I was 2 years old when my father died. The only things I remember about him are other people’s memories. It’s probably why photographs hold such a magical power over me — they are my only way of proving that he actually existed.
As the years pass, I have more and more friends who have lost their fathers. Everyone’s experience is different, and it’s not always easy to explain what it’s like to live with that kind of loss. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to talk about it.
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to have that conversation. Even if you have the best of intentions, there are some things you just shouldn’t say to women who have lost their dads. Here are 14 of them:
1. Don’t tell me that my wedding will still be nice and that he’ll be there in spirit. It’s not the same as having him walk me down the aisle or picking a special song for the father-daughter dance.
2. Don’t say at least he lived a long life. This sounds like you’re saying it’s not so bad.
3. Or that many people die young. Age doesn’t matter.
4. Don’t tell me that he’s in a better place.
5. Or that it was his time to go. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, this doesn’t make the surviving family feel better.
6. Never ask if I’m over it yet. All this does is point out that he has been gone for a while. And when you lose a loved one, there is no “getting over it.”
7. Don’t bring up the term “daddy issues” or ask if I’ve had healthy romantic relationships. Just because a woman lost her father doesn’t mean she’s broken.
8. Don’t tell me to cheer up, or that my father wouldn’t want me to be sad. How would you know?
9. Eliminate the phrase “there is a reason for everything” from your vocabulary. This is neither charming nor whimsical when talking about death.
10. Don’t say at least he’s not suffering anymore.
11. Don’t tell me it’s not that bad because I was young when he died…
12. …Or imply that a cancer diagnosis makes death less shocking. Whether it was expected or unexpected, It doesn’t make a major loss any easier.
13. Never tell me that everybody’s parents die sooner or later…
14. …Or remind me that at least I still have a mom, because some people don’t even have that.
Here is what you can say instead:
Tell me about your father.
I wish I had known him.
I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
My favorite memory of your father is…
I wish I had the right words. Just know that I care.
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