Coping with a fatherless Father’s Day can be a wrenching experience. According to Alan Wolfeldt, “whether you had a good, bad or indifferent relationship with the parent who died, your feelings for him or her were probably quite strong.”
As you cope with the pain of losing a father, you face the difficult process of mourning the loss of this significant person in your life.
Here are some important things that are helpful to keep in mind as you approach Father’s Day.
Recognize that losing your father is a unique experience.
Just as no two relationships are the same, no one grieves in exactly the same way. Don’t try to compare your experience with that of others. Grieve at your own pace, and in your own way.
Know that you’ll experience strong emotions.
It’s normal to feel numbness, confusion, fear, guilt, anger and even relief. You may feel deep sadness, particularly if you father is the second parent to die. You may feel anger – that he didn’t take care of himself, that the doctors should have done more, that God should have been more merciful. Anger may be a scary emotion, but it is indeed normal. You also may feel guilt, if you didn’t spend as much time with your father as you would have liked to, or if you had a rocky relationship. Forgiving yourself and being gentle with yourself is essential to healing.
Recognize that Father’s Day is hard.
Reminders of Father’s Day are all around us. On the TV, at your church or faith community and in the card stores. You can give yourself permission to skip church that day, turn the channel, or avoid card stores. Or, you may find that openly acknowledging the loss and attending services at your faith community could be helpful, surrounded by those who care about you.
Reach out to others for support
Your friends and loved ones may be available to listen, take a walk or just give a hug. Rely on them.
Alan Wolfeldt encourages us to “seek out people who acknowledge your loss and will listen to you as you openly express your grief. Avoid people who try to judge your feelings or worse yet, try to take them away from you.”
Find creative ways to honor your father.
Whether it is working in the garden because he loved gardening, visiting the cemetery, volunteering to help others, telling stories about your father around the dinner table, find a way to honor his memory.
Consider planting a tree or putting together a special memory box with snapshots and other keepsakes.
Hang in there.
Father’s Day is 24 hours long. It has a beginning and an end. Be gentle with yourself as you move through the day and look towards tomorrow.