Dear readers, I'm planning my wedding to a dear old friend and my beloved dad won't be there with me. He died last May and I have no idea how to be in the world without him. His presence by my side at my wedding was a given. My clearest vision of my wedding when I was growing up was that he would escort me into this new place, this new beginning. I was going to stand on his feet and dance to "Brown Eyed Girl" with him just like we did when I was small. But he's gone and it was unexpected.
How do I do it? How do I, the most pure embodiment of him, walk myself down the aisle knowing that he'll never be able to give his blessing? How to I embrace this new beginning without my beginning there to guide me?
I'm at a loss. I need the sage wisdom of those who have lived what I'm living everyday.
Your words are gold to me.
I brought in an expert. Whitney emailed me last April, struggling with how to acknowledge her dad at her wedding, and I semi-flubbed my response. But the esb readers, especially those who had gone through what she was going through, had v. helpful things to say.
One year later, here's Whitney's advice for you:
There is nothing that I can say that will ease your pain. It is a gut-wrenching absence. But these are some things that helped me make it through the day without losing my shit.
Planning a wedding was great for keeping me busy and distracting me from my grief. This also meant I was bottling up a lot of emotion that typically exploded anytime I heard a song that reminded me of my dad. I had a pretty big break-down the day before my wedding. It was wedding-stress related, not specifically about my dad, but considering how disproportionate it was, had everything to do with his absence. In retrospect, I think it helped me keep it together the next day. Maybe a couple of days before your wedding you could watch a favorite movie of his? Write him a letter? Let it all out.
Skip Father/Daughter stuff.
This is probably kind of obvious. I walked down the aisle with my husband. We did a first dance together, but no other traditional wedding dances. I felt that even if we skipped straight to something like the “Anniversary Dance” it would only highlight the absence of the father/bride and mother/groom dances.
Find some way to honor him.
ESB readers offered heaps of great suggestions on various ways to do this. It helped to have a designated moment where I felt it was appropriate to lose it. I actually didn’t lose it nearly as badly as I thought I would.
Focus on your amazing friends, family, and you know, the whole getting-married-business. (This is helpful advice for any bride, really. It all happens so fast, it’s overwhelming.) It was so magical to have friends and family from all over the world be in one space, supporting us in our new life together, that I really couldn’t help but be completely full of joy. Of course there were occasional pangs of “I really wish he was here!” but it is possible to just breathe, and be grateful for everyone who is there.
It is ok to lose it.
This may be some of the best advice I received. I think just having permission made it possible to not lose it. People cry at weddings! I cried happy tears, I cried sad tears. I had the most amazing day of my life.
It’s been a year and a half since my dad died and it’s still so painful. There are so many triggers. Roy Orbison. Western films. Hatch green chiles. And I’m a hot mess at the father/daughter dance of every wedding I’ve been to since. But I made it through my wedding day, and you will too.
Like you said, you are the pure embodiment of him. He is part of you. He is still guiding you in this new beginning, through all that he taught you.
Love and hugs,
(So much love to you both)
Photos by Tinca Veerman via The Jealous Curator