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'I didn't speak to my dad on my wedding day. Almost 20 years later, it still haunts me.'

There’s one photo of my wedding day that haunts me. And no, I don’t mean one of me and my now ex-husband.

No, it’s a lovely photo of me and my dad. He’s giving me one of his best bear hugs just after the ceremony. He’s smiling. The sun is shining behind us.

A lovely moment, after which I was so mean to him, it must have broken his heart. But he never said a word to me about it.

Mamamia Confessions: My biggest wedding day regret. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

You see, I avoided going near my dad for most of my wedding day. We didn’t have one conversation alone or in a group.

I was worried about what he might say to me, because of his reaction to my engagement.

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Dad hugging me after the ceremony. Image: Supplied

Everything had been fine until then. I was marrying a man I’d been dating for five years. He was 21 years older than me; 46 to my 25. He wasn’t a doctor – a profession my parents were in and placed a huge emphasis on. He wasn’t Indian (as my parents are). And yet, because (as I now realise) I was loved by my parents so very much, no one said a word to me about what must have seemed to them such an unconventional relationship.

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It wasn’t until I told my dad that I was engaged that he expressed concern on behalf of mum and himself.

“Are you sure?” he asked me.

“I think you’re very different people and want different things for the future. I think this will be trouble.”

How ridiculous, I thought at the time. All that matters is that we love each other!

I made it clear to him that it wasn’t up for discussion.

Mamamia Out Loud hosts discuss wedding regrets. Post continues below. 

Then I went ahead and did what I wanted to. My parents paid for the wedding, dutifully (as they saw it) and happily. They never again said a word to me about their personal thoughts.

They supported me in every way, despite being (rightfully, as it turned out) worried for me. And what did I do in return? Ignore them on my wedding day.

I was worried that dad might say something I didn’t want to hear – not on that day of all days. I avoided going near him – and my mother, too, although we did speak when dad wasn’t around.

Can you believe it? That’s how I behaved. And what for? To not hear things about a man I ultimately divorced.

If you think I sound like a spoilt brat, you’re right. I think I was too. In fact, my behaviour on my wedding day haunts me, even though it was almost 20 years ago.

I regret it, so deeply.

I feel this guilt, which still brings tears to my eyes, not just because my parents were right about my husband and my marriage. Not just because the showed their support for the wedding in every other possible way, and not just because they were always welcoming to my husband after that.

The regret is not just because, when my marriage did end, they non-stop supported me emotionally and financially without anything close to an ‘I told you so’.

No, those aren’t the reasons I truly hate myself for my actions. I feel this gut-wrenching guilt, especially about dad, because now I know better, it’s too late to make it up to him. Because he’s no longer here. He was taken from us suddenly in a car crash six years ago.

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It’s why the photo of us on my wedding day is more bitter than sweet. Not only is it the sole photo of us together on that day, it’s our last photo, ever.

Looking at that photo feels like a punishment for my sh*tty behaviour. It’s a punishment I deserve.

I took my dad for granted. I didn’t appreciate just how unconditional his love and support was. I should have trusted his love for me, more.

Now he’s gone, and I can’t do anything to fix it.

The closest I can get to a photo with my dad now is wearing his old Fijian shirt. That’s why I wore it to his funeral. And why every year on the anniversary of dad’s death, I dress my son in it and take a photo so that somehow, dad will know I still love him, miss him, and wish he was here.

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And that more than anything, I am sorry.

The big lesson for me in this is to not take anything, or anyone, for granted. It’s appalling that was our last photo together – although, in my defence, there are lots of him with my son. At least I’d been conscious enough to value that relationship.

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Wearing Dad's shirt to his funeral; this is now the only way I can have a photo 'with' him. Image: Supplied.

But now, with my mum, I make a big effort to ensure I am in the photos, too. Because I’ve learnt that guilt is the hardest part of grief.

Especially when it’s because of unwarranted behaviour, and entirely your fault.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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