Honoring Dad On Father's Day: The Shelledy Family

For the Shelledy family, Father's Day has always meant a gathering of a couple generations. This year it was to be celebrated while on a trip to the lake. But this year will be starkly different for the family following the unexpected death of Mike Shelledy earlier this year.

Mike, husband to Kimmie for 20 years and loving father to Jack and Lily, died unexpectedly of a cerebral aneurysm in February at the age of 43.

This year, instead of helping Mike make a big breakfast (he was a great cook!) and ensuring he was enjoying his day, the family will honor his memory and their love for him.

"It wasn't always easy, it wasn't perfect," Kimmie says of her marriage. "But love was never the issue; it was often communication or life got in the way like finances or parenting challenges. But we had a strange and wonderful nine months prior to his death."

The kids, too, will spend the time leading up to Father's Day remembering their father.

"We had a pretty strong relationship and liked the same things like watching action and superhero movies together, trout fishing in Highlandville, small building projects, singing together and playing video games," Jack says.

Lily remembers bonding with her dad over video games and daddy-daughter dates to play mini golf.

"Recently, before he died, he taught me about football and I sat on his lap and watched with him," she recalls, noting that while it could be hard to share her feelings with their dad, she felt she could talk to him more about things in the months before this death.

Shortly after Mike's death, Kimmie learned of EveryStep Grief & Loss Services' Amanda the Panda program and the resources available to individuals and families struggling with grief.

"I knew I would need help working through this on my own as a wife and mother, much less helping the kids through their grief," Kimmie says. "I had heard of the program. I also asked a couple of people in the counseling and social work realms and found Amanda the Panda."

While the Shelledy's were slated to begin Amanda the Panda support groups this spring, the COVID-19 pandemic altered those plans. Instead of meeting in person each Monday for group sessions, the support groups were moved online.

"I had to convince the kids to give it a try," Kimmie says of joining the support groups at first. "At the time it was supposed to be in person; online was another struggle. But I'm so glad I did it."

Lily notes that she wasn't keen on joining the group at first, but as the start date got closer she was reminded that she could simply listen to others without talking herself. Since joining the group, though, she's been able to learn more about other people and make new friends.

"We became friends faster because we have something in common," she says, adding that she can talk a bit more openly during group.

Jack says it's nice to hear other people talk about their experiences.

"It makes me feel less lonely because they understand what I am going through," he says. "Friends try to make you feel better, and people in this group empathize."

Kimmie says that the group has also helped her and the kids connect over their grief and what they've learned.

"I was having a hard time sleeping and mentioned it to my kids," she says. "Jack said 'Mom, did you know there are meditation apps you can download for free?' He had heard about this in his Amanda the Panda program. He was trying to take care of his mom."

It's a group unlike any other, Kimmie says, adding that facilitators and participants with Amanda the Panda are always ready to listen whether you might be sad, angry or simply lonely. You don't have to pretend you are fine.

While the Amanda the Panda support groups have helped the Shelledy family traverse their grief, the fast approaching Father's Day holiday will bring Mike's absence to the forefront.

The family plans to make their semi-annual trip to the Ozarks with Mike's family. But, instead of celebrating the weekend with two generations of dads, there will only be one.

While the weekend will no doubt be filled with things they miss about Mike, including his big dad cuddles and gentle teasing, they'll also honor his memory doing things that Mike enjoyed, from fishing to watching some of his favorite movies, like Die Hard.

"I will continue our nightly routine of hot tub and then jumping into the lake," Jack says, asking Lily if she wants to join.

The answer: a resounding "um, yeah!"

If you are grieving a loved one, EveryStep can help. Learn about our grief support education, resources and support groups.