Ever-present fatherhood and the lifting of grief

Few things break a girl’s heart as much as losing her father. So when I saw the deep sadness in the eyes of a young friend a few days after her dad died, my heart was touched—I could relate.

When I was a teenager, my dad passed away suddenly, and I felt so lost. Yet somewhere in my grief, there was a flicker of hope, like a single candle in a dark cave, that somehow I might find my way out of the sadness.

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During my childhood, both my mom and my dad—though they were of different faiths—had read the Bible to me. I loved the stories that assured me of the loving care of an ever-present Supreme Being. I believed in the strength of this divine closeness and came to see that I couldn’t possibly be separated from the embrace of the infinitely loving God.

Looking for something to comfort me after my dad’s passing, I turned to this divine presence for assurance and strength. Bible accounts of the ultimate supremacy of God were my rock, and I gained renewed inspiration that sustained me during this difficult time.

For instance, Christ Jesus’ compassion toward children touched my searching heart (see, for example, Matthew 19:13, 14). He loved and healed them, and I sensed that the divine healing power that had lifted children out of suffering long ago could raise me from the sadness that threatened to snuff out my joy and enthusiasm for life.

A beacon of inspiration also came from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy experienced the tragic death of her young husband, the passing of her mother, and separation from her child, yet she felt a higher love sustaining her—the love of God, divine Love itself. She wrote, “Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation” (p. 332).

This idea of God as our Father and Mother perfectly described how I felt about God during this time. Gradually the flicker of hope in my heart grew brighter. I came to realize that the fathering qualities I cherished in my dad, such as strength, integrity, and unselfishness, really had their source in the Divine. Since God’s goodness is unlimited and infinite, such qualities are therefore not restricted to one human being, but innate in everyone. So while I certainly continued to treasure my dad’s unique expression of these qualities, I saw that they could also be tangibly evidenced in my life through others.

And that is exactly what happened in all kinds of large and small ways. For example, there was the wisdom of a family friend who helped me navigate relationship decisions. Also, a Swiss colleague of my dad’s who had grown up skiing in the Alps stepped in to help fill my dad’s shoes—ski boots—by patiently guiding my brother and me down the slopes. A couple of years later, Mom remarried. One of my stepdad’s favorite expressions, “The family that bicycles together stays together,” conveys in a humorous way how committed he was to our newly united and very active family.

With each of these relationships, and others, came qualities of care, strength, stability, guidance, fun, and humor—tangible expressions of the fatherhood that can never really be absent: that of the ever-present Father-Mother God. This was a very meaningful time of growth for me that brought healing from grief.

So, years later, when I learned that my young friend’s father had also passed away, I instinctively reached out to hug and comfort her, drawing on the confidence that I’d gained in the love and care of our divine Parent. I felt that what I had experienced might help my sweet friend. So I shared ideas about God’s fathering, mothering love, and I trusted that she too would find the comfort and healing she needed. Through the continuing support of those around her, and her own spiritual growth, she gradually regained her joyful outlook.

These lessons I learned as a teenager—about God’s love and goodness always being with us—have helped me when other special people in my life have passed away. If sadness threatens to overwhelm me, I humbly open myself to the inseparable relation we all have with our Father-Mother God. This has unfolded fresh, meaningful opportunities to love and be loved.

Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, August 9, 2018.

Better parenting
October 22, 2018

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