It’s hard to turn on the TV or scroll through social media this week without seeing references to Father’s Day. Ads everywhere for the perfect gift, sweet articles highlighting a father’s sacrifice for his family, even memes about the comical side of parenting, can hijack us, bringing us to a painful place.
Reconnaissance work from the greeting card aisle provides evidence to support that our society views Father’s Day as something we should be celebrating. Some of the larger stores may carry one or two cards that acknowledge a more somber aspect of this holiday.
There is not typically a section labeled “For Grieving Dads” or “For the Loss of a Father”.
Two kinds of people are reading this post right now, those who have never had a significant loss, and those who nodded along with the first few lines. Both groups of people should continue reading.
If the concept of Father’s Day being a difficult never occurred to you, that’s OK. By reading this, you are helping to create a safer space for the second group by spreading awareness that it can be a sad day. It can be something other than a celebration.
Maybe the thought is crossing your mind, “well not everyone experienced a loss like that; Can’t you just be happy for them? They deserve to celebrate.”
Everyone deserves to celebrate. Just like everyone deserves to feel their feelings and educate the rest of the world on how difficult something can be. Let Father’s Day be both.
If you have been nodding along, then the twinges that go along with the ads and the memes are not foreign to you. Father’s Day can be hard. Maybe you’ve lost a (step/grand)father, or maybe you’re a father who’s lost a child. Maybe you haven’t lost a relationship through death, but maybe you are estranged, or it’s an intangible loss like Dad has Alzheimer’s or is struggling with addiction and he isn’t the same anymore. Maybe you are your partner are experiencing infertility. Maybe you’ve never even had a dad. Father’s Day may just be tough, then.
It’s much more common than you realize, how complex this time of year can be.
Not enough people acknowledge it, and perhaps it is because of the societal pressure to celebrate this day. Without recognizing the grief Father’s Day can trigger, we quietly oppress. It is an act of omission, overlooking sadness on a holiday.
If it’s in your heart to celebrate, then celebrate.
If it’s in your heart to grieve, then grieve.
If you have feelings, feel them, talk about them, acknowledge them, experience them.
Ignoring them will only prolong the grief process.
If you know someone who may be having a difficult time on Father’s Day, say something. It does not have to be greeting card worthy. Just a simple: “Hey, I was wondering how you were feeling about today. Thinking of you.”
This validates the person’s grief, gives them an opportunity to talk about it if they choose, or to simply thank you for your sentiment if they choose not to go into it. It also spreads more awareness in the world that grief is hard, and that it’s OK to not be OK sometimes.
Here are some suggestions on how to approach this Father’s Day:
- Make plans that are meaningful to you – Try to stay busy to get through the day, keep company with understanding people, spend the day reflecting on your own, maybe even celebrate the bond you had, and honor the sadness that goes along with the new normal you have to live now.
- Pay tribute to the person you’ve lost – Engage in their favorite activity, do random acts of kindness in their name, visit a gravesite, plant a tree, eat their favorite meal, do charity work.
- Make new memories – Do something completely different than you’ve done before. Maybe the things you’ve done with them are too difficult right now.
- Make plans with safe and understanding people – Spend time with people who are OK with a last minute cancelation if you’re not up to it, or with whom you feel comfortable sharing these bigger emotions.
- If things feel unmanageable, talk to a mental health professional. A little extra support through this difficult time may be just what you need. You can do an internet search for mental health professionals in your area, call your insurance company for a list of covered providers, call your county mental health agency, or if you truly are not feeling safe, call 911, go to your closest Emergency Room, or call your county crisis line.
Keep in mind that Father’s Day is just that, Father’s Day. You decide what it means for you. This year, it may mean one thing and next year, it may mean another.
On this Father’s Day, I wish one thing for all, peace of heart.