Raising Children Without A Father Of My Own

“Daddy, did Grampy die and go to heaven?”

“You bet, buddy”

“Why?”

“He had an accident and didn’t get better, but he was a good man and gets to go to heaven”

It was 5 years ago this August and every day is a reminder of the great loss we suffered that day. My 4 year old son never met my Dad and doesn’t really understand the concept of life and death. He doesn’t understand heaven either but then again, who does?

In a cruel twist of fate, my father passed away on the same day that we found out we were pregnant with our first born. At the time, we used that as a way to help deal with the pain of the loss by saying that he lived on in my son. I never really believed it but when you lose someone, you tend to take any positive thoughts you can get.

I’m not an overly spiritual person, so to me, the reality was that it was just his time to go. It wasn’t an easy time. I went trough a very dark transition following that day and essentially missed the first year of my son’s life. Constantly feeling like my world was caving in, spending countless days and nights in hospital emergency rooms, trying to figure out what crazy disease I was suffering from this time.

It wasn’t until one of the doctor’s referred me to a psychiatrist that I really started to see what I was doing to myself and my family. I don’t know what it was that snapped me out of it. Maybe the thought of losing my wife, or knowing that I was completely letting my son down, which didn’t seem very fair considering how great my Dad was.

Point is, I decided it was time to man up and cut the “Woe is Me” act out of my day to day. Almost overnight, I managed to shake it all off and began acting like the man my family needed me to be.

I’m certainly not perfect. I have bad days just like everyone else and I don’t have all the answers to the mystery that is raising children. I’m not even a great husband but I’m working on it.

As my kids are getting older, I’m noticing more and more the extreme void that was left by my father not being here. There are so many things that I don’t know how to do and it’s frustrating/upsetting/devastating when I realize that my Dad isn’t there to ask for help.

It’s important for me to note at this point, that I mean absolutely no disrespect to the 2 men I call Father in Law’s. They have done nothing but treat me with the utmost respect and have helped myself and my family more than most people could ever understand. They’ve accepted me as if I was one of their own and I love them for that.

There’s just something about being able to talk to your Dad. To be able to ask the questions that you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone else on this earth. My Dad was a great listener too. He never once made me feel stupid for having questions or asking for help and I miss being able to do that. One of the last things he did before he passed, was to help me build a fence in my yard. Do you think I know how to do that? No way!

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never have that luxury again, and it is a luxury. Instead, I do the uncomfortable begging to friends, family and neighbours whenever something arises that I don’t know how to do or can’t do by myself. And it happens a lot. I’m blessed with good people in my life, which makes it a little easier.

It doesn’t change the fact that I feel ridiculous to have to ask my neighbour to take time away from his family to help me install a screen door; or constantly bother my friends to help me with two man tasks that most guys my age do with their fathers.

And it still hurts when I see how much fun my friends parents have with their grandkids. In fact, anytime I see any kid with their Grandparents (even my own), I get the sting in my chest. My Dad would have been an amazing grand father. He dedicated his life to coaching kids and I know that he would have loved them to death and probably would have turned them into big time athletes!

In the end, I’m left to wonder what might have been as I navigate the often complicated world of raising children. But I’m still happy. I have a lot of amazing people in my life, who are always there for me whenever I need them. I still have my Mom, who is an amazing woman and who loves her grand kids! I love my kids and my wife and we have a great life together, filled with fun and laughter!

I know I’m not alone with this struggle either. Some of my close friends have been dealt the same cards as me, but we don’t really talk about it. Instead we act tough and pretend to be superheroes, I’d be Batman by the way, until the pain passes and we get back to normal lives.

I was lucky enough to be blessed with a great Dad and even though he left us way too soon, I have the memories and lessons he taught me. Which were many. I can only hope that someday my kids can look back and say the same about me.

66 replies
  1. jetts31
    jetts31 says:

    I know exactly how you feel. My dad died 8wks after my second was born. I miss him more than I could ever put in to words but I do my best to keep his spirit alive for my girls who barely knew him and didn’t know him at all.

    Reply
  2. kirsty b
    kirsty b says:

    I feel every bit of this post.

    This August will be 6 years for us and since my father died my brothers and I have had 5 children that will never get to meet the man who only wanted one more thing in life: grandchildren.

    Life can certainly suck at times.

    Reply
  3. Alan
    Alan says:

    My father died last year. He’d been sick for some time, confined to a wheelchair, not able to play with his granddaughters. Good to know someone else who feels the same about seeing other grandparents play with their grandkids. I wish he’d had that chance, he would have been fantastic.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there. It helps all of us who have lost our dads, and maybe prepare those that still have theirs. On second thought, no. We can’t prepare.

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Thanks Alan! I certainly agree that there is no preparing for something like that. You just work at it one day at a time and hope that you manage to allow yourself to move on with your life.

      Reply
  4. Journeysof TheZoo
    Journeysof TheZoo says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It’s never easy even when it’s “expected” (a child losing their parent). There’s never a good time to die.

    He can’t help you with the screen door, but I’m sure that he helped you write this eloquent post.

    While I don’t know you or your Father, I imagine that he would be very proud of the son that he raised and taught. In turn, you will share that knowledge with your son, his grandson.

    Your Father lives on.

    Besos, Sarah
    Zookeeper at Journeys of The Zoo

    Reply
  5. Terry Brewer
    Terry Brewer says:

    Beautifully written, Chris. I can’t believe it will be five years in August… I’ll never forget the date; your dad passed away on my birthday. I didn’t realize it was also the very day you found out Lucas was on the way. You are such a wonderful father; it is just so clear how much you love being a dad and how much you enjoy and make the most of every minute you spend with your kids. I know your dad is smiling down on you, beaming with pride at the man you are and the beautiful children you are raising. xoxo

    Reply
  6. Christine (@chancesmommy)
    Christine (@chancesmommy) says:

    Oh my goodness, Chris!!! This post had me in TEARS!!! Thank you so much for sharing. You do know that I really LOVE your blog, right?! So awesome.

    P.S. My husband lost his father about 8 years ago. He’s feeling the same way as you.

    Reply
  7. Aeryn Lynne
    Aeryn Lynne says:

    *HUGS* I missed out on knowing my paternal grandpa; he passed a few years before I was born, and I know I missed out on something by not getting to know him. And today, I still know very little about him (I don’t even know what he looked like.) I often wish my Dad was able to talk about his father more… *shrugs* If you find there’s a time when you can talk about your Dad to your kids, tell funny stories n’ such, your kids will be grateful for it eventually! 🙂 *more HUGS*

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Thanks Aeryn Lynne! I fully intend on inundating my kids with stories, pictures, video and anything else I can, so that they will know my Dad as well as I did!

      Reply
  8. Brandy @insanemamacita
    Brandy @insanemamacita says:

    So beautiful Chris. I lost my mom when I was 20 (which was 11 year ago now). She was an alcoholic. I wish I could have learned more from her or known a sober mother. I think there is so much she could have taught me as well with having children. She missed out on many great moments, seeing my brother graduate, me get married, me having her grandchildren, etc.

    I don’t know what I will do when I lose my dad.

    *hugs*

    Reply
  9. Mabel's Labels Coupon
    Mabel's Labels Coupon says:

    This hit home. My father passed away when I was 13. I Had a lot to deal with, without him. It makes me sad to think that he will never meet any of his grandchildren. (He has 3 right now, 2 from my and 1 from my sister.) Great Post! Made me tear up.

    Reply
  10. tommy riles
    tommy riles says:

    Much love to the family, Chris. I can’t fully relate, but my wife can. She lost her mom three years ago before our first baby was born. We miss her every day. You’re a great dad, man.

    Reply
  11. pam
    pam says:

    I can’t say that my dad was a great dad. but he is getting better – at least with the grandchildren. And, for that I am grateful. I’ve told my sister that when my dad does pass away I will mourn the loss of the father which he could of been, and never was.

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      I’m glad to hear he’s making an effort now with the kids. At the very least, they might have a positive impression of him.

      Reply
  12. angela ( angfromthedock )
    angela ( angfromthedock ) says:

    gah. i try not to think about what i am missing out by not having my dad around…and then i read this. you hit the nail on the head.
    bedtime here, for my kids, often revolves around stories about the *grandpa you don’t know*. he had plenty of great stories to share:)…not all age appropriate but always amusing. the kids eat them up.
    my dad missed out meeting my husband…my wedding…my first house…my three kids…and there is not a thing i can do about it.
    except think of him when i see my daughter’s eyes and my son’s love of cars. that is all him.
    thanks:). turns out i needed this.

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Thank you for the kind words. I tell me kids stories too but they are a little young to grasp it yet. I don’t know how many times I’ve secretly watched my Dad’s speech from our wedding…

      Reply
  13. Paula Schuck
    Paula Schuck says:

    Chris: this is a stunning and beautifully written post. It touches on so many emotions and issues. I often wonder this about my own brother and the legions of boys who grow up without dads ever present. How difficult it must be to parent without that map. I am glad you had such a strong dad as a role model. That informs how you parent. But I too am sad for your kid’s.

    My husbands father died when my first babe was six months old. He was amazing as a dad and would have been so great for my kids to get to know. Life is sad sometimes. But we are who we are because of all these experiences.

    Paula

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Thanks Paula. I’m slowly figuring things out and learning to ask others for help without feeling too bad about it. We all need help sometimes, right?

      Reply
  14. WilyGuy
    WilyGuy says:

    Wow, very moving.

    I have my dad and feel blessed every day. I knew I had grown up when I stopped having nightmares about him dying and started having nightmares about my kids dying. I realize how macabre that sounds, but about once a year I have a cold sweat full on nightmare about someone dying. It was always him until about 13 years ago when he was replaced in the dream by my oldest who was 5 at the time.

    I wrote a piece around Fathers Day (was my entry in the first Dude Write) about my dad and how he lost his dad when he was 6, but still managed to be a great dad without a hands on role model.

    Great and moving piece.
    WG
    http://itsmynd.com

    Reply
  15. Sarah (senolte)
    Sarah (senolte) says:

    A very touching post… Thank you for sharing. We lost my mother-in-law six years ago before either of our boys were born. As I watch them grow and learn I can’t help but wish she were here, to see what an amazing father her son has become. I try to take some comfort in the fact that the passing of people we care about before ‘their time’ shapes us, and perhaps for us to be what our kids need we must suffer that loss.

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing that Sarah. I appreciate the kind words and sympathize with your husband’s situation for sure.

      Reply
  16. Marni
    Marni says:

    I’m sorry for your loss; I had a friend say once how God grieves for those of us who have lost someone, it’s a lifetime sorrow. Though I haven’t lost a parent, I did lose a grandparent who I loved dearly. I know what you mean when you say you wish your could see your kids spend time with your Dad, it’s how I feel about my Grandma. I’d give anything for my son to spend time with her and eat her gingerbread cookies! Thanks for sharing something that is so close to the heart!

    Reply
  17. Ryan Sanders
    Ryan Sanders says:

    Thank you for this post. I started to cry at several points while reading. Thanks for putting the line in about the fence, otherwise my co-workers would have caught me teared up at my desk. I appreciate your post. You made me want to cherish my dad today, as my dad and as grandpa to my kids. Thank you for that. Gonna call me dad today! Thanks for writing.

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Hi Ryan, Thanks for the kind words. Sorry about the crying, it wasn’t my intention, I just wanted to share my story in hopes that people will understand how important it is to live in the now. I don’t regret the relationship I had with my father because it was outstanding and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read it! Take Care!

      Reply
  18. Melissa Bessey
    Melissa Bessey says:

    Thank you for posting this, I feel comforted by all the comments so far, I too lost my dad in August 2006, 4 weeks after my first child was born.

    THANK YOU for writing so openly and honestly about such a personal topic I salute you and really appreciate it.

    We’ve had the same conversations at our house, “mom did grampa die / is he in heaven?” those conversations never seem to get much easier but in my case my father had been terminally ill for a very long time and it is probably best that the kids never saw him suffering.

    Reply
  19. Mr DaddyNoob
    Mr DaddyNoob says:

    Great post. My dad is alive and well, but lives a fair distance from me. He was very sick over ten years ago, and the doctors gave him a year left to live. I am so thankful that he made it through those times, I can’t imagine what life would be like if he didn’t.

    Appreciate your honesty, it is a gentle reminder of the gift of Fatherhood. I need to not ever forget about my father, or take this time I have for granted.

    Cheers,
    Dnoob

    Reply
  20. Laurel
    Laurel says:

    Thx for sharing your experience. I can relate, having lost both parents at a young age and under tragic circumstances and then having my own family having never really been patented. It’s definitely a journey and while a part of us is permanently shaped by our experiences, there’s another part that we get to create with our own families albeit some stumbling along the way;)

    Reply
  21. BloggerFather
    BloggerFather says:

    I hope you’re still comforted by the time you had, because many people whose dads are alive don’t get even close to that. I have a father-in-law who couldn’t care less about the grandchildren, and my own dad is back in Israel, which means he doesn’t see the grandchildren. But it also means we can at least be civil to each other when we Skype, because if we lived in the same city, we wouldn’t have talked to each other at all.

    Reply
  22. Nolie
    Nolie says:

    They will and do so you as a great dad. When they are adults and have kids of their own they will want to be just a great of a dad as you are. If you ever need help with a 2 man job we are here.

    Reply
  23. Martina
    Martina says:

    I can imagine how emotional that would be to read!! Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. Mine has been gone 14 years now and I know exactly what you mean 🙂

    Reply
  24. Margarita Ibbott ~ @DownshiftingPRO
    Margarita Ibbott ~ @DownshiftingPRO says:

    Chris: yesterday I celebrated what would have been my dad’s 85th birthday. I lost him on Dec. 23rd.

    As I read your post I reflect on why I never insisted that he should teach me how to make gravy or duck confit or lobster Thermidor. He was a chef and I am a short order cook at best!

    Here is my post about my dad that I wrote on the fall and later read at the funeral.

    http://www.downshiftingpro.com/2012/10/lessons-learned-dont-worry-be-happy.html?m=1

    Reply
  25. Tasha
    Tasha says:

    Thank you for sharing your story <3 Tho I wasn't fortunate enough to have my "real" dad in my life, my grandfather (who raised my sister and I) passed away when I was 8 months pregnant with my first son. He always joked about how he only had daughters and grand daughters, and wanted a boy to teach to be a man. Like you, I'm not very spiritual, but it helps to think my grandfather is living on in my son. My son is now 14, and just graduated grade 8 this week. And I must say, tho he never had the chance to meet my grandfather, he is so much like him. Soft spoken, with a sarcastic sense of humor, a gentile giant (the kid is a foot taller than me already) My grand fathers name is/was Real Joseph, my sons name is Riley Joseph, their friends nicknamed both of them RJ.

    Reply

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