This Father's Day... 'even if we're apart... I'll always be with you'

I wrote this post back in June, but wasn’t brave enough to post it then. There were just too many emotions vying for attention and by sharing this with the world, it felt that I would be exposing a lot… perhaps more than any of you want or need to know! But now, I feel braver and stronger and I think that Winnie the Pooh would want me to post this… let’s just hope I’m being smart in listening to him!

I love Winnie the Pooh: an affable sort of fellow; a loyal and caring friend; and a provider of a smackerel of something when you’re feeling a bit peckish - what’s not to love?! But in between chasing heffalumps and woozles, searching for Eyore’s tail and playing numerous games of Pooh Sticks, Pooh (via author A. A. Milne) scatters pearls of wisdom that I can, and do, return to over and over again as an adult.

There is one quote which sits beside me in my office, which has helped me to carry on during the tough moments, and which I turn to yet again today:

‘There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.’

Why do I turn to this particularly today, June 16th? Well, here in the UK it is Father’s Day - a day to celebrate the fathers in our lives; to renew the annual tradition of gifting them comedy socks or bottles of craft beer; and presenting either heart-meltingly endearing or mildly insultingly-captioned cards.

I am fortunate to be celebrating with my own father today - a constant source of information, learning and support to me and our family - but my little girl is not so lucky: her daddy didn’t reach his first father’s day, as he was killed in an accident 3 months before this unique milestone, when she was just 6 months old. For my family, today is therefore a bittersweet one and, in my head at least, it has been rebranded ‘Grandfather’s Day’ to help me swallow the enormous lump that fills my throat at the thought of it and to attempt to dull the ache in my heart.

Whilst it is a day of celebration for most (and I believe the more reasons to celebrate, to smile and to connect with others in this world, the better), I know I will not be alone in finding today a challenging and potentially confronting one: for parents who have cruelly lost their children prematurely; for those who are still determinedly trying to conceive; for those who have been told they can’t bear a child; or even those who, like my 4 year old daughter, have already lost their daddy, it will most likely be a challenge.

Whilst I would love to be helping my little girl to sign her name in a card and cover it with kisses for her daddy, we will instead send him our love, and celebrate the father figures and male friends she has in her life: her grandfathers, her great-grandfather, her godfather, and caring neighbours. …

For me, and I am sure for many other solo parents, Winnie the Pooh’s message rings true... at least in part:

Over the 4 years since my husband’s accident, I have had to be braver than I could have ever have believed possible just to hold myself together and to be present in the world; I’ve had to develop the strength of mind and the determination to not just get up each morning, but to smile and fill our days with purpose so that I can provide my little girl with positive life experiences and to be the best role model that I can. I’m not entirely sure about the Pooh’s smarter part though as I’m definitely suffering from ‘grief brain’ and find remembering things so much harder than before (there are just so many thoughts and feelings constantly filling my head… am I strong enough to take on the role of both mummy and daddy?; how will I ever give my daughter the opportunity to be fantastic at golf and tennis like her daddy when I am atrocious at both?; who can teach her not to worry or to fear the worst when one of the worst things has already happened? You get the idea.)

What inspires you or helps you to overcome challenging moments?

PS My one of my biggest regrets is that I don’t have enough photos of my little girl and her daddy. Like many, I fell into the trap of believing that there was plenty of time to capture this relationship… We have a few hand shots like the one above, but as a man who (only half jokingly) suggested we use a male model to take his place in our wedding photos, he managed to keep his face out of most of them. Regardless of what happens in your future, those early days with your baby go so quickly. Please photograph them and make sure YOU are in those photos too.

Photo courtesy of Annabel’s Godfather.