Monday, June 13, 2016

Coping with Grief on Father’s Day: Selected Resources

[Reviewed and updated June 14, 2024]

A boy loses his father, he quickly becomes a man. I was 22. I remember clearly the sobriety I felt in the pain of my father’s passing. The sorrow refined me, and I never looked at the world the same again. Everything I revered and looked up to suddenly dropped to eye level and felt more mortal and attainable, while everything I had patronized and looked down upon rose up to a more respectful eye level and wasn’t beneath me. The world was suddenly flat, and I looked it square in the eye with more courage and incentive than ever before.
~ Matthew McConaughey
This coming Sunday is Father’s Day, a day set aside for honoring one’s own father (or father figure) and for celebrating fatherhood. But for those who are separated from or mourning the loss of a father or grandfather, or fathers mourning the loss of a child or grandchild, this can be instead a most difficult day to endure. If you find yourself or someone you love in these circumstances, know that you are not alone.
For practical suggestions on how to cope with grief and loss on Father’s Day ~ or on how to better understand and support a father in grief ~ I invite you to read one or more of the articles listed below. Just click on the titles listed to read more ~ and please feel free to add your own suggestions in the Comments section below:

To Those Forgotten on Father's Day by Andy Gillette - "Father’s Day. It’s usually a day when dads can relax, laying down their burden for a moment.
For those of us who have lost a child, though, it’s a day when we pick up a burden we tend to ignore throughout the year. You see, it’s a day when you pretty much can’t help but dwell on what you’re not doing. You’re not playing catch with your son; not drinking tea with your daughter; not laughing carefree with the other dads (at least, not genuinely). The burden is different for different guys. It might be the weight of the grief; or the guilt–often imagined–for failing to protect our sons, daughters, and wives; or, though I’m ashamed to say it, the irrational jealousy of seeing another father’s joy. In short–and this is far from profound–Father’s Day is pretty crappy if you’ve lost a kid . . ."

Digital Love Letters for Fathers Who Are Incarcerated by Malika Saada Saar - "This past Mother's Day, we shared #LoveLetters, a partnership among nonprofits to give the children of incarcerated parents a chance to have their voices heard. Today, in celebration of Father’s Day, you can watch Love Letters for incarcerated fathers. This work is part of our continued commitment to raising awareness about racial injustice, and to bearing witness to the human costs of mass incarceration . . ."

Father's Day After Your Father Has Died by Neil Chethik - "It’s Father’s Day, and for more than 100 million Americans whose fathers have died, it will be a day of missing Dad. What can these fatherless Americans do to make the holiday meaningful? For my book, FatherLoss, I interviewed several hundred people about the death of their dads. And some were actually a little relieved on Father’s Day after their dad had died. This was especially true if they had a troubled relationship with their dad. After he died, they didn’t have to come up with a gift for him, or send him a card – or apologize for not sending a card. And they didn’t have to make small talk on the phone on Father’s Day. It was a kind of liberation . . ."

Grieving The Loss of a Child On Father’s Day by Greg Laurie - “As we look to our annual celebration of Father’s Day this Sunday, I know there are many dads out there, like me, who may experience a fresh wave of grief on this occasion, as a result of no longer having one of our children here on earth to mark the day with us. The pain can seem as overwhelming as it ever was, so I wanted to share my heart with parents who may find themselves walking that path for the first time this year, in hopes that it will provide some measure of comfort . . .”

Celebrating Mother's Day and Father's Day via - "Mothers Day and Fathers Day are likely to be two of the most emotional days of the calendar for divorced parents. Sadly, sometimes divorced parents find themselves in a battle for time with their children on Mothers or Fathers Day. I hope this isn't happening for you. Thanks to the media and greeting card companies, these two days are loaded with feelings and symbolism. Not having your kids with you on Mothers Day or Fathers Day heightens feelings of loss, shame, guilt and sadness that frequently accompany divorce for adults . . ."

3 Communication Tips for Father’s Day by Bob DeMarco,  - “If you are [an Alzheimer’s caregiver and] having a bunch of people coming over for Father's day; or, if you are taking your father somewhere (to another home) that they are no longer familiar with this can sometimes create anxiety. This anxiety is often a two way street. By this I mean, the person living with dementia might experience anxiety due to the new environment; or due to the number of people moving around - especially young children who while having fun are running around with great energy. You or your family might start feeling anxiety if your loved one starts asking to go home, or continually asks what is going on. I think you know what I mean . . .”

My Father’s Gift: A Context for Grief by Dave Roberts, - “As Father’s Day approaches, I remember my father not so much for the memories that we created when he was alive, but for the memories that he is helping me create now. My father, Austin Marion Roberts was only in my life for 5 years, after which time he left me and my mother Sadie. I never heard from him again and at age fourteen discovered that he had died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when he was only 40 years old. Though my father was only in my life for a short time, I love him more now than I ever have. Human law can’t measure what he has taught me and continues to teach me . . .”

Another Father’s Day by Sandy Fox - "Father’s Day is often a forgotten holiday, overshadowed by the longer standing tribute to mothers. But for the bereaved father, it is a poignant reminder of the bittersweet memory of a loved, now lost, child; bitter for the death and pain and recognition of the inability to stop what happened. Fathers do not often have a chance to share their hurts and concerns. Oftentimes they are unable to do so . . ."

Father’s Day After A Child’s Death by David Roberts -“Fathers be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters, too. - John Mayer
"When life progresses according to the human laws of the universe, much beauty can be discerned from that progression. This quote from singer/songwriter John Mayer illustrates this in a powerful manner. Acts of unconditional love from father to daughter help to ensure that love will be reciprocated and freely given when daughters themselves become mothers. Love is truly a powerful force. But what happens when life does not go according to plan? . . ."

Father’s Day Sulking Without Apology by Litsa Williams - "No two ways about it, Father’s Day is pretty much my least favorite holiday. In fact, I pretty much hate the month of June in general. My father spent his last Father’s Day unconscious and vented in an ICU and died the next week . . ."

Father’s Day by Chuck DeKlyen - "This month families all over will be gathering to celebrate Fathers Day. Families might meet for a BBQ, maybe go camping or even just pay a visit to spend time with their fathers. For many of us lucky enough to still have our fathers in our life this can seem like just another commercial holiday. But what about those whose father is no longer with them? Father’s Day can be just another cruel reminder of their loss . . ."

Getting Through Grief This Father’s Day by Renee Joyce - "Father’s Day can be particularly difficult on a grieving family who have experienced the death loss of a father figure. No one knows quite what it is like to have lost a dad, uncle or grandfather except the ones who are impacted by the loss of this important person. Sometimes, making meaningful experiences together by honoring and memorializing the deceased can help families to feel more connected and stronger as they work through healing. There are many ways to stay connected to him through your and the children’s relationships and memories with him. Here are a few ideas to cope through Father’s Day to hopefully make a painful day more manageable for you and your kids . . ."

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.

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