Father’s Day is a difficult time for those who have lost their dads. Social media floods with images of happy families, homemade gifts, and picture-perfect celebrations.
Meanwhile, you might get hit up with activities of your own. Facebook may show you a memory of your dad and you together five years ago, or you may receive a barrage of emails about the perfect gifts for dad. The memories may be tinged with the pain of things left unsaid and plans left unfollowed in the wake of your loss.
It is difficult to cope. It is hard not to feel as though something was unfairly taken from you. This is not how you want to feel, not how you expected this day to go.
These feelings are okay. They are accurate, even. But the goal isn’t to make the feelings go away.
The goal is to work toward a mindset that remembers your dad’s life, not his death or the way your life has changed in his absence. The goal is to remember the man he was, the legacy he left, and the person you are because of him.
The goal is not to move on. The goal is to move forward.
It is not easy, of course, but nothing worth it ever is. Below, you’ll find a list of resources and tributes that can help reframe the unimaginable, and bring light to the memory of a father who made you the person you are today.
Remembering Dad on Father's Day
Father’s Day is your day.
Don’t place expectations on yourself for how you feel you should behave on Father’s Day. Be fair and kind to yourself. Choose to spend the day however you feel is meaningful. You don’t owe it to anyone to be cheerful and happy in the wake of your grief.
You may choose to celebrate Father’s Day by watching your dad’s favorite movie, or listening to his favorite song. Maybe you want to visit his favorite museum or make his favorite meal for dinner. Think about activities that remind you of the incredible man your father was, and recreate them in his honor. No matter how small or simple it might be, if it brings you peace and comfort, then that is reason enough to do it.
If it makes you happy, turn it into a new tradition for future Father’s Days, giving you something to look forward to each year when June rolls around.
"He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland
Let your friends and family help.
People you are close to want to support you. Don’t be afraid of the hard conversations. Speaking about your grief may feel like an impossible task, but your loved ones want to help you through this difficult time.
Whether that looks like facetiming a friend over breakfast or going to your dad’s favorite restaurant with your sibling, don’t be afraid to let them know how you want to spend the day.
“Deeply, I know this, that love triumphs over death. My father continues to be loved, and therefore he remains by my side.” – Jennifer Williamson
Be kind to yourself.
Don’t act out of a sense of obligation. Be honest with how you are feeling. If an activity doesn’t feel genuine, you don’t owe it to anyone to see it through.
Social media may tell you that there is a “right” way to celebrate Father’s Day, rooted in socially conventional sentiments. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Father’s Day. All that matters is that you spend the day however is personal and comfortable to you. And if doing anything at all seems daunting, don’t push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Be honest, be gentle, be YOU.
If you feel you are drowning in the flood of Facebook statuses, Instagram pics, and email campaigns, don’t hesitate to log off. Curl up and watch your favorite Netflix series, or treat yourself to a spa day. Let the day be just a day.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give another person. He believed in me.” – Jim Valvano
Celebrate your happy memories.
What was dad’s favorite thing to do? How would he have wanted to spend the holiday? Maybe he treated Father’s Day like any other day, or maybe he loved to take his bike on an early morning ride around the neighborhood.
Celebrate the incredible person your father was by spending the day how he would have wanted to. There’s no need to try and move mountains, however.
Don’t push yourself too hard this Father’s Day. If the day feels impossible, celebrate dad by doing the little things. How did he take his coffee? What was his favorite beer? The little things go a long way.
“My appreciation for my father's greatness cannot be measured.” – Jennifer Williamson
This Father’s Day
No matter how you decide to spend Father’s Day this year, remember to listen to yourself and trust that you know what is best for your own healing.
If this is your first father-less Father’s Day, be extra patient with yourself. Your grief may still be fresh, and this day may feel daunting. That is perfectly okay. Remember: it won’t be like this forever.
If a get-together and a barbecue gathering is what makes the most sense to you, do it! Invite friends over and make a special day of it. If a calming, self-care day at home sounds better, go for it.
Grieving takes time. It takes patience. And it is a sign of a deep connection you’d never trade in.