Jordan Peterson says, “It is necessary to be strong in the face of death, because death is intrinsic to life. It is for this reason that I tell my students: aim to be the person at your father’s funeral that everyone, in their grief and misery, can rely on. There’s a worthy and noble ambition: strength in the face of adversity.”
I wish I had heard the wisdom in his words before my dad died.
I still clearly remember the day my secretary called me and said that there were two policemen who wanted to see me. I opened the office door and was greeted with the news that my father was dead.
He had been found dead on a street in Taree, 400 kms north of where I lived in Wollongong, Australia.
From all accounts, Dad had suffered a massive heart attack while trying to make contact with his estranged sister. The year was 1984, but I can still remember it like yesterday. I fell on the carpet and began to sob uncontrollably.
I was surprised by my reaction to the news of my father’s death. I had always figured that three score years and ten was a pretty good innings and 74 was the average age of death for men at that time.
In the back of my mind, I had been trying to prepare myself for that knock on the door. Even with Jordan Peterson’s words, I can guarantee that you are never ready for your father’s passing, no matter what you do.
You see your dad’s death will open up a whole host of emotions you never thought you had. As Brian Burnham says, ‘a loss like no other’.
My grieving continued over several months of incredible aloneness and a deep awareness of my own mortality. I had a very close relationship with my Dad.
I had been robbed of his presence in my early years because of my mother and father’s marriage problems, hence my current passion for helping men navigate the rocky waters of marriage through our work in the Dads4Kids.
I also vividly remember the last day that I spent with my Dad, only three days before he died.
We had travelled to Sydney together in the car and shared lunch together while working on a business deal. We had talked and shared our hearts with each other while driving, as only a father and son really can.
Looking back I was glad we had the day together because that was the last day I saw him alive.
Thankfully when the funeral came around a week later, I was somewhat on an even keel. I was able to encourage people at the funeral and offer solace to them.
I also wish I had read the below article before I lost my Dad. Then I would have been better prepared.
While growing up, our fathers, whether for good or ill, are our earliest and strongest examples of manliness. Even for those who grow up fatherless his influence is a major one, conspicuous for its absence. It is therefore only natural that the death of a man’s father is an event that holds incredible and often very painful significance. When I last wrote for the Art of Manliness, I spoke to the ways in which men grieve. It is not surprising that many of the men who responded to that article alluded to the loss of their father. While a man grieving the loss of his father will go through an experience similar to what was previously discussed, the fact that the deceased is the man’s father makes the experience unique. Many men who have lost their fathers describe it as a loss like no other. They report that the way they grieved their father was different from any other grief that they experienced and often felt that the only people who could readily understand were other men that had also lost their fathers. ((Veerman, D., & Barton, B. (2003). When Your Father Dies: How a Man Deals with the Loss of His Father. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing.)) I know that I certainly felt this way when my father passed in February 2009. It is that uniqueness, as well as the short and long term effects of losing a father, that I hope to address here.
Sometimes it is wise to prepare the heart to mourn. It says in Ecclesiastes that “better is the house of mourning than the house of pleasure”. As fathers, we need to know what we are about to face and place great store on our relationships with our loved ones.
If I can give you one piece of important advice it is that the greatest thing you can do, if your dad is still around, is to honour him while he is still alive because ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’.
Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.
Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.