Grieving on Father's Day
The run up to Father’s Day, and the day itself, can be a difficult time if you have lost your dad, or you’re a dad that has sadly lost a child. Whether their death was recent, or some time ago, you’re likely to feel emotional at a time when many people will be celebrating.
How to cope with grief on Father's Day
For those that have recently lost their dad or are continuing to struggle with the bereavement, every day can feel like a struggle. But anniversaries, birthdays, and days such as Father’s Day can be an extra rollercoaster of emotions.
The anxiety leading up to the day can be worse than the day itself. This, of course doesn’t help in the days leading up to the event, but it may be helpful to know that your feelings may not explode in the way you may expect them to on the day itself.
It helps to accept that you are grieving, and that it’s normal to find the days and weeks leading up to certain times of year difficult. It’s okay to be feeling more sensitive than normal in the lead up to Father’s Day.
Although ultimately you need to do what feels right for you and your circumstances, there may be a few things you can do to make the day a little easier.
- Come up with a plan, even if that plan is to do nothing. It helps to consider what you will do on the day. You may like a quiet day on your own or you may feel it’s important to mark the day in a special way. You could choose to do any activity that your dad loved, cook his favourite meal or visit that special place that you used to go together.
- Get outdoors. Some people find getting outside into the garden or green space such as a park or nature reserve to be healing. You might like to plant a tree or flower in honour of your dad. You can return to the flower or tree as it grows, providing you with a gentle reminder of your loved one.
- Ask for support if you need it. Many people will feel awkward talking about grief because they aren’t comfortable expressing their emotions or are worried about upsetting others, but your family and friends will want to help you if you if they can. If you are finding the lead up to the day difficult, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Take the day off social media. Social media is likely to be flooded with posts and photos about Father’s Day, which include memories from your own timeline from past years. If you think you may find this uncomfortable, go offline and log out of your social media for a day or two.
- Know that feeling good is okay too. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you find yourself happy or enjoying yourself. These moments of happiness do not mean you are forgetting your loved one. Talking about happy memories you shared with your loved one or looking through old photos, might even bring a smile to your face.
Children grieving the loss of their father
Father’s Day and the days leading up to it can be a confusing and traumatic time for children who are grieving the loss of their dad. You should remember that children have their own way of expressing grief, and sometimes may not even express it at all. Look out for changes in their behaviour which may indicate there are struggling to cope with their loss.
There is no right or wrong way to commemorate Father’s Day in honour of your child or children’s father, but these suggestions may help you around this difficult time.
- Be honest with them. Have age-appropriate, honest conversations with them regarding in the lead up to the day itself and their feelings. This approach allows you to clear up any misunderstandings they may have and gives you a good idea of how they may feel on Father’s Day.
- Talk to them ahead of time about what they would like to do on the day. Try to involve your children in the planning of the day. It could be special to spend the day doing something their father enjoyed doing. Did he like to go fishing, cycling or walking? Was he keen photographer? Did he like spending time in the outdoors with nature?
- Check in with your child’s school before the day. Your child’s school may plan activities, such as creating Father’s Day cards, so check with your child’s teachers ahead of time to find out what is planned. If something is planned, you may want to discuss this with your child beforehand to ensure they are comfortable with partaking in the activity.
- Don’t neglect yourself. It is heartbreaking to see your children experience grief and miss their dad, but you should keep an eye on your own feelings too. If the pain is too strong, it may be best to have other family members around you on the day to support you and your child or children.
Fathers grieving the loss of a child
Father’s Day can also be a difficult day for fathers who have lost a child. Losing a child is one of the most devastating types of loss anyone can experience.
If you’re grieving the loss of your child, here are some tips that might help you get through the day.
- Remember you are still a father. Just because you’ve lost a child, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a father to them. Never forget that you are your child’s father forever.
- Spend time with your loved ones. If you have other children, spend the day with them. Finding joy in the children still with you can be a powerful way to cope with those negative emotions of loss. Grief is a shared family experience, so your other children may also feel emotional on Father’s Day.
- Talk to your spouse or the mother of your child. The lead up to Father’s Day and the day itself is likely to affect your spouse too. You should be open about your emotions and have a conversation about your plans for the day. Whilst they may experience grief differently to you, it’s good to talk.
- Do something for yourself. If you don’t feel like doing anything at all, take this as a sign that it’s time to take care of yourself and have a day of rest. Taking some time out at home and doing something that relaxes you might help you feel a little better. Allow yourself to have an afternoon nap if you’ve had trouble sleeping. It’s absolutely fine if you do not feel like socialising at this time.
How you approach Father’s Day is as unique as grief and your relationship with the person who has died. Whilst time won’t heal the pain, but it will become more bearable.
Remember, you do not have to experience grief alone. If you do not feel comfortable asking your friends or family for support, you can chat to a trained bereavement counsellor online using the GriefChat service.