What It's Like To Go Through Your First Father's Day Without Your Dad

Davide Illini

I'm not good at talking about my feelings. I know it's a character flaw.

I'd rather sit with any negative feelings I'm having. I want to trap them and keep them inside, rather than burden anyone else with them.

I'm supposed to be a happy person. I'm the cheery friend who loves Disney, cats and building blanket forts. I'm not allowed to be depressed because I have to be happy. I put on the facade of being OK.

But the truth is, I haven't been OK in a while.

It took me four years to open up about my father's cancer. But by then, it was too late. He was dying, and I needed people to help.

I spent years trying to figure out who to talk to, what I wanted to talk about and why I needed to talk. When my dad was diagnosed in 2011, I struggled. But I had so much optimism, I didn't have any urge to talk about it.

I thought he would get better. So, there was nothing to discuss.

It was a year into it that I first started talking to my mom about maybe getting professional help. I did a lazy search online for people to talk to, but I never made an effort because of my fear of opening up.

I thought I could maybe talk to my friends. I was good friends with this guy, and I knew he struggled with an absent father.

I was losing a dad I loved. He had never had one. We could form a daddy issues club.

I opened up to him, and he broke me down. He would listen, yes. But then, he would make a joke or be rude to me. I felt like my feelings weren't being taken seriously.

So, I crawled further into my cave.

I don't think I really opened up to anyone else for about a year. It was hard keeping all those feelings to myself.

I wanted to be able cry so often, and I wanted people to understand why that was OK. I'm a comedian. So, I would watch as improvisers brushed over the subject of cancer like it was joke.

I would just silently watch as someone played “person with cancer” in an improv scene. When this would happen, I would be immediately flooded by images of my dad in a hospital bed, wailing in pain after one of his many surgeries.

When it's done right, I can laugh. I'm not one of those ultra sensitive people who can't take a joke. But every so often, these serious subjects are used for shock value, only to get an immediate reaction from the audience.

You have to remember that everyone in your audience is most likely dealing with something. So, either play these serious topics realistically or tread lightly.

Last year, I got a phone call from my mom. She said my dad wasn't taking his treatments anymore. So, his doctors were going to put him on one last trial drug.

It was code for "He's not going to make it." I wanted to scream, cry and punch someone in the face. Instead, I kept my composure.

I was going to a comedy show. I thought it would maybe cheer me up. The first team went up and asked if anyone was having a bad day.

The words started coming out of my mouth like diarrhea. I said I was having a bad day. They asked me why, and I found myself talking about my dad and his cancer.

I was letting the cat out of the bag. I don't know why I was doing it, but I was. I guess I thought if I just put it out there, someone may finally listen.

As embarrassing as it was at the time, I think it was the best decision I could have made. I put it out there, and my friends came to my rescue.

I just needed to let people know. I needed to stop holding this in. It was easier for me be honest with myself when I was being honest with my friends.

My dad passed away in September of last year. I'm not OK. I'll probably never be OK.

I'm a mess. It's not something you can get over.

It's always with you, but it's something you have to learn to live with. The problem is, it's especially hard this month because Father's Day is coming up. I go to stores, and I feel like this year, they're being extra aggressive with their advertising.

I walk into a Target and am immediately greeted with a huge “Dad” sign. I walk into a Barnes & Noble and see two tables with signs saying “Great Gifts For Dad.”

How do people without fathers avoid this? I want to apologize to anyone if I ever threw Father's Day in his or her face. This sucks. I'm pretty sure life is a bully, and it's trying to push me toward my breaking point.

The other problem is, I don't have a lot of people to talk to anymore. I just moved to a new city, so my support system is no longer with me. I've managed to make new friends, but new friends aren't the ones who you really open up to about your problems. Doing so is easy way to stop making friends.

I know some of my new friends have offered to talk, and I want to take them up on that offer. It's just hard to burden people with my problems when I'm trying so hard to be the person people want to be friends with.

I have to maintain the image of being a fun person. On the inside, I just really want to talk about my dad and probably cry until I'm dehydrated.

People don't know how to act around a grieving person. I don't even know how to act around myself.

One minute, I'm happy. The next, something reminds me of him and I start crying. But, I'm still not cured. I still don't know how to open up about my feelings.

The best I can do right now is throw them out into the ether – like I did that day at the comedy show – and see who listens. So here I am, saying my dad – my best friend, the funniest man I knew, Bruce Wayne Chapman – is no longer with me, and it's killing me inside trying to live without him.

Also, Happy Father's Day to those of you who still have dads. But also, fuck Father's Day for those of us who don't know what to do with the holiday anymore.