Recently, I attended the retirement party of a good friend of my father’s. My father was a police officer so these events are common especially of late, as many of his comrades are reaching retirement age.
I’ll admit that I view my attendance at these events as somewhat of an obligation at times.
Though the gentlemen that my father worked with and their families are always more than accommodating to my mother and I, the experience can still be quite emotional. And I might as well admit that I am 23 years old and there is a little piece of me that doesn’t want to spend her weekend with retires.
I’ll also admit that I love going to these things. I was eight years old when my father died and he, much like myself, was extremely passionate about his work and rarely told anyone at home about his job.
My father, in his own way, was almost masterful in avoiding what we in the helping professions would call compassion fatigue. So much so that we at home knew very little of what my father was like when he was at work and I love hearing any stories about my father.
A few days ago I received a very unexpected thank you note from a friend of my father’s that included a very sweet, very personal note about my father. It made me smile, it made me feel somewhat comforted and I tucked it away in a box filled with other pieces of memorabilia that reminds me of my father.
When I was very young I hid this box from the world, afraid others would think it was crazy. It contained very few relics from when my father was alive, but many pieces that have reminded me of him since his death.
A gift made in elementary school that served as a father’s day gift for everyone else in the class but now sits safely in my box, among other items. Back then I called it my “daddy box.” But, after taking out a hefty loan for a college degree I feel the need to refer to it in a more clinical sense, so I call it my Continuing Bonds box.
Continuing Bonds in very brief terms is the theory that our bond with our loved ones does not die with them, it continues on as we live our lives.
There is a wonderful book by Dennis Klass, Phyllis Silverman, and Steven Nickman that can be found here:
The book is a wealth of knowledge on grief at many different stages and if it is a topic you’re interested in I strongly suggest it.
These retirement events are part of a continuing bond that I keep with my father that develops as I grow up. They serve as reminders of things my father enjoyed that I now enjoy and they give me more precious memories to hold on to and they give me a sense that I am not alone in missing my father.
It is important to foster these bonds with children. Immediately after the death these bonds can serve as an emotional safety net, somewhat of a comradery in grief for the same beloved person. Further down the line they can help the child’s relationship with their loved one mature as the child matures.
This year marks fifteen years since my father died, I’ve lived almost three times as long without him as I ever did with him, but still my memory box continues to grow, and for me at least it always will.
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