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Father’s Day is not happy for everyone.


Father’s Day is a day dedicated to honour the dads, grandads and father figures in our lives. For some people it is not a day of celebration due to loss, an estranged relationship or abandonment. “Loss comes in so many forms: death, estrangement by your choice, estrangement by another person’s choice and toxic relationships are just a few.”, quotes author and grief guide Maya Manseau.


Being kind to yourself is the most important step. Have you heard of self-care? It looks different for each person, but as a death doula I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care as you move through your grief journey. Father's Day can be an emotionally taxing day, so taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is crucial. I repeat- be kind to yourself. Reach out to your loved ones and do what feels right for you. Like any celebratory day, posts are often made on social media. For those who find this day difficult, it might be best to take a pause from scrolling devices if viewing such posts would be a trigger.


Planning for the day is critical. “Is there a right way to acknowledge Father’s Day?” is a question I'm often asked. My response as a death doula is “No, there is no right or wrong way to acknowledge such an event, there is only your unique way.” and offer some suggestions to “lean into the joy“, either alone or with their closest loved ones.


I suggest that if you wished to leave the house, perhaps visit the final resting place of the loved one (burial site or for others it might be where ashes were scattered). Many people like to have a conversation at that site, updating the deceased on events that have happened since the passing. Others prefer to write letters to their dad/grandad/father figure to leave on the gravesite. A simple Father’s Day card left at a gravesite can also be meaningful. Another suggestion would be to visit a place that was meaningful to both of you- a favourite restaurant, a sporting event, a favourite fishing spot, etc.


If you preferred to stay at home, I suggest to perhaps start the day by lighting a memorial candle (there are some nice long-burning ones available). Set a place for the deceased loved one at the table (perhaps with a framed picture of them on the chair/table) for each meal, and as you ate, to hold a conversation as if the loved one was still present. Cook the loved one’s favourite meals throughout the day. If you felt like company, include other members of the family. Play or listen to their loved one’s favourite music throughout the day, or during these mealtimes. Perhaps after dinner, watch the loved one’s favourite movie, or play board games or cards or other favourite shared activities.


Embracing joyful memories is another important step. Another suggestion is to spend some time looking through old photograph albums and cherishing the good memories. Share and listen to memories from others as you feel is appropriate. Journaling or recording these memories can be therapeutic.


I remind everyone that what you did to celebrate one year, did not have to be the same ritual the following year if you wish to choose differently.


For each of my immediate family members who have died, I tend to honor them similarly. For my dad’s death anniversary and birth anniversary and Father’s Day I tend to look at a photo of both of us taken when I was a baby and say a prayer. For my grandfather, at Father’s Day I tend to say a prayer and recall some memories.


Father-child relationships are not perfect. No parent-child relationship is. There will be good points and bad points. As quoted by Edy Nathan MA, LCSWR in their article (see source 2), “Think about what your relationship with this imperfect human being taught you. How those imperfections cause you to live differently may be a great gift. Healing is not forgetting. It is a choice to heal. Past trauma can offer illumination and insights into emotions that need to be expressed.“.  


In summary, it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions- sadness for what is vs what could/should/would have been, longing, and even anger. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings but to also meet them with self-compassion and being mindful of the moment to stay present with your thoughts. Experiencing these emotions is one thing you can do to cope with your grief. Active grieving will eventually allow us to let go of the emotions. 


In conclusion, however you choose to spend this Father's Day will help you along your grief journey.

 

 

Sources:

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/How to Cope on Father’s Day When You Are Consumed By Grief, by Sarah Louise Kelly, 14/06/24 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/Coping with Grief on Father's Day Curate a new perspective during this holiday, Posted June 16, 2021, by Edy Nathan MA, LCSWR

 

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