A Day Without Dad: Coping with Loss on Father's Day

Father’s Day is a time to celebrate and recognize our dads and father figures. However, it can be an emotionally painful holiday if your father has passed away.

The death of a parent is the most common form of bereavement in the United States. Even if you feel you are coping well with your father’s death, holidays can be particularly difficult. Here are some suggestions to help manage your loss while honoring your dad.

Memorialize Your Father

The desire to memorialize those who have passed, perhaps by creating a memorial monument or plaque, is part of human nature. Memorials help you manage your grief and sadness by serving as lasting tributes, physical symbols of a loved one's continued presence. You can also celebrate your father’s life by:

  • Donating to a charity in his name or volunteering on his behalf
  • Planting a tree or memorial garden
  • Designing a special gravestone
  • Making a memory book

Acknowledge the Holiday

It is almost impossible to avoid in-store displays promoting Father’s Day, TV advertisements enticing viewers to buy gifts for Dad and chatter on social media about people’s plans and celebrations. By acknowledging the holiday, you help yourself to be emotionally prepared for it, which in turn can help promote healthy healing.

For instance, buying a card, whether it’s humorous or heartfelt, allows you to observe the holiday in his memory. You might even find closure by writing in the card about any unfinished issues you might have had with your father. Look through photo albums for photos of your father that recall good times and make you smile.

If you are sad, don’t feel like you have to set aside your grief for the holiday. Grieving is an individualized process and there is no right way or right amount of time to grieve. If you are unsure whether you are ready to celebrate Father’s Day, it is perfectly fine to acknowledge the day without participating in it.

Seek Support

Although you may think you want to be alone, isolating yourself on Father’s Day may make you feel worse. Try to spend the day, or part of it, with someone who cares about you. Have dinner with friends, go see a movie with family members, or find a bereavement group meeting to attend on Sunday. Ask other members about how they cope. Not only will you spend time with people who understand what you’re going through, you might learn valuable coping skills.

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