To Those Without a Father on Father’s Day

On August 29th a few weeks before my 16th birthday, I lost my dad suddenly to a brain aneurysm. That hospital room has been ingrained in my memory from that day on. In an instant I regretted every phone call I ever missed. Every bone in my body wanted to go back in time and have one more embrace with my father, or to tell him I loved him one last time. Going through high school I tried to navigate what it meant to be a man alone. I remember moments like teaching myself to shave and cutting my face up, or trying to bury my emotions in a phony display of manly toughness. I didn’t want to be consoled. I buried my grief and tried to go on as if nothing ever happened but that grief only built. I would put on a good face on for the rest of my family, but drench my pillow in tears each night. I tried to stay busy and distract myself but the weight of loss was still heavy on my heart each and every day.

I know some of us out there have lost our fathers in this life, others may have never known our fathers to begin with, and some of us just might not have a strong relationship with them. But the truth is we don’t have to journey through that void alone — if you’re celebrating Father’s Day without a father, know that you don’t have to carry that cross alone. Journeying through life without my biological father was incredibly difficult but I was able to find hope in and let God fill that void in a few different ways.

Seek out Guidance From Priests

Jesus has anointed priests of the church, spiritual fathers who have laid down their lives to shepherd their flock. That flock is you and me. When my father passed away I remember my parish priest Fr. Jeff being there at the hospital supporting my family and giving my dad his last rites. When I lost my piano through all that was going on, Fr. Jeff had a piano donated to me so I could continue growing in music, which was such a huge part of my life. A priest named Fr. Marvin encountered me later on in life and helped bring me the healing I needed from the wounds of my dad’s passing. Another priest Fr. Michael in college spirituality formed me and helped me survive the whirlwind that is college life. I thank God for these holy men, who came into my life when I most needed their guidance. These kind of men are all around you in your local parishes and they are able to be a father to you if you’re willing to let them.

Seek them out! Don’t shy away from reaching out for guidance. Approach your pastor after mass to share what you are going through and ask them to keep you in their prayers. Maybe you could even set up a time to meet with them for spiritual direction. There is nothing to be afraid of! These men have devoted their entire lives to fully answering God’s call of serving his people. They are spiritual fathers entrusted to care for us, counsel us, and lead us to virtue. Allow them to counsel your grieving heart, and lead you towards healing.

Find Father Figures

It can be a core member at your parish or a teacher or a sports coach, but find a man in your life that you can look up to. Find a man that is chasing after the Lord’s heart to journey with you and show you what authentic manhood looks like. The role models in my life weren’t professional basketball players or rock stars. The role models in my life were ordinary men that showed me what a loving father looks like, when I most needed it. These men became true witnesses of authentic manhood. They showed me how to love a spouse in the full sense of the word, in a culture where sacrificial love is hard to find. They sought what was best for their families above all else. They showed me how to raise a family that seeks the Lord and how to be a spiritual leader for your children. These men were able to teach me things that my biological father wasn’t able to. That doesn’t mean that they replaced my father by any means, but they filled in some of the gaps in my growth as a man. Most importantly, these men recognized who their truest Father was, God the Father. Find those figures in your own lives.

Run to the Arms of Your Heavenly Father

Our truest Father is our heavenly Father and He is who all of us, with fathers or not, ought to run to above all else. Even the best of fathers will sometimes fail us, but God the Father loves us with a perfect love. His love will never fail, as he desires our greatest good in all things. He is a good father to all of us.

You may have heard the song “Good Good Father” thousands of times or you might not have even heard of it (in which case, listen to the Housefires version). The song is extremely easy to sing but I find at times it can be very difficult to believe. It’s hard to believe that God is a good Father when things don’t go exactly the way we wish they had. It’s hard to see that God is a good Father, when we can’t see the greater good beneath our current suffering. It’s hard to see that He is perfect in all of his ways when those ways coincide with difficulties in our lives.

Do we truly believe that God is a good Father, even when we don’t understand what he’s doing in our lives? Do we know that we are loved by Him, even when we don’t feel that love?

1 John chapter 3 says, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

Our identity, no matter the state of our earthly father, is that we are beloved children of our God in heaven. God created each of us and molded each of us to be a unique and unrepeatable gift in this world and created a unique plan for our lives that will lead to true fulfillment in him. God gave His Son to die the most brutal of deaths on a cross as the paschal sacrifice for the sake of our salvation; and Jesus poured Himself out in love for the Father. As Christians, we’re called to enter into that suffering of Christ, with the sufferings and crosses of our own lives, so that we too can be poured out in love for our Father. To those struggling today without the presence of an earthly father, God is the only one who can truly satisfy your deepest desire for love. Stay strong in the knowledge of God’s fatherly love for you. Invite others into your journey and know that you don’t have to suffer alone. Lift up your sufferings to the Lord, be honest in prayer, and ask for him to guide you and console you. I’ll tell you firsthand God will give you the grace to make it through this; you just have to ask Him for it.