What My Wedding Taught Me About Loss
By Bridget Tedeschi, MA, LPC
Weddings, the notoriously, magical moment of two people unify their love in the a cherished commitment of eternity, in front of their most beloved friends and family. For me, this was all true except one witness was missing: my dad. But as I would learn as the day progressed, he wasn’t missing. Not by some means of reincarnation, a dramatic wind blowing or even the down pouring rain, but because the reality of our lives is that nothing is ever missing. We just have to be willing to look hard enough.
My dad passed away 7 years ago. A painful experience sure, but strangely I always sensed that day would come prior to me getting married. He struggled with his health for many years and I often wondered if he did make it to my wedding day, would he even be able to walk me down the aisle? So it was not much of a surprise to when I felt relieved not having to make that choice.
The absence of my dad at the wedding did still pain me. In fact, it stirred up layers of grief that had not surfaced in many years. Maybe it was me buying into the fantasy of what a wedding “should” be like, or a reflection of the unfinished business we might have, or perhaps just the simplicity of missing him. Whatever the reason, the feeling was strong.
Weddings are supposed to be a “happy” time. And yet, I believe there are many who have been overwhelmed by similar grief prior to their nuptials. We often just do not share about these experiences because of our standards and expectations that are associated with this day. We may think that this level of sadness might ruin it or result in uncontrollable tears all day. There are many events in our lives where we hold back our grief in effort to provide our self the illusion of happiness.
I chose not to do that on my wedding day and I was presented with the most magical gift. As looked out at all the incredible people there to celebrate my husband and I, it was clear to me that although my dad was not physically present, there were so many others who represented the role of a “Father” to me. You see, it wasn’t just my wedding day that my dad was absent for. He struggled to be present throughout my entire life. And on that day, I had the honor of seeing every amazing individual who was a male role model to me throughout my life. My brother, who walked me down the aisle, had offered the muscle when a boy would pick me up for a school dance. My uncle, with whom I shared a dance, who so generously provided us a sense of belonging by maintaining the family farm. My new father-in-law, who from the moment we met, embraced me, supported me in a way I had never felt before. And my husband, who represents the strength in masculinity with his emotional and compassionate heart.
See, it was all there, in one room. And it was all there for my whole life. This doesn’t take away my sadness or my grief. Those are both very much alive. But it does teach me that perhaps we never really have loss. That when something goes away, something else fulfills it spot. Again, this does not make loss any easier, but I invite you to look at those people who may be missing. Ask yourself what role, experience or connection did they provide you? And who provides that to you now? I know from my experience that a lot of healing and gratitude can happen here. It truly can make those experiences that we put so much stock in being “happy” more than that, it can be magical.