad sounds like an incredible man and I bet he’ll live on in you and your children in ways you can’t imagine…yet.

  16. kj says...

    Thank you so much for this. I lost my dad just over two years ago and I still feel it every day. I am thinking about trying to have a baby soon and can’t even imagine how strange it will feel to bring new life into this world when such an important life is gone.

  17. mimi says...

    My father in law passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in March. Our daughter was only 6 months old at the time. I can’t truly understand what my husband is going through, but I am just trying to be there for whatever he needs. We both feel so sad for our daughter though, who will never get to know her grandpa. I grew up with all of my grandparents (and still have 3 of them) and she won’t get to experience that.

  18. Hopeful says...

    I also lost my father a year ago. It was the saddest day of my life. My kids only knew him as grandad who was sick, he had Alzheimer’s. Your essay hit very close to home. How lucky you are to have his voice on video. My Dad leaving this world was a big loss for me and my family but being able to keep him alive through the sweet memories for my children fills my heart with joy. Sending you peace joy and happiness! Cherish the memories, being a great father was the best gift they left us!

    • Colleen says...

      I’m sorry for your loss. Going through the same thing right now with my dad. My kids will never know healthy grandpa.

  19. Emily says...

    Thank you so much for sharing. My mom died four days ago, and reading this post as well as all the comments has provided a great deal of comfort to me.

    • Kelly says...

      oh! I’m so sorry for your recent loss.

  20. BBB says...

    Wow, this was timely. I lost my dad just a month ago, unexpectedly, and am most jarred by that sadness of knowing my almost-two-year-old will never really know his grandpa. I am managing in my own grief, but when those thoughts creep in – wishing I had taken my son to visit his grandfather more or hell, just wishing I had FaceTimed more – are when I struggle. My dad so loved young people and the loss of that grandfather/grandson relationship is most devastating. I really love Katie’s paragraph, “I’m still in the midst of this grief. I haven’t come to any grand conclusions yet. But I’m hopeful that I can come to welcome the interconnection between something so sorrowful and something so joyful.” That’s my goal that I’m striving for.

  21. Tyler says...

    I lost my mom three years ago and Katie.. it gets easier. One day will finally pass and you’ll realize you haven’t visited your grief all day. My mom was my first major loss and the hardest part for me was realizing wow – I just went though such a wrenchingly painful experience, and I will have to go through this again when my dad dies, and when my beloved godmother dies.

  22. Thank you for sharing this Katie and Cup of Jo ladies… I truly believe that sharing is healing through connection. I always feel a special connection with those that have gone through a similar loss.

    I lost my mother 5 years ago after a 15 year battle with cancer. It was my greatest fear, to lose her. I had nightmares about it when I was young, and continue to on occasion through this day. It was my greatest fear yet I lived through it. There is a hole now, in my life. A hole that will never be filled, nor will I try to fill it in any way. I’ve come to realize I will never not grieve this loss. Time is indeed healing, however it is no cure. Nor do I ever want to find a “cure.” To grieve is to honor and remember my mom, and I do this both in sorrow and joy daily.

    She was a rock in my life. The greatest source of comfort. The most listening of all ears. I wish I could speak to her everyday, in the way I used to—her physical presence actually there in front of me, responding, empathizing, encouraging, advising, and laughing. To hold her hand again would be the greatest gift I could imagine.

    Despite her absence, I hold her so very close in my heart, mind, and actions. I strive to be more like her each day. It’s my most sacred goal, to be like my mother, and to make her proud.

    For the 5th anniversary of her passing, I illustrated a list of things that have helped me to move forward while honoring her. After sharing on Instagram, I was blown away at how many people were touched by it and reached out and wanted to connect over similar loss. Perhaps some of you who’ve commented might be able to relate. Simply replace “he” for “she” as it certainly relates to the loss of a dad as well.

    http://www.annieherzig.com/#/losing-mom/

  23. J says...

    This was a beautiful piece and, though my dad is still alive, I could relate to it in so many ways. The father I grew up with was wonderful and attentive, loving and supportive. In my late teens and early 20’s, his mental illness began to take over and he slowly pulled away from us. I hear from him occasionally. Sometimes he apologizes and promises to do better, but then he always disappears again. It’s painful to have had such a truly great father and to imagine my daughter having that man as her grandfather. But he is not that man anymore, and sometimes it feels more painful to hold onto hope than it is to let it go. And so I do just what you’re doing — I focus on my child and the present moment, and as I feel ready, I relay the good memories, the special traditions, the funny stories. And I practice gratitude, every day, for what I have (and had), and acceptance for what can no longer be. xx

  24. Wow. This beautiful, powerful essay had me crying for the first time in months. My dad is battling stage IV lung cancer, and, as a coping mechanism, I’ve steeled myself to the point of numbness. It was nice to feel this morning. Thank you for writing this.

    • Kelly says...

      Wishing you strength.

  25. thank you for sharing, this is very interesting, i lost my dad aged 12, it was a horrible time, but luckily i think being so young meant i was unable to process or feel as deeply as perhaps i would have done as an adult. it look me a long time to deal with the grief (into my 20s) and now i can look back fondly although sadly.

    http://thewanderlusthasgotme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/keeping-in-touch.html

  26. Melanie says...

    I lost my own father when my oldest son was only 3 months old. My father was hospitalized the day my son and I were released and he fought to regain his health for 3 months before losing that fight. I struggled a lot with trying to care for him (I was power of attorney.) and caring for my son. I think I struggled more when I got pregnant again and realized that my father would never know this son, the one who looks like him. It’s comforting to see hints of my father in my youngest son and I’m grateful for those light eyes and that reddish hair. My father had purchased a little jacket and pants of our college basketball team for my oldest son and it became my youngest son’s going home outfit.

    I hope you find peace and comfort in those small moments and memories. How wonderful that you have those recordings!

  27. May I offer my perspective?

    My father was distant and troubled. While never abusive to me, he and my mother fought constantly, and our family home was a nightmare.

    I had no real relationship with my dad. By my teenage years, knowing I needed to escape that toxic situation, I became estranged from him.

    When I read this essay, and the raw, honest comments, I wonder “What is that even like to have had a dad like that?” Of course I don’t wish for the pain, but I think it would’ve been worth it to have experienced the deep connection and joy that I am reading of here. I missed out on all of that.

    • I completely understand this. Both of my parents are very distant and not very supportive. They’ve never been physically abusive but very much emotionally so. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have supportive parents and I think I’ve spent so long mourning our lack of a relationship that their physical deaths may not mean that much to me.

      The best I can do is to make sure that I am able to be as communicative and supportive of my daughter as she is willing to tolerate and break the cycle.

      I wish you the best of luck and the ability to find your support in other friends and loved ones as I have <3

  28. Patricia says...

    What timing this article is….I’m on my way to my Dad’s funeral this morning. I thought I’d have my first cup of tea and, since you’re almost always my first go-to website, figured I’d click on for perhaps something light. Then this popped up instead! I’m older than your average reader and my Dad died two days ago from advanced dementia (we actually had to make the gut wrenching decision to not have him artificially fed — looking at his hand in “boxer gloves” because he’d tried to rip out his IV helped make that decision somewhat easier. ) I haven’t done much crying yet. The first day I think I was more in shock and yesterday was so swamped with phone calls (family; funeral home; well-meaning friends and colleagues) that I didn’t have a chance to stop and cry much. I have no doubt that this morning is going to be different. I don’t have the time to read all of the replies right now (I will later) but if anybody is still reading this and has some words of comfort or advice for me, I’d greatly appreciate it. I hesitated on putting something on my Facebook page but in the end chose not to — not sure why I didn’t. Thanks to anyone who might respond. This is a first family death for me and I’m really trying to embrace the “it’s a natural process” thing, but not doing too well.

    • Katie J says...

      I don’t know what to say, except some stranger in Wisconsin wishes you peace, comfort and strength today, Patricia.

    • BBB says...

      I only wish I had words of wisdom for you. My dad suffered strokes following a routine surgery a month ago. He never regained consciousness, we too had to look at the boxing gloves, and eventually make that heart wrenching decision to cease feeding him. He passed a few days later. I just want you to know you’re not alone. This pain is real, and intense, and I know right now it feels never-ending. I did post something on FB, and found comfort in responses that invoked from friends near and far. It may be helpful for you too.

    • Katie Beck says...

      I’m so sorry Patricia, You are right in the heart of this raw and difficult time. A few days after my dad died (we also had to make tough medical decisions after complications from surgery) a friend who had lost her mom to cancer a few years prior simply told me “It will get better. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but just trust me that you will feel better than you do now.”
      I couldn’t fathom anything other than the suffocating pain I felt at that moment, but she was right. Even if you can’t imagine it now, have faith that you will get though this and you will feel some relief from the pain. be patient with yourself. It’s okay to just be sad. Sending so much love.

    • Laura says...

      Patricia, It will get easier with time. It is ok to feel the grief and sadness you have now. Let yourself cry. Let others be there for you. The pain you have now will not always be so raw.
      I lost my parents over 20 years ago, and I still miss them so much, especially now that I have a child. But, the grief is not as sharp now. You will feel better and will be able to remember your father in his best days, not just the end of his life. Peace to you.

    • Betsey says...

      So sorry to hear of the day you have ahead. Thanks for sharing. No big words of advice, rather things learned… “We wouldn’t miss them so much if we didn’t love them so much,” and yet, other days I feel numb and no feelings. Grief ebbs and flows, be patient with yourself. Grief is truly a journey and everyone is unique. My grief for my dad, catches me off guard sometimes. One day at a time… Blessings to you as you begin your journey…

    • bisbee says...

      Sorry Patricia. I had to make the same decision about my father 20 years ago. I know I did the right thing…but that doesn’t mean I don’t still think about that decision. The hardest thing I ever did…but the correct thing.

      Take care…and know you did right by your father.

    • Kelly says...

      Patricia, wishing you strength to get through the tough first months…

  29. Genna says...

    Hi Katie. Thank you so much for contributing this beautiful piece. I’ve read this blog for years and this was the first tear shed over something I’ve read. At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to connect because of the time difference. I lost my mother when I was three years old. She was only 25 when she passed. I’ll be 30 this December. Living more years than she has is a harsh reality for me. My father has struggled with substance abuse problems since I can remember. He is a loving and kind man. I’m recently engaged and thankful that he will be there to walk me down the aisle but a greater sadness and truth washes over me when I am feeling my happiest in all of these huge life moments… when he lost a fiancé, and the mother to his two young children, he lost a greater part of himself, a part of him I’m almost certain I too, never really got to know. When I read stories about loss like yours, I feel so heavy inside.

    For me, there are jam flavor favorites I’ll never know. Perhaps one thing we share is the willingness to embrace every precious moment with those we love.

    Thank you for sharing.

  30. Kate says...

    Thank you for sharing so honestly how you felt losing your Dad. This made me feel so blessed to still have my Dad, and that he knows my son and hopefully my daughter (she is due in Feb). There are so many people who have absent, or plain useless, fathers. I guess we should try to be grateful every day that we had childhoods blessed with a loving, present Dad.

  31. Jay says...

    Thank you everyone for the lovely comments and for the post itself. I’m part of this “club” of orphans. One of my friends is too and she says: it hurts but you don’t want it to stop hurting, not entirely. I found that my eyes were suddenly opened to all those I knew who had suffered loss but either they hadn’t talked about or I hadn’t understood. I understand more now.

  32. Katie Beck says...

    What a beautiful outpouring of emotions and memories here. I’m so sorry so many of you have had to deal with the loss of a loved one, but grateful for this space to share our experiences and find comfort in each other’s srories. It helps so much to hear how others have coped with such sadness and reassuring in a way, to know that the depths of loss is universal. I can see glimpses of beauty in my grief at times, feeling my dad’s presence in a stunning rainbow or in the majestic waves crashing in the sea, and am working on appreciating those bittersweet moments. Sending love to everyone, Katie x

  33. Annie says...

    She should find someone to transcribe that music she recorded. She could get in contact with any universities music department head and they could find someone to transcribe it for sure! It would be such a lovely tribute to have the sheet music framed in her home. ❤️
    I’m pretty sure there’s also software she could find online to transcribe it, depending on the quality of the recording.

    • Katie Beck says...

      That’s a wonderful idea. Thank you.

  34. Steph says...

    I lost my mother five and a half years ago. Since I didn’t really have a father, she served both roles in my life as well as my being my best friend. I’m still learning to navigate those days where I could really use her presence. I get jealous of people who still have parents and get pissed when they don’t appreciate that fact.

  35. Anna says...

    After our son was born, my mother in law gave us a large bag of cassette tapes she’d made in the early 1980s and found in storage. When we went through them we were blown away to find a recording of my husband’s grandfather reading “Go Dog Go” more than 35 years ago, with my husband’s preschooler-self giggling in the background! We quickly transferred it to digital for our son, and it’s kind of surreal that he’s able to read one of his favourite books along to a recording of his great grandfather. Though he passed away more than two decades ago, you can get a glimpse of who he was through the warmth and kindness in his voice. It’s impossible not to feel connected to it.

    So I really love that you made and have a recording of your Dad. And though it may feel raw now, I hope it will be an amazing thing to share with your son (and maybe even his children) as he grows up.

  36. Karen says...

    My heart goes out to everyone who lost their fathers or other family members at such a young age. It will be two years in January since I lost my Dad… He was 81 and I was 53. I don’t feel as grief-stricken as sad although the sadness sneaks up on me at odd moments and, I’m still shedding tears.

  37. It has been six months since my father died, and I’m slowly learning to cope. I can talk about it now, look at the things of his that my mother gave me, even look at his photo… all mostly without crying. Though I still can’t bring myself to remember the phone call.
    He died unexpectedly. Not that he wasn’t getting up in years, and he had several health problems, but there was no warning that that day was the last day. He went to sleep… and he never woke up.
    I miss him so much.
    Well… I haven’t cried like this in a while. Maybe it’s a good thing to do every now and then. To miss someone you have to remember them, and I don’t want to ever forget him. As if I could.

  38. AJ says...

    Such a heartfelt essay. Thank you for sharing and starting this thread. So much honesty and emotion here but it’s also kind of beautiful to read xxx

  39. Dana says...

    The night before my dad died he said this to me: “I will love you for all the days. I will love you for all the nights.”

    • Emily S. says...

      That’s such a beautiful expression of love, thank you for sharing.

  40. Dana says...

    I feel community with all of your as I read these posts. Since I lost my dad 2 1/2 years ago to cancer, I’ve felt lost at sea. Someone described grief as a series of waves that come over you. A wave hits and takes you down into the depths where you are dragged across the floor of the ocean, scraping yourself across the sharp objects, only to be swept back up to take another breath and feel the sun. Then, another wave takes you down unexpectedly and you feel as if you cannot breathe. I have found myself sobbing uncontrollably at times saying to myself, and sometimes out loud, that I want my dad. I ask the question “Where is my dad?!” As if I don’t know that he is gone. I’ve become so protective of his memory as well. The strangest things bring me comfort. When I hear a song by the Beatles, it doesn’t sound the same. My dad loved the Beatles. I find myself listening to Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul, and Mary and singing along with the hopes that I can transport myself back in time to being a little girl with my dad in the family room as we watched PBS. I got a tattoo of his handwriting of the word love on my wrist with my mom’s handwriting of the same word right below. I took it from love letters they wrote to one another over 40 years ago when my dad was abroad serving our country. My mom got cancer this year but she survived it. She has a lot to live for and so do I. I am so grateful for my family because a loss like this taught me how precious life really is. Love.

    • Krissy says...

      This. I lost my mom several years ago, and the pain has eased a bit (still there, just not as raw as it once was). The waves of grief that I used to feel are still fresh in my mind. I remember asking for my mom out loud (why?), talking to her, begging for her to come back, and looking for pieces of her in anything and everything. Losing someone so near to us is not just difficult… The hurt is nearly impossible. But I made it through it, and I know that i’m better for knowing and having such a wonderful, loving person in my life, even if our time together was cut short.

  41. Silvia says...

    On September 26, 2015 my father was murdered in front of his home. It’s been a year and 1 month and I still have the fresh memory. Getting the horrible phone call, rushing to his house wich was 6 hours away from us. I still remember seeing the seen whith my dad’s covered body. Going to the sheriff’s station speaking with detectives and coming back to his house and seeing his work boots near a chair were he had taken them off when he came home from a long trip he was a truck driver.
    Going in his house with out him hurt soo much. I can’t be at peace until the criminals are captured and have justice for my daddy’s death. The District Attorney decided to let the killers go. It hurts intensly. I feel for everyone who is left without a father or a mother. The pain the hrief never goes away it’s stays here in your heart we just have to learn like a baby to walk again and go on with this pain. Thank you everyone who reads my story . God bless you.

    • Anna says...

      I am so sorry. May you find peace.

    • Silvia says...

      Thank you very much. I pray to God one day I get it. One day.

    • Laura C. says...

      I am so sorry Silvia. Will praying for you.

  42. Sophie says...

    So very sorry for your loss. This was a beautiful essay.

    I have a video of my dad playing the piano and I’ve tried watching it, but the first notes make me weep and I have to stop. Something about seeing him so vibrant and alive makes my loss even more acute.

  43. Grace says...

    My dad passed away almost two years ago when I was 24. Grief is so completely strange. The first year my dad wasn’t with us, I felt in a fog with moments undeniably real I scream-cried into my pillow. I remember coming home from the hospital and seeing his reading glasses and I lost it; even in my grief, I still could not believe he was gone. Now, I feel the grief move in waves. It gets so hard sometimes, and other times all I feel is immense gratitude that he was mine.

    Sending lots of love.

    • Meghan says...

      I agree with the waves of complete sorrow and immense gratitude that he was mine- I say the exact same words to myself over and over again. My dad passed two years ago and knowing that we had something so special makes the loss so very palpable. But gosh, I feel so blessed to continue his legacy through his wisdom and kindness. All of these comments are so comforting to read.

  44. Sarah says...

    Dear Katie,

    I lost my mom 10 years ago and I had my baby only 2 years and a half ago… I am so sorry they never got to meet… But she has my mom’s hair and strong character, she caresses her hair as my mom did… And I talk about my mom to her as often as I can. It still hurts sometimes, but it get easier…the missing-ness stays, but we become more serene about it, I guess.
    My mother’s godmother sent me this right after she passed… it really conforted me, despite our different beliefs. I hope it will confort you too…

    “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    • Megan says...

      What a wonderful quote. Thank you for posting it❤️

  45. Nicola says...

    Oh God this is so exactly how I feel, my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly this year and suddenly I feel like I’ve been cut loose. The patient anchor in my life is gone. My boyfriend once caught me sobbing in our kitchen over a jar of preserved lemons I made while my dad was still alive. It’s so confronting navigating the ‘world without dad’ and feeling like everyone else has a dad, we’re right in the middle of wedding season and I sometimes can’t bear to see the bride being escorted down the aisle, my insides start screaming ‘He deserved this! Where is my dad to do this with me!’

    It is nice to read this and know that someone else has a hole in their heart, a howling in their ears, and a curious relationship with preserved foods

  46. HILLARY says...

    Really great post- and comments. I am a 31 year old- “adult orphan” having just lost my mom on Valentines Day and my dad back in 1993. My mom had stage 4 Brain Cancer for almost 6 years- which is unheard of- I got married last October and she kept joking with me that she was just waiting until I got married. She got really sick two weeks after our honeymoon. She was in the hospital and hospice up until she passed away- we had many great discussions. She told me what she wanted her grandma name to be one day and we went over kids names so that way I will know my mom liked the names one day in the future when I have children of my own. I always wonder what my kids will look like, I hope they look like either of my parents and have inherited their traits. like the essay said of her dad and son. It definitely gives me something to look forward to one day- which is nice.

  47. Christine says...

    its been 33 years since my dad died suddenly….you’re never ready and the loss never really goes away. the rawness – yes, the longing – no. he never walked me down the isle, he never met his magnificent grandchildren whom he would have adored but I feel him with me sometimes. I hear his voice, I even had a dream of him and woke up smelling him……i’m glad you have recordings of him that you can go to when you’re ready.
    Peace…….

  48. Kerry says...

    Thank you for sharing, I wasn’t sure I could read it, but I hope that in writing this post you found strength. My Dad in a tragic accident nearly 5 years ago. I only had one child then, now I have five. We talk about him often even though most of them never met him. It’s really special to me that all my children do that. Maybe it will be to you too, maybe not, so ignore this if it isn’t. Xx

  49. Julie says...

    Thank you for posting about this difficult topic. My father has an extremely rare neurodegenerative disease and we’re not sure how much longer he’ll be around. My husband and I have also been trying to concieve for about a year now with no luck. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who is upset by thoughts about my future children growing up not knowing my dad, and him not knowing them. Grieving can be an isolating process, and the grieving process has been so long and difficult with my dad. I know it won’t be getting much easier, but it’s comforting to read stories like these and know I am not alone.

    • Courtney says...

      That sounds like a really tough spot to be in–trying to conceive with the added layer of not knowing how much time you have left with your dad. My husband and I have been trying for a good while too now (2 years including a 9 week miscarriage.) It makes the awareness of time very prevalent, these hopes and unknowns. I can relate to the sense of grieving even before the loss occurs, as my mom’s health has been precarious most of my life. I feel for you and wish you the best. Just wanted to say you’re not alone out there :)

  50. JG says...

    Thank you for this honest post. I just lost my sweet younger brother 2 weeks ago in a very sudden and unexpected way. I’m 36 weeks pregnant with a baby boy who will carry his uncles name -something he was well aware of. I also have a daughter that is almost 3 and had a close relationship with him. I’m in the depth of immense pain right now but I have hope that I can find peace someday. If anyone is grieving, I highly recommend reading “Lament for a son”. One day/hour/minute/second at a time….truly never fully grasped this until now.

  51. Corinne says...

    I lost my dad just a few months ago. The wound is still so raw and new and I can relate to so much of what was written here. In the author’s case, it was little things like a stack of coins. In mine, it was his shoes tucked under a chair, just where he’d left them. It took me days to work up the courage to move those shoes to the closet.

    I miss his presence dearly, every single day. It has helped me enormously to know that he was content with his life, that he was surrounded by people who loved him, and that he went quickly and suddenly (which, we had discussed only months before, was exactly what he had hoped for). As much pain as this has caused me, it’s comforting to know that it caused him none.

    It is so easy to get caught up in what we’ve lost, but every day I try to be grateful that I had the honor of knowing him, that there are bits and pieces of him in my two boys (his kindness, his eyes, his isolation), and that I have the chance to pass on to others the compassion he taught me. It helps.

  52. selby says...

    i can’t even start to read this post because the thought of losing my parents terrifies me more than anything else (and will make me start bawling at work).

    • Kristen says...

      Selby your words echo my own as I sit here sobbing at my home desk reading this post.

  53. Anonymous says...

    This essay is so beautiful and so sad. I lost my dad this year, suddenly and unexpectedly, just 2 months before I welcomed his first grandchild into the world, a little boy. I also see so much of my dad in my son. His smile, his easy-going nature and I hope we’ll see more as he grows. That question about loving your late parent more than your baby…. when I lost my dad, I had yet to meet my son and someone, trying to give me some sort of comfort, told me that perhaps my dad had to make way in this world for my son. In that moment all I wanted was to have my dad back. Of course I love my son and I can’t imagine a world without him and he is such a powerful little boy helping me heal more than he’ll ever know. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story.

  54. ellie says...

    Ironically, we enrolled my dad into hospice today. Your timing is perfect, as is typical for this site, for me….thank you.

  55. bisbee says...

    It is never easy to lose a parent. Harder, of course, when it happens earlier in life, but never easy to deal with. My parents have been gone 24 and 20 years…I still have dreams where they are so alive. I wake up and feel happy, although they would be extremely old if they were still here.

    My daughter-in-law lost her parents when she was in her 30s…we speak of them to my grandchildren often, although they won’t actually remember (my granddaughter was under 2 and her brother wasn’t born). My friend lost her mother at 10…she’s 67 now and still misses her.

    It is never, ever easy…at any age.

    • Nicole says...

      Yeah. That’s a really good way to put it.

    • This scene has stuck with me ever since the episode first aired over 10 years ago. I was going to make a comment about it. It perfectly describes what it means to lose a dad.

  56. Ruth says...

    My dad also had a grey mustache,and was such a wonderful father to me and my sister. He died unexpectedly almost two years ago.
    This was very special and in a way comforting to read,
    thank you!

  57. Alexandra Marie says...

    My dad died on Valentine’s Day in 2011– that holiday has been a mixed bag for me ever since, and I’m glad my spouse is understanding. He and I just had a miscarriage in July of a baby whose due date would have been in mid February 2017, so I’m not sure what this next Valentine’s Day is going to look like.

  58. beth says...

    It was so amazing reading this essay followed by all the shared experiences after.

    My father died in 2004 when I was 23. The initial grief was overwhelming for the next few years. The sadness and introspection made me completely change my lifestyle and outlook on life. All those changes brought me to my husband and opened up my life entirely. I take some solace in the fact that my losing my Dad gave me so much in the end. My two boys and baby girl will never know him, I walked solo down the aisle at my wedding, and I miss my Dad who used to be my best friend. But, now when I look back and relive all the memories, it is with joy and thanks instead of heartbreak. Time did heal the raw pain for me. I hope it will for so many others!

    Man, though, remembering the searing pain brings a lot back. I remember being so confused after my Dad died in his hospital room, spending another few hours there with his body, and then going into the waiting room and seeing the Superbowl on TV. Really? There was a football game going on? How could life go on like normal when so much had changed?

    • Serfina says...

      I can relate. I lost my dad just a little over a year ago at the age of 24. It’s something I’m still trying to process but has completely changed my perspective on life. The thought of my future wedding and children whom he will never get a chance to meet breaks my heart. It’s comforting to hear your story and positive perspective on such a painful experience. The waves of sadness come and go but I feel so lucky to have had a father so great in this lifetime.

    • time does heal, slowly

  59. Claire says...

    I lost my mother when I was seven years old, and even though I am thirty-five now, I choke up at the thought of her and miss her on a daily basis. Just reading the title of your essay made me stop in my tracks for a moment; grief can sneak up on me when I least expect it. Since having my own son, I have thought and missed my mom in all new ways. Your essay is a beautiful tribute to your dad and your son, and I hope you can someday listen to those tapes of him reading. I can’t say it will ever be easy to hear his voice, but there is something beautiful about crying and missing someone you loved so much.

  60. Jenn says...

    Ah! I had that, too – looking around the house at his things and thinking how inconceivable it is that he’s no longer here. My dad died last month – somewhat unexpectedly. A headache turned into a cancer diagnosis a month later with three to twelve months to live. Three weeks after that, he was gone. And I’m angry and I’m sad and I’m heartbroken and I want my three months! I want my dad back. I know what Ms. Beck means about needing to brace herself for seeing his face – so many times I’ve mentally reminded myself that my dad is gone so that I wouldn’t think, ‘What am I going to get dad for Christmas this year?’ and then break down crying when I remember that he’s dead. But as much as I convinced my mind, my heart was still searching for him – I unexpectedly came across a recent photo of him – that looked exactly like him – I can hardly talk about it – and my heart nearly leaped out of my chest as if to say, “THERE you are!! I’ve missed you so much!!” I was overcome with how glad and relieved I was to see him and then the heartbreak was fresh all over again, remembering that he’s gone. Wish I even had one more opportunity to say goodbye though I know I wouldn’t be able to tear myself away from him.

    • Jasna says...

      Oh, Jenn…so sorry for your loss…your comment really moved me to tears…

  61. Uma's Mom says...

    My dad has been gone 14 years and only in the last couple of years have I been able to say the word “died” and to be able to look at photos of him. A lot of it has to do with my talking to my children about him in little spurts and also them asking questions about dying that has made me more comfortable with this. It takes a long time.

    • it took me years to be able to say out loud that my dad had died :(

  62. Laura says...

    Thank you for posting this heartfelt essay. My mom passed away last year, when I was 25. Though I’m not a mother myself, I can connect with so much of what is said in this essay.

    So, again, thank you.

  63. Katie says...

    Gosh, this punched my right in the stomach. My dad’s health is declining and he doesn’t take very good care of himself. I find myself, morbidly, sometimes trying to envision what a world without him might feel like. I can only imagine it’s a loss you continue to feel forever — the “before” when that spirit lit up the world and then the after when it’s gone and you feel like you should look for it, but you know you’ll never find it. I don’t know about others, but despite the complexities of a changing dynamic in the relationship between myself and my dad as we both age and evolve, I can’t help but always feel the kind of love and admiration I had for him when I was a little girl, when he was perfect in my eyes.

    This part of Beck’s essay particularly struck me: “I kept looking around at the things that were still here when he wasn’t: a jar of his favorite black cap raspberry jam in the refrigerator, the neat little piles of coins on his bedside table, and thinking, ‘How can that still be here and he’s not?'” This was perhaps one of the saddest things I remembered after my Pop-Pop died. The sight of his garden shears leaning on the porch he’d used the day before…the half empty bowl of ice cream he’d put down by the fireplace the evening before and never got to finish — all those everyday items now loaded with meaning and emotion.

    Talking about sorrow and grief is so important and it’s something I wish we did more of. I find I’m only truly comfortable expressing grief when I’m alone. My own feelings make me feel uncomfortable and the way I may express myself makes me feel self-conscious, but it’s absolutely an emotion that everyone knows and experiences. What should be a time for shared connection and empathy often times gets tiptoed around because no one knows quite what to say or do. Pieces like Beck’s are important — thank you for sharing.

    • Anonymous says...

      So true, what you’ve said about talking about grief. I have no problem writing here about the loss of my dad but can’t talk to anyone, even my family. It’s as if to speak the words aloud would be to make it all ‘real’.

  64. Abby says...

    No grand conclusions! Thank you so much for these sweet-to-my-ears words. I lost my beloved father in January, and I am deeply living in fear of the “one year ago’s” as I have been calling them. He had just learned he was sick this time last year. It’s been so awful, and through it all I keep expecting and thinking that surely I must come to some grand conclusion on the meaning of these events and how it is supposed to shape me as a person. The only thing I have come to, even in the grips of deep sadness immediately after our loss, is that at the very least, I can now have true compassion for others who have to go through this in the future. Not grand, but something. This was lovely to read, and my heart breaks for you, and all others suffering still from a loss that can never be filled. The positive nature of this article, though, doesn’t make it feel as bad-the knowing you can’t fill the void is simply a part of it. Thank you!

  65. Kate says...

    I lost my mother just over three years ago, when I was age 27. She was my best friend and my “person” and though I’ve managed to continue to exist in the world without her, I still don’t feel rooted to this earth knowing she’s gone. There are these beautiful moments where I feel completely at peace about her loss and can simply live in gratitude that I was so so so lucky to have her as my mom. Then, there are the devastating moments, like last week when I learned that I’m losing my job and all I wanted was to call her and hear her tell me that everything will be fine. Since losing her it seems that all of my experiences are shaded by this feeling that they don’t really exist because she’s not here to share them with me. Its left me felling very lost at times.

    I’m sure there are many who will relate. Hugs to all who are on the journey we call GRIEF.

    • Gabrielle says...

      I can relate to this in so many ways as I lost my mom just over two years ago when I was 26. She was my best friend and my true comfort in this world. I love that you say your mom was your “person.” That comforts me to think of my mom in that way too, and I struggle when I can’t just pick up the phone to chat with her about important life events, or even chat about nothing at all. In a way, I am very similar to my mom, and in other ways quite different. At the end of the day, I know I am my mother’s daughter and I smile when I find myself doing things that she did or acting how she would act – I hope you do the same with your mom, too. Sending a hug right back to you.

    • Claudia says...

      My eyes definitely watered. I thought I was the only one! I lost my mum when I was 22 and that was 6 years ago this Christmas. There is so much happening in my life that I wish I could call her up and speak to her about. It’s been 6 years but it still feels like yesterday. I dream of her and I wake up crying, because I feel so alone. We were thick as thieves and I too feel so lost at times. Thank you for sharing, it’s good to know there are other beings on this journey.

      xo

  66. Sullivan says...

    My dad died eight years ago today, on Halloween morning. My mom and I sat by his bed and held his hands as he died. I remember shouting “I love you daddy” over and over until my mom said he was gone. I had the crazy thought that maybe the ears of his soul still worked and I wanted him to hear that as long as he could.
    We were blessed to be with him in the last minutes of his life. My dad was dying from advanced multiple myeloma and was in horrible pain. In the middle of that pain and dying however, we watched my dad smile and reach up with his hand. My dad loved Jesus and had given his life to him when he was a kid. I believe with all my heart that he saw his beloved Jesus coming for him. I can think of no other reason for that much joy at that time. While I still miss my dad all the time, and I was blessed with such a good dad, as a Christ follower myself, I know I will see him again someday. Death has lost it’s sting but hasn’t diminished loss. Hope remains and I know I’ll see him again in Heaven.

    • Claire says...

      Sullivan, this comment made me cry. What a sweet picture of your dad’s faith becoming sight. Thank you for sharing this!

  67. I lost my Dad in February when my son was three months old. This is so very true- especially the part about the pictures of him holding him. And the part when people tell me he’s watching over my son. It’s nice in theory, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

  68. I lost my Dad unexpectedly a 13 months ago. Every day is still a struggle. Grief is such a brutal journey, but this story helps me feel less alone. You can really tell how much Kate loves her Dad. Thank you for sharing.

  69. Louella says...

    My Dad died a little over a year ago. I miss him every day. I am in my 20’s, I am so grateful for the time I had with him but still feel like I lost him too soon. Grief is so brutal, I am thankful for the author’s honesty. You can tell how much she loved her Father.

  70. Louella says...

    I unexpectedly lost my Dad a little over a year ago and it is still so hard to talk about and understand. I am still in my 20’s and it makes me sad that my Dad won’t be here to see me get married or hopefully have children someday. The author did an amazing job sharing about her grief journey, you can really tell how much she loved her Father.

  71. Mary says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this essay, Katie. I lost my mom a little over a year ago. She passed away just before my husband and I got married, and processing those two events back to back has left me feeling a confusing mix of both grief and joy.

    Life now feels very complicated — the excitement I have long felt for a future with my husband now lives in tension with the grief I feel knowing my mom won’t be there to share it with us. And at the same time, it still seems unreal that she is actually gone — it has been a year of magical thinking, as Joan Didion put it.

    I’m not sure what grand conclusions might come of these events, either, but thanks again for sharing.

  72. Louella says...

    I unexpectedly lost my Dad a little over a year ago. I’m still in my 20’s and I don’t have any children but I wish that my future children and Dad could have met. My brain is still processing that he is gone. Grief is such a long and difficult journey and I am thankful that the author shared her emotions and experiences. You can really tell how much she loves her Dad.

  73. Eleanor says...

    I lost my mom 5 years ago, it’s the worst. That year after was a blur, I didn’t even tell my work (I had just switched jobs so the head person knew but no one else, how do you bring that up? “How was your weekend?” “My mom died.” “Umm.”), so I mourned silently and I know it did a number on our marriage. After we hit the year mark, I turned a corner and got pregnant shortly after. I won’t say it gets easier but it becomes a new normal. I wish more than anything that my mom could’ve met my daughter though, but I’ve made it my mission to make sure my daughter learns all the wonderful traditions from my mom. Hugs to anyone going through this tough time.

  74. Kelley says...

    I lost my dad suddenly 12 weeks ago. After I flew home to be with my mom, I too had that same sense seeing his things around and wondering, “how could those objects be there and he couldn’t?” His B12 vitamins, his razor, his shoes, all things he had touched only the day before, now left where he wasn’t. My husband and I had been planning to start a family this year, thinking we still had plenty of time for our parents to meet our children and see them grow up. One of my biggest regrets is that my dad will never get to meet them now. However, I hope that a little piece of him will be with them. My grief is still so fresh for me as well that I’m not sure I have anything to offer other than solidarity. Was wonderful to read this essay, though, and see some of what I have been feeling on here.

  75. Thank you for sharing this Katie. Right there in the grieving process for my dad too. I really appreciate your honest reflection.

  76. Laura C. says...

    My dad passed away on 2012, on that day called “Blue Monday”, which is supposed to be the saddest day of the year.
    Well, it was indeed.

    Thank you for sharing, and I am sending lots of hugs to every reader that have lost a parent.

  77. Tricia says...

    I appreciate this essay and the thoughtfulness of those who commented. I see there’s never a solution to an issue like this, but helps to read how others feel as well. I struggle every day in wanting to talk to my almost 3- year-old son about his grandparents, whom he never knew, but feeling like I can’t (because it’s too sad for me), and because I don’t know where to begin. It’s almost too daunting to go down that road even though I wish I could. Would love to hear from others how they might have found ways to bring a deceased grandparent into their children’s’ lives.

    • Jen says...

      Tricia, your comment reminded me of a book called Choose Your Days by Paula Wallace. It is not really a children’s book, as the story/illustrations are very subtle, but it is a beautiful book that my 4yr old found spiritual (she said “it is like a bible story”). If I may suggest something, perhaps choose a few photos of yourself from the same age as your son, to show what your family was like then, as a way to “introduce the grandparents” through tangible stories that he can relate with? E.g. here was grandpa and I on our way to school. In our family, we made a book with our relatives’ photos, and we certainly made room for loved ones that are no longer present.

      I agree with you that this is an absolutely heartbreaking and therefore beautiful essay. Thank you so much for sharing your intimate struggles, Katie Beck.

    • Michelle R. says...

      Hi Tricia. I’m very sorry for your loss… I lost my dad a little over 2 years ago and also wondered how to bring him into my littles’ lives without “over-doing” it (if that makes sense). My husband actually downloaded a bunch of family pictures on both sides onto our fridge digitally and there are a lot of my dad – with the kids (he met two of mine when they were babies, but not my littlest) with the kids, and then some of him with me when I was a baby, him with other family members, etc. Every now and then they see the pictures while we’re cooking and ask about him. I also bring him up every now and then and say do you want to know something, this was grandpa’s favorite song! Or tell them a funny story about him. I try to keep it light hearted but it has begun a greater discussion about death, angels, etc… just a forewarning. Good luck! Anything you do will be great :)

  78. I was five the day my father died. Outside, orange and yellow oak leaves mixed with deep, red maples, irresistible piles of autumn. Inside my warm apartment, eight o’clock meant children in bed, my mother with a cigarette at the ready and my father out on the town. But with Halloween fast approaching, my mother allowed my brothers and me to stay up late to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I didn’t realize it then, but just as Linus begrudged the Great Pumpkin my life had changed forever.
    http://brooklynchateau.blogspot.com/2016/04/young-and-free-beauty-reals.html

  79. Cynthia says...

    I lost my father to cancer when I was 19, and it’s been almost 43 years since he passed away. There’s always that empty spot, but things do get better over time. I don’t think you ever get over it. My dad missed my wedding, and the births, baptisms, confirmations, and graduations of my two daughters, and the marriage of my youngest. When I got married, I walked down the aisle alone because no one could take his place. My mom passed away 3 weeks ago, but she was 94, active to the end, and went with peace and dignity. I miss her, because I will think of something and then realize I can’t phone her and tell her about it. I lost my brother to cancer 6 years ago and not a day goes by I don’t think of him.

  80. Sharon says...

    How sad, and how poignant, your essay is, Katie. Losing a parent is such a hard rite of passage, and cuts so deep. I hope you find some comfort and solace and peace as you try to come to terms with your loss and bury yourself in mothering your young son. And what a great source of joy to know that you have preserved your father’s voice. My mother died 12 years ago, and her death was unbearable. We have no recording of her voice, and when I try to “hear” it now, there are times when I can’t and it makes me panic and get a very tight, suffocating feeling in my throat, reminiscent of the raw pain I felt in the weeks after her death. All strength to you. Remember: one day at a time.

  81. bdc says...

    I lost my husband last November and I am only now able to hold that thought with some degree of peace. In the last few weeks, thinking about our children (9 years old) not having a father to share all of life’s “events” has taken over as the new punch to the gut. Hopefully that will ease with time but I don’t know. Definitely no grand conclusions here either and I’ve come to hate inspirational sayings about” live every day like” blah blah blah -quite passionately

    • Gosh, I’m so sorry for your and your family’s loss. I don’t know what to say-loss is fresh on my mind bc we may lose my dad this year.

    • Anna says...

      I am always in awe of parents who have lost their spouses – I can’t begin to imagine how hard that must be. Hugs to you.

  82. Elizabeth says...

    I was also abroad when my Mother died. It has been 4.5 years and it is still painful to read her emails, look at pictures, and remember her. Because I miss her so deeply. Just the other day I was able to read one email and enjoy it for the first time. It’s so painful and I have small children too so I get it. Peace and love to you.

  83. I woke up one Tuesday morning in April 2012 to the news that my dad had died suddenly. I too remember going home and seeing his glasses sitting on his boating magazine right where he’d left them.

    I was 29 and didn’t (still don’t) have children. My sister in law was pregnant with my niece at the time. I do sense a connection between the two of them. While she never met him, she talks about him a lot, and sometimes calls to “talk” to him (my mother never changed her answering machine).

    As for the grief, it’s a bitch. It never goes away really. It just morphs into something a bit gentler. And while it’s painful right now, you will be so so happy that you recorded your father. Eventually, those recordings will bring you an immense amount of comfort.

    Either way, hang in there all of you! It’s nice to know we’re not alone…

    Confession: Sometimes I call my mom’s house to “talk” to my dad as well. ;)

  84. i think it is fair to say the grief never really leaves you, you just learn to wear it like a well-worn coat…
    & there are times too, when you’re thankful for that grief, poking you in the ribs when you least expect it, bringing that familiar swell to your throat which you involuntarily try to swallow hard to suppress…
    you welcome it because it reminds you to take pause & remember those that have gone before you…

    • Kate says...

      Ah! Great words “grief, poking you in the ribs when you least expect it”

      <3

  85. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  86. Rebecca says...

    I lost my dad three months ago. My children, his only grandchildren thus far, are 12 and 10. It broke my heart to see them experience their first real loss. My dad wasn’t perfect and his alcoholism not only took his life but left some not so positive memories for me and my girls. By with all of that, I miss my father tremendously. He would call all the time with little bits of information. I would call him my news man. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. It is so hard to comprehend that I will never speak to him again. I’m sad to think that my brothers’ future children will never know him. I have some of his shirts and I plan to make “Poppa” bears for my girls and future grandchildren. Just something to have of my dad.

  87. Sorry to hear what you went through. Your very brave to write about it though and I think it’s lovely that you can share it and help people going through the same thing x

  88. txilibrin says...

    My father died 2014, just 58 years old. I was living abroad, and still am, I managed to get back to my home on time to say goodbye. As of now, I’m not over it, and will never be. He sometimes appears in my dreams, some dreams are so peaceful and some make me wake up crying.
    I miss him so so much. In fact, I’m crying right now just thinking about everything that he went through.
    I wish I have had children, so they could have met him, but my life wasn’t in that stage yet. I have tons of videos of him, and photos, but I just never feel strong enough. I really hope that in the future I have the strength to talk about him, and remember the good times.
    Healing is such a painful process.

  89. I lost my dad 1.5 years ago in a car accident while I was undergoing IVF to get pregnant. My dad and I were so close; it was incredibly devastating. I was able to comfort myself with the amazing memories I have with him, but the hardest part is that he will never meet my twins. One thing I did to help me cope was I keep an ongoing note in my phone of memories I have related to him. For their first birthday I plan to write them into a little book, along with photos of him, that I’ll have printed to read to my kids. It’s important to me that they know my dad somehow even though they will never meet him. Their birth was bittersweet – my mom kept saying how she always pictured sharing this grandparent joy with my dad. We have all been so strong about his death, like we know he would want us to, but the one thing that brings all of us the most potent grief is the “becoming a grandpa” element. There is something about losing a life right when you gain a new life that is particularly heart wrenching.

  90. Brooke says...

    Such a beautiful essay. I recently had my first child, a son, and we gave him my father’s name as his middle name. Every day I pray his eyes will change from the dark gray they currently are, to the deep brown of myself and my father. Not having my dad here to meet this little wonder has been one of the toughest things about parenthood for me. But the sweet way my husband always calls him by both names (“Oh, hello, Otto Gene) stops my heart on a daily basis.

  91. Sue says...

    My dad passed away 10 days before my first child was born. Between my first child and my second child, born 3 years later, my mother declined quickly into dementia. I am lucky to have 2 healthy kids, and I try to focus on that, but it’s hard to be in the “sandwich generation” (can we make a better name?). I feel really lonely without my parents.

  92. What a beautiful essay. I lost my beloved grandmother over the summer, and my heart aches every time I think about her not being able to meet my future children…she would have loved them so, so, much.

  93. Sarah says...

    My father died November 11, 2001 and it was only this fall that I feel finally at peace. Each fall season brought unexplained sorrow and anticipation of loss. A few things have brought me to this new, good place, but they took many years to come together. My kids (including a son named Freddie!) are 9 and 4. They never knew their “pop-pop,” and we have never listened to the cassette tape of stories he recorded while dying quickly of cancer. And yet, he’s still very much a part of the family-from my own parenting style, to my son’s face and interests, to the occasional story I tell, to the daily reminders in a smell of fall or coffee or apples, a stack of work pants at Costco, a beat-up truck, a roll of duct tape.

  94. Jules says...

    My mother-in-law passed away 7 months ago after a short battle with cancer. I tried to get her to record a book for our boys, but by the time I thought of it she was too weak.

    The morning of her memorial service I found out I was pregnant with our third. It’s hard knowing that our middle boy won’t remember her (he was just over one when she passed) and that our newest won’t know her at all.

    My husband doesn’t talk much about losing her or how he’s coping but when he does I’m all ears. I just want to be able to help him but it’s hard to know what to do. I know he misses her terribly.

  95. Amelia says...

    Thank you so much for this – I’m especially moved to read a reflection that includes the sentiment “I’m still in the midst of this grief. I haven’t come to any grand conclusions yet.”

  96. What a beautiful intuition to record the piano and book. I hope that in time these will become a source of joy even though it is too tender right now.

    My dad is very wise about grief. He always says that the pain is a good thing, because if it didn’t hurt, that would mean the person you are grieving didn’t matter as much as they did. That doesn’t take the pain away, but it feels purposeful – a testament to how much the person meant to you.

    • Yes, it is the same sentiment exactly. A difficult emotion to capture but the Lament does it so beautifully!

    • Anna says...

      Oh gosh – I truly live by that sentiment too. Someone once told me that being sad to finish something (or have someone leave) is always a positive thing because it means that you will always have happy memories of the relationship or event because it was so good you didn’t want it to end. :-)

      My Dad has terminal cancer right now and when I read this article and comments I cried, but I think for different reasons than others did. Throughout my life I’ve always felt I wanted to deeply connect with my parents, and to make them proud, but at the same time have felt very distant from them and that their love is conditional. After my Dad received his diagnosis I flew home to see him, desperately hoping that we could make good memories, only to have him tell me about how I had not met his hopes and expectations. So I grieve – not for his passing, but for the passing of a relationship I wish I could have had.

  97. I lost my father when I was ten – years before I or any of my siblings even thought of having our own families. When my oldest sister announced she was expecting, many years later, I was somewhat stunned by the depth of my own feelings for this life event, and the sadness I felt at my fathers absence. That my nieces would not know their grandfather, and the realization that my future children wouldn’t either, was so difficult to accept.

    It’s especially hard because my father died before I really got to know him. When you’re a child, your parents are just that – your parents. In your young mind, they aren’t their own people with nuances and flaws and interests. Sometimes I feel less sad for what I lost, and more for what I never got to have. For every question I never got to ask and every life event that carried the weight of his absence. It’s like there is always a piece missing.

  98. Sarah Z says...

    This essay was so touching and I have the feeling it will stay with me for a while.

    My mom died when I was 15. Almost two years ago I had my son (at age 29), and I think so much of my postpartum depression was fueled by a deep desire to have her back to guide me through the intense difficulty of caring for a newborn. At times I felt very sorry for myself. I just want to say please don’t feel selfish for being sad that your father and son only had a short time together, even knowing that friends who’s parents never got the chance at all. Every loss of a loved one is so profound and unique and terrible in its own way. I would never feel that my loss was “worse” than anyone else’s, but would hope that friends who lose their parents now would know that I am there for them to offer support in whatever way I can. I hope the pain in viewing the special videos of your dad playing the piano and reading your favorite childhood book lessens over time and that one day they bring you comfort to view with your son. xxoo

  99. Erin says...

    I lost my dad to cancer 15 years ago, when I was 19. During our last conversation, he asked me to have my brother walk me down the aisle in his place on my wedding day. I made good on that promise last year. It still felt sad not having my dad with me, I felt his absence all day. But it gave me comfort and peace, knowing I kept my promise to him. It does make me sad to think that any future children I have won’t know him, but I like to think they’ll be a little of him too and they’ll see him in the twinkle in my eye.

  100. beccy says...

    I lost my father unexpectedly when my son was 5 months old. My dad loved him so much, and its tough some times to think about the things Bruce does that my dad would get a kick out of. We found so much comforting in tending to my son after my dad died. My dad always told us if we were having a hard time, we should serve others, and thats exactly what tending after my boy felt like. Thank you for sharing, Katie

  101. Anonymous says...

    Wow. This post is eerily relevant for me. My best friend (her name is Kate, too) lost her father this past week. He had been part of my life since I was in the first grade and was like a second father to me. His death has been difficult to process in many ways. There is a recording of him that I cannot bring myself to watch. Hearing his kind voice and sense of humor is just too hard to bear at the moment. Yet, I’ve saved the video to my hard drive because I want to cling to what little we have left. I’m personally devastated to lose such a close family friend; and I can’t imagine the pain my best friend and her family are experiencing. Her father was diagnosed with cancer around the time her nephew was born. He passed when his grandson was only one month old. At the visitation, it was odd to say “goodbye” to such an old family friend and “hello” to this new little stranger. Hearing your story has helped me to know it will (eventually) get better, but that it’s also okay not to have it all figured out. I’ve struggled with what to say or do to comfort my friend. This post has given me a glimpse into what my friend might be feeling. As the time continues to pass, I know that being there for her in the upcoming weeks, months and years will be just as important as being there today. Thank you, Katie, for sharing your experience, and know that it has made me feel less alone. I hope these comments can help bring you a small slice of comfort too. Sending you love!

    • Nancy says...

      When my Dad passed away 25 yrs ago, I family friend put it in perspective by saying that this is the way it is supposed to happen – older people die and new babies are born. Nobody lives forever. I remember at the time that pregnant women and new babies were so important to me as a reminder that this is the way it is supposed to be. You hope that when death happens that it isn’t a long, painful, suffering filled death, (which it was in Dad’s case,) or where they are suddenly just gone due to a heart attack or accident; those are the hardest to grieve. A good death is when there is time for the family to gather round and say what they need say – to say good bye without endless suffering.

      I have lost three parents now; Mom remarried 14 months after Dad’s passing. She was considerably younger than Dad and she had grieved extensively during his painful decline. She missed the companionship of marriage and I felt who was I to stand in the way of her happiness. Mom and H. had 10 good yrs together before he was in an accident and he passed away 5 days later – on my due date with our second son. (13 yrs ago yesterday – how auspicious.) I kept rubbing my 9 month, swollen belly telling him to come a few days late, which he did 3 days later. (I joke that it is the only time that he listened to me.) Mom and DS had a special grandparent bond, as he was a shining beacon in her darkest days.

      Mom passed away last year after a lengthy decline with Alzheimer’s. Learning about what to expect with the progression of the disease and learning to see the humour in the situation, (and there were many funny moments that I cherish,) helped make her decline and passing bearable. In the end I was telling her, almost begging her to go; that it was okay, that she made a difference in the lives of so many, and that this was her time. It wasn’t prolonging life anymore, it was prolonging death. At the end she didn’t look like Mom anymore, (14 days of not eating will do that to a person, but it is honouring the natural process of death,) so it was easier to say good bye, but I still have all those good memories and warm hugs to cherish. Not to mention honouring her memory every year when Christmas baking season rolls around and I get out her recipes written out in her handwriting.

      Some people don’t know what to say when someone has passed or they say something well meaning, but it misses the mark. Keep what resonates and gives meaning and comfort to you, but ignore the rest. Don’t hold it against them if it wasn’t meant in a mean spirit, (I can so hear my mother saying something like that.) Just be there for them. Losing a parent is never easy, but in a way it gets easier. It’s a milestone in life that most of us go through at one point or another.

  102. Your essay is very touching. You are lucky to have recorded his voice and piano playing. What a comfort.
    I lost my dad a year ago as well. We knew it was coming. He was elderly and sick, and there were several close calls in the months before. But I still can’t believe he isn’t there. Or my mom, who died very unexpectedly a few weeks after my dad. They are my computer wallpaper, so I can see them all day long, looking so happy and vibrant.

  103. Beth says...

    This post hits home for me. Thank you for sharing, Katie. I lost my father 2 years ago this week. It seems impossible that it has been 2 years since I’ve seen or spoken with him. We used to speak nearly every day, usually first thing in the morning. He was the first man I ever loved and we were always so close. He battled depression and I fought so hard to try and show him how loved and important he was to me. I am heartbroken that it stole the man I loved. I’m glad to see that the stigma is beginning to crumble, but we still have a long way to go to bring down the walls of shame when it comes to mental health. My husband and I were beginning to think about starting a family right before he died. Since his death, that conversation has gone on the back burner. His death was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through and I’m so sad to think our children will never meet him. For a long time, I withdrew because it was too painful to talk about him or see photos. Now, I find myself finding little ways to speak about him in conversation whether with loved ones or acquaintances who don’t know much about my family. I don’t always share how he died, and many times people don’t ask or they don’t realize he’s passed away. I don’t want him to be judged because I know the real man behind the illness and I don’t want to be pitied either. I’m so glad you have a recording of his voice and special song. I saved every voicemail I had and occasionally I will listen to them just to hear his voice once more. I also look forward to seeing him in my dreams, he is always so happy and healthy in those dreams. I would give anything to have him back, but I find comfort in the memories, photos and unforgettable love we shared for 30 years. I hope you were able to find healing in sharing.

  104. Caitlin says...

    This one hit home. I am sorry for your loss. The death of a parent is truly traumatic.

    My dad died suddenly ten years ago when I was 23. This year, I welcomed a son who I named after my father, Peter. I STILL feel those pangs of heartache and wish he could have been here to see me become an adult, meet my husband, meet his grandson, etc., etc., etc….

  105. Betsey says...

    My dad died when I was nearly 8 months pregnant with my 2nd son. He now carries my dad’s middle name, as his middle name. I think what saddens me the most, is that my boys will never really know my dad. My sons are just now almost 5 and 2.5 years old. They were his first grandsons, we lived in CA and he was in OH. We moved back to OH this summer, my dad would have loved my boys…and all things boys. I just miss being able to enjoy watching a soccer game, a game of toss or having donuts on a Saturday morning with him. He’s been gone now over 2.5 years, and I just miss him…no words can really express the missing.

  106. Maria says...

    A truly beautiful essay- thank you for sharing your story, Katie. I lost my father unexpectedly before I had my daughter and it breaks my heart to pieces that they will not know one another. That being said, I am with you on their souls being linked in a very special way that I cannot even begin to explain.

  107. We lost my father-in-law when my second baby was an infant, and there is something extra hard about losing a parent when your babies are young. It has happened to so many people that I know, and it’s just crushing. There’s the obvious grief of losing a parent and mourning the loss of the grandparent/grandchild relationship, but no one tells you about the guilt. If the parent suffers from an illness you feel guilty because you can’t be there for them the way you would like because you are also caring for a brand new life. Then, when you care for the parent, you feel guilty for neglecting your baby. Many of us have full-time jobs in the middle as well, and marriages that suffer. The year we lost my FIL was brutal, but we were numb (we lost five other family members as well, in the span of 6 months), but the year after when we finally got a chance to process our feelings was the hardest. This was two years ago, and we are just now feeling back to “normal.”

  108. Sarah says...

    I can absolutely relate after losing my father just 3 months ago. I didn’t know heart break until this loss. Thank you for this post!

    • I’m sorry for your loss! All I can say is I’m sorry and I hope your days are warm and light. I learned my father has cancer last week, along with his congestive heart failure, and I am upset all the time! I don’t know what those things really mean. I don’t think it’s possible to prepare yourself for loss, but I think I can try.

    • Rebecca says...

      I’m so sorry. I, too, lost my father 3 months ago. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.

  109. yael steren says...

    My grandfather passed away last month, and so I come at this from a different point of view. What was one of the hardest things for me was how badly I felt for my father, knowing that he had lost his dad, and for my grandmother. I couldn’t fathom having spent your life with someone and then not having the opportunity to say goodbye (my grandfather went into a coma rather suddenly). It’s still really hard for me to think about and so for now, I try not to except in small doses. xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/