Monday, June 15, 2015

Father's Day: Insights on Coping with Grief

Daddy, circa 1975
[Reviewed and updated June 17, 2022]

Dad: A son's first hero, a daughter's first love. ~ Author unknown

While it may be a special day for many, Father's Day is a holiday that challenges the endurance of fatherless children, as well as fathers and grandfathers whose children or grandchildren have died. My own father died too soon at the age of 69, and I miss him as much today as the day he left us. 
          If you're struggling with grief this Father's Day, know that you're not alone. Below you'll find a number of articles offering insights, comfort and support as well as various ways to cope.
Click on the titles to read more ~ and please feel free to add your own suggestions in the Comments section below:

My Dad: A Eulogy by Katie Devine"This loss feels like it is just mine, but of course it is shared in part by everyone who knew him, and even those who didn’t. When I left the hospital that final time, in grief’s haze, the waxing moon hung lower in the sky than I have ever seen it. To my swollen eyes, it looked heavy, like it was sinking, weighted down with our sorrow . . ."

Strength Found in Solitude by Pat Schwiebert ~ "As another Father’s day approaches I think back and remember the amazing parade of men that I have observed over the past 40 years in our support groups for bereaved parents. The assumption of many was that men would not want to take advantage of this type of support—that it would be way out of their comfort zone. My experience over the past 40 years of facilitating support groups for bereaved parents does not match those assumptions. Men’s reasons for attending support groups may be different from those of women. They may actually be willing to go beyond their comfort zone in order to help their partner. That’s not a bad reason . . ."

Gone Too Soon: A Father's Day Remembrance by Marguerite OConnor ~ "Fathers are so important in our lives. To those fathers who are still with us, Happy Father’s Day. To those fathers who preceded us in death, who are gone too soon, we remember you. A special shout-out to all of the single fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, father figures, uncles, clergy, godfathers, neighbors, counselors, support group facilitators, employers, volunteers, coaches, teachers, soldiers, warriors and mentors, biological fathers, adoptive fathers, fathers-in-law and fathers of choice . . ."

Missing Dad on Super Bowl Sunday by Cindy Augustine ~ "On the first Father’s Day after my dad’s death, I wandered around New York City like, well, a fatherless child. I quite literally did not know what to do with myself. I found consolation in retail therapy, but new wedges couldn’t take the place of a backyard barbecue or of watching someone you love open a Hallmark card that would inevitably be displayed with pride . . ."

Can A Bereaved Dad Smile on Father’s Day? by Mitch Carmody ~ "The dogs were barking strangely one early morning in July of 1970; I was 15 years old. I knew someone had probably driven up our driveway and were taking their time to come to the door which was driving the dogs crazy. I was up early to get ready to bring my dog to the County fair as a 4-H project and was eager for the day. I went to the window and peered out to see who could be there this early in the morning. I then spy my Mom walking up with two neighbors close by her side, arms around her, covering her in an obvious shawl of compassion and they were whispering. The dogs’ barking was a harbinger of despair. My dad had died . . ."

Remember The Fathers of Sick Children by Courtney Schmidt ~ "When I was a little girl, my dad was my hero. He was strong and brave, and it only took his presence to make me feel safe and secure. I thought he understood everything there was to know in the world. I believed he could solve any problem, slay any dragon, protect me from all harm. That’s the best thing about dads, really. You get that feeling settled deep down inside of you that lets you know you can rest easy because he’s got you. He’s never going to let you go. I guess it’s probably one of the best things about being a dad, too. When you look at your child, you know that she really believes you hung the moon. And for her, you would. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it’s so hard for dads whose children suffer with serious illnesses. He is supposed to be the protector, the warrior who goes into battle unafraid. But when his child gets sick, in some ways he feels he’s already lost the battle. He couldn’t protect his child from harm. He couldn’t prevent the pain. He doesn’t know how to fix it or make it better. And he is afraid . . ."

When He’s Not Here to Read the Card . . . Celebrating Father’s Day Without Dad by Kelly Buckley ~ "If your Father has passed, this Sunday in June can be a tough 24 hours. You have this love to give to your dear old Dad, but he is no longer with you physically. The commercialized aspect of the day illuminates the absence of him, and you can feel the pains of grief all over again. For those of you experiencing your first Father’s Day without Dad, this can be especially raw. The year of 'firsts' after you lose someone special is something that you have to walk through, and not around. And it is not easy. For those who, like me, have been without Dad for some time, it can still be a day of melancholy, a time where you can’t help but think, 'What if he was here?' You notice the families out for Father’s day brunch, you see the greeting cards that say just the right words, but Dad is not here to be showered with love and affection . . ."

Father’s Day Without Dad, Vol. 10 by Gabrielle Birkner ~ "My rational side tells me that the third Sunday in June is just another day. But when that day rolls around, I feel my dad's absence more intensely. On the Valentine’s Day following a bad breakup during my senior year of college, my friend Sari handed me a Hallmark card. Inside, she had written: “Happy Valentine’s Day, even though it’s a capitalist holiday for sappy schmucks.” And yet she bought a card. Because she knew that even if you don’t technically believe in the holiday — even if you think it’s just an excuse to sell roses and chocolates and teddy bears — it feels pretty crappy to be alone that day, without anyone to give you roses or chocolates or teddy bears. Same goes for Father’s Day when your father is dead. Your rational side may tell you that the third Sunday in June is just another day; and yet when that day rolls around and you’re fatherless, you may feel the absence more intensely . . ."

A Fatherless Father’s Day by Michelle Hanson ~ "I have passed the rows of Father's Day cards when shopping for weeks now. It's like a knife to my heart every time. I even stopped and read a few last week, seeing what it would do to me to read words I'll never get to say to you again. The grief is different now, eight years after your death. It is a copper basin, deep and somber. It echoes when the teardrops drops fall, and they do fall still. It is fresh and old all at once, this grief. It has become a part of me . . ."

5 Ways to Remember Dad – Managing Grief on Father’s Day ~ "Father’s Day can be a hard holiday to handle when you’ve lost your dad. If it’s a recent loss, the omnipresent messages of Father’s Day may feel like too much to bear. If more time has passed, Father’s Day may inspire you to do something special to honor the memory of the man who taught you so much. Regardless of the amount of time that has passed, there are several ways you can manage your grief while remembering Dad this Father’s day. Here are five to consider . . ."

When Grief Darkens Father’s Day: Tips for Coping and Honoring Dad by Sue Thoms ~ "As Father’s Day approaches, not everyone is wondering about whether to get Dad a goofy tie or a fishing lure. Many are wondering how they will get through the day as they mourn for the loss of their father. The day can be challenging for grieving sons and daughters, but there are ways to cope . . ."

Walking with Grief, Living with Purpose by Julie Nierenberg ~ "Yesterday while walking in my neighborhood, I realized how alive and present my father’s spirit is in my life. He was an avid gardener and life-long admirer of nature, and I feel his presence reflected in the beauty and wonder of the outdoors, the sounds and sights of Spring . . ."

When a Father Dies on Father’s Day by Nina Bennett ~ "My father died on Father’s Day 2007. He had been in apparent good health until the night he was admitted to the hospital. That day, he went through his usual routines--swam a mile at the Y, did some errands, sat on the patio with my mother in the late afternoon. By 11 p.m. he was in the ER, in such critical condition that the staff didn’t think he would survive the night. At 6 a.m. the following morning, he was stable enough to transport to the ICU. Each of the next 10 days brought new challenges as his condition worsened and became increasingly complex . . ."

Getting Through Special Days by Pat Schwiebert, RN ~ "I’m amazed at how miserable we are able to make ourselves. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with loss, but the added burden of a calendar full of land mines can just send us over the top when we think about getting through the first few years of a major loss . . ."

10 Ways to Honor Your Deceased Dad on Father’s Day by Chris Raymond ~ "The annual Father's Day holiday can prove challenging for anyone mourning the loss of his or her dad, even many years after he died. This article offers 10 meaningful ways that you can honor your deceased father and keep his memory alive on Father's Day . . ."

Father-Daughter Bond Continues Beyond the Grave by Jane Simington ~ "My last visit with my Father began three days before his passing. I had known him as a man of few words, so the intensity and depth of the conversation we shared about the life we spent together marked me indelibly. He emphasized that he wished he 'had been able to do more [for me],' 'to give [me] more.' My simple response, 'Daddy, you gave me life; you gave me my education. I could ask for nothing more,' affirmed the roles that he played in my life. I left my father’s room that evening believing I would never again converse with him, or receive his help or guidance. My first realization that this assumption was not true occurred just days after his death . . ."

Voices of Experience: In My World, Superman by Lisa Rosendahl ~ "The following comes to us from Lisa Rosendahl, in tribute to her father, Marvin Becker, who died on October 26, 2012, the day after celebrating his 63rd wedding anniversary with his wife and family. Lisa writes that following his massive stroke in 2011, 'we almost lost Dad several times, but his strength and stubbornness kept him going until his final time, proving that he really is Superman . . .'"

Dealing with Father’s Day After Losing a Child by Marti Warmuth ~ "Many people have lost a parent, but very few people have had to deal with the pain of losing a child. It can be a really difficult thing to go through if you're a parent, and sometimes, the pain that fathers deal with during it is left behind. Both mothers and fathers have to work through the heartache, albeit differently, so it's important to take a look at that pain and see what we can do in order to help our way through it . . ."

A Letter to Dad: Thank You For Everything I Never Saw by Jordan Gray ~ "I could start by thanking you for the easy things... My bed, my clothes and the food that you put on the table when I was young. For coaching my baseball team, swinging me in the air as we walked down the road and for the vacations pulled together on a shoestring budget. The patience, love and understanding that you showed me in accepting me as I was... and not trying to push me into being a more societally 'typical' male. But somehow that feels like I've barely scratched the surface. What I really want to thank you for is all of the small decisions that you made on a daily basis that I will never know about . . ."

Father’s Day After Your Dad Has Died by Neil Chethik ~ "Father's Day is just ahead, and for more than 100 million Americans whose fathers have died, it will be at best ~ "My pain is not unique. I’ll be the first to tell you that. I’m not the first person in the world to lose a father. I won’t be the last. It’s part of life. However, I’d be lying if I said that as each day passes, I miss my father more than the last. Four years later, a piece of my heart still hurts, yet part of me feels more alive than ever before . . ."

Adrift by Suzanne Murray ~ "After my dad died, an orange-bellied newt crawled in from the garden and roamed around my study until I scooped him up and put him back outside on a moist pile of leaves. A few days later a pair of ravens followed me for miles through a dark Douglas fir forest: flying from branch to branch, uttering their throaty groks as I walked to outdistance the desolation of being left behind by the parent who influenced most. In open grasslands speckled with spring wildflowers, a cadre of turkey vultures swirled over my path, sailed so close I could hear the wind from their wings . . ."

Five Meaningful Questions to Ask Your Father Before It’s Too Late by Dr. Suzanne Gelb ~ "When Michael McQueen was 22 years old, his father suffered an unexpected heart attack and died. In the throes of his grief, Michael realized: 'There's so much I don't know about my father because he never told me -- and I never thought to ask. Now it's too late.' Michael went on to develop a website, Histography, where he provides tools to help people capture their parents' stories and wisdom to pass along to the next generation. Through his work, Michael identified five questions that most grown up kids regret not asking their parents back when they could . . ."

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