The lessons my children are teaching me about grief

I have been dreading Father's Day since Mel passed away. Some say anniversaries, birthday's, holidays are the hardest when it comes to death. I can understand why that is so. The last two years Mel was in the hospital for my birthday and our anniversary and then this past year he was in the hospital for Malachi's birthday. He was paralyzed and confined to a bed during his own birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And he passed away two weeks before Hannah's birthday. For those reasons, while I am sure birthdays, anniversaries and holidays will be hard, in many ways they have already been hard and I have been thinking about how we can make them special as a family of three. I haven't dreaded those holidays.

But I have been dreading Father's Day. Mel was an amazing father and while I feel comfortable celebrating the other holiday's as a family of 3, I wondered how do you celebrate and enjoy Father's Day when the person you are celebrating is in heaven? It is just a reminder that the one we love isn't here. There is no way ignoring the date and pretending it doesn't exist because even though my children are young, Malachi loves the calendar and knows all of the dates to any special day. I had been wondering how I was going to tackle Father's Day and really just wanted to sleep through the day.

But then my children changed everything and taught me a very valuable lesson. It started with them telling me how much they wanted to go to the Dallas zoo. We have gone there twice as a family of 4 and they really want to go as a family of 3. That was another thing I dreaded. I purposely chose to go to Houston for our first getaway as a family of 3 because Houston didn't hold the connections that Dallas did. Mel and I met in Dallas. He lived in Dallas and I lived in California during the first few months of us getting to know each other. I got a job and moved to Dallas after we started dating. He proposed to me in Dallas. We lived in Dallas during our first year of marriage. Dallas holds so many memories and I dreaded going there. So  every time Malachi and Hannah brought Dallas up, I avoided the subject.

Then on Saturday I baked a cake. And I mentioned how much their dad loved chocolate cake and Malachi said that maybe we could make one for Father's Day. I then asked him what else he wanted to do for Father's Day and he replied that we should do all of the things Mel loved doing. And in that simple conversation I realized a few things. Number 1, while there are some things I may dread doing, my children look at those same things with excitement and I need to push aside my dread for the sake of my children. The things that are painful for me because of the memories aren't painful for my children. While going to Dallas will be emotional because of all the memories, for my children they want to go to Dallas because the memories of going as a family of 4 bring comfort and joy to them.

While I never would let them know that I dread certain things, I also realized that the way I respond to things concerning their dad will be the way they will grow to respond to things as well. If we had just ignored Father's Day, they would notice that. If I never took them to the Dallas Zoo, they would notice that. If I don't celebrate holidays or special occasions anymore because they are too difficult, they would notice that. I would be teaching them through my actions that they should dread things because they lost their father. How we look at things is important. The attitude we take in grief is important. This doesn't mean things won't be hard. It doesn't mean that I am not going to cry on Father's Day. This doesn't mean it won't hurt when we go to Dallas. But it does mean that my attitude should be one filled with hope. The attitude I have as an adult grieving my husband, is the attitude my children will take as they grow up without their dad.

So in the coming weeks we will take a trip to the Dallas zoo. And we will do all of the things Mel loved doing for Father's Day. I am not going to dread things anymore but I am asking that God give me the same mentality my children have because they are teaching me valuable lessons.