It’s one week before Father’s Day. Those of us without our fathers feel varied emotions converging on our psyche. “If he were alive today, he’d be 89,” I think out loud. Would he still be alive at 89? Possibly. In my mind, most definitely. In reality he died at 65, much too young. His grandsons barely knew him. That makes me very sad.
Among my friends and acquaintances, there is more father loss this year than previous years thanks to the pandemic. Many of those fathers died alone, compounding our grief.
As usual, this Father’s Day I will write a tribute to my father recalling a special memory. Or perhaps I’ll mix it up and write a letter telling him of his grandsons’ accomplishments, even under the stresses and pressures of COVID-19. He would have been so proud.
Over the next week on the Grief Dialogues Blog, we will honor all our fathers by posting stories of father loss and the resulting grief. We’ll explain the complexity of our feelings and share the power of story to heal.
Before I launch the first story, I want to share some ideas for navigating Father’s Day.
If this is your first Fatherless Father’s Day:
Do something that reminds you of your father. It may need to be something small given COVID restrictions.
Be kind to yourself. This is especially true if this is your first fatherless Father’s Day. It might feel like the longest, loneliest, most torturous day of the year, but like all the others, it is 24 hours.
If you are a father, or the father of your children is still alive, allow time to celebrate.
Celebrate another man in your life who served as a father figure.
Send a card to a fatherless child or offer to spend the day with the child doing some favorite activity.
Avoid grief triggers like announcements for Father’s Day Sales and advertisements in your inbox. Unsubscribe from promotional emails or create a temporary filter that deletes them.
Stay away from Facebook. There are many reasons to avoid social media, particularly Facebook, especially on Father’s Day with its pictures of happy father’s enjoying their backyard picnic. It’s also difficult to see all the losses, especially this year. One writer called Facebook “an electronic swirl of grief.”
If your father has been gone for a year or more:
Memorialize your father. This could be donating to a charity in his name or volunteering on his behalf; planting a tree or memorial garden; and even making a memory book.
Buy a Father’s Day card and write him a message of gratitude for all that he did for you. Buying a card, whether it’s humorous or heartfelt, let’s you observe the holiday in his memory.
Share stories that your father told you and stories about him to honor his legacy. You can scream it from the roof tops, write a post on social media (after the first year seeing others celebrate father’s day on Facebook is not as bad), or invite your dad’s friends to a family gathering.
Prepare a family meal and serve your father’s favorite foods. Set his place at the table and offer a toast to him.
Go to a service at his place of worship.
Do an activity you used to enjoy doing with him.
If you know someone who has lost their father this year:
Say their father’s name.
Share memories, especially if you knew their father.
Remind them that they are not alone.
Do something thoughtful.
Don’t try to fix things or cheer them up.
Avoid complaining about your own family.
If your child’s dad is deceased:
Talk to your child about what Father’s Day means to them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about how Father’s Day makes them feel.
Answer any questions your child has about their father truthfully. Make sure the child understands that it is not their fault that their father is dead.
Give your child the opportunity to celebrate a father figure in their lives. Many times, there are uncles, grandpas, coaches, youth pastors, male teachers, or family friends who step into a fatherless child’s life and serve as much-needed mentors.
If your father was your abuser:
Stay emotionally safe and stay away from people who make you feel uncomfortable.
Know that you are not alone.
Reach out to a friend or family member to spend the day with them.
Find another person to celebrate with, an uncle, brother, sister, mother, or friend who is a support system for you. Father’s Day is about celebrating those who take care of us—the ones who are role models and show us love throughout our lives.
Celebrate yourself. Everyone deserves a day to celebrate themselves. A day that is difficult to get through is often the perfect time for a little extra TLC. Whatever it is, change the emphasis of this day from fathers to you. You are worth celebrating. Today and every day!
If this is a Fatherless Father’s Day for you, join Grief Dialogues and The Karuna Project on Saturday, June 20, 2020, at 5 pm PST as part of the Reimagine: Life, Loss, & Love as we discuss how difficult it is to lose a father and how expressing ourselves through story deepens our understanding of this grief. You will hear stories from six different authors from Grief Dialogues: The Book.
It’s free, but registration required. RSVP here.