Father’s Day and Grief
Father’s Day can be a tricky time to navigate for some
A bereavement isn’t the only reason you might be grieving around Father’s Day, though it certainly is a reason for many.
Whether it’s your first Father’s Day without your dad, or your fifth, so many of us struggle at this time of year because our memories turn painful. We asked our Grief Specialists to share their thoughts on Father’s Day when you’re grieving.
Have a plan: Chances are that the days leading up to Father’s Day are just as difficult as the actual day, so it helps if you have a plan as soon as possible. It might be that you want to be with family or friends, or you might want to be alone.
Opt out: Lots of companies are giving you the option to opt out of their Father’s Day marketing emails. Take advantage of this or unsubscribe from those who don’t give you this option. This will help you feel like you’re not being bombarded.
Share memories: We often hear about grievers feeling isolated when others avoid talking about their loved one who has died. Father’s Day presents an opportunity to share memories of your dad. Say his name, look at photos, and talk about your lives together, either with family or with trusted friends.
Begin a new tradition: Creating a new tradition for Father’s Day is a really nice way to honour your dad. It could be eating his favourite dinner, going on a walk, or going somewhere special.
Reach out for support: If you are struggling, it may very well be the right time to reach out for help. There are many Grief Specialists available, many online, which can be found on our website. You do not need to wait or suffer alone.
You may feel like you had the perfect relationship and you may have been left feeling cheated when he died that he’s not there for your future. It’s almost impossible to complete the pain caused by death without looking at everything about the relationship, not just the positive.
We know that by being totally honest with yourself and others, you can move beyond the pain of loss. Try talking to someone you trust. Tell the truth about yourself. Ask them not to judge, criticise, or analyse (and don’t judge, criticise, or analyse yourself either).
If your dad has a terminal illness, it might feel uncomfortable to celebrate Father’s Day. The cards in the shop might not hit the mark. His role in the family may have changed, he might be immobile, or unable to recognise you. All the cards in the shop might feel irrelevant. It’s ok to feel what you’re feeling, and it’s ok to cry about it.
The day might present the perfect opportunity to start saying and asking everything you need to, such as thanking him for being your dad. Try not to take on the societal pressure of what things ‘should’ be like on Father’s Day and enjoy the present with them.
Unresolved grief can have a long-term negative impact on your life. Grief is cumulative, and cumulatively negative. The more you try to ignore your grief, or push it away, the more it will affect your life.
Grief not only affects current and future personal relationships, but it can also impact your work, health, and even things you used to enjoy doing. The intensity of your feelings may lessen over time, but grief doesn’t heal on its own.
Maybe your dad was abusive or less than loving.
Maybe he didn’t show up in the way you needed, or he did something that upset you later in life.
Maybe you simply wish things in your relationship were different, better, or more in some way.
The loss of a father we are estranged from and seeing all those happy fathers day posts, even about fathers in heaven and how amazing they were, is difficult to stomach if you don’t or didn’t have a loving dad, or the relationship is complicated.
Bereavement after an ambivalent relationship with your father can be difficult, partly because you feel you have run out of time and opportunities to put things right. We have helped clients with this by supporting them in talking to their siblings, and their father's siblings, even grandparents, to build up a picture of the formative influences that made the father the person he was.
This can help with understanding and even forgiveness. Continuing bonds work, looking at photographs and talking about the father can continue the relationship, sometimes in a more positive way than in life.
Dads Who Have Suffered the Death of a Child
If you are a dad who has suffered the death of a child of any age, Father’s Day can be especially painful. When a child of any age dies before you do, it is not the natural order of things. While you will never forget your child, the idea of never getting over it brings about a limbo for the surviving parents.
No matter the age of your child at the time of their death, that loss can have a lifelong impact on you. As well as physically losing them, you’ve also lost your future hopes, dreams and expectations for your child. Rather than letting that loss impact your life negatively forevermore, and your ability to enjoy the positive moments that child brought into your life, we’d like to offer you some hope that you can take action to move beyond your loss.
Even if there were challenges in that relationship due to choices your child made that negatively impacted them, that does not mean that you cannot, once again, fully enjoy and share the positive things they brought into your life.
It’s quite normal to feel that a child’s death took away your life as well. Instead, your child’s legacy could be to honour their life by choosing to live without the pain.
Society often overlooks the men who hoped to be fathers but couldn’t conceive, or lost a baby during pregnancy. More often than not they hear ‘how’s your wife/partner doing?’ They also have experienced that loss. If this is you, you don’t need to suffer alone. Please reach out to us. We’re here to support you.
You don’t need to wait to start healing your broken heart.
Even though your emotions are normal, this may be a good time to ask yourself, “What would life be like if I wasn’t carrying this around with me?”
We’re here for you and you can find a specialist on our website who can help you.
Credits: - Teresa Mack, Maria Bailey, Dr John Wilson,Jill Attree, Dr Victoria Wilson-Crane