Happy Father’s Day! This weekend, we will hear and read this greeting over backyard barbecue tables and via interstate telephone calls, emails and greeting cards.
However, if you are grieving the loss of your dad, stepdad, grandad or guardian, this Father’s Day may be anything but happy. Instead, you may feel sad and lonely. This is normal. In the words of grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt, our grief reflects “how our loved ones are determined not to be forgotten.”
6 Bereavement Tips for Father's Day
1. Plan ahead: Make a plan for how you will spend the day—especially if this is your first Father’s Day without your loved one. Who will you spend it with, if anyone? Also, plan at least one act of self-care. Walking. Journaling. Reading. Yoga. Listening to music. Meditation. Gardening. All of these activities can help you to reduce stress and deepen your connection to self.
2. Honor your own grieving process: It’s often a family day, and many siblings gather to share Dad stories or memories. However, depending on your individual need, you may choose to observe or begin the holiday with some quiet time at Dad’s gravesite. Alternatively, you may want to participate in or support a cause that really mattered to your father. Choose something meaningful and helpful to you.
3. Celebrate your father’s legacy: What did you treasure most about your father? His stories? His sense of humor? His work ethic? His wise words? Whatever it was, this is a good time to remember and celebrate your Dad’s legacy and how his traits and talents live on through you.
4. Connect with Dad: This year, you may not be buying or giving Dad the traditional Father’s Day card, but you may find it comforting to write him a letter or card. You may miss his physical presence, but now, you can forge a different sort of connection. Express your appreciation and love aloud. Or plan and do an activity that you used to enjoy together.
5. Make Peace with your father’s memory: If you had a less-than-ideal father-child connection, Father’s Day may evoke some conflicted emotions. In addition to your bereavement, you may be grieving for the relationship that you wish you had or never had. Honor your own feelings, your own story and your own grieving process. Use some of those self-care strategies or activities (See Item 1) to help you to make peace with your father’s memory.
6. Enlist a buddy or relative: If you anticipate that Father’s Day will be a tough day for you, reach out and ask for help. Ideally, your support person should be someone who will allow you to express your thoughts and feelings and someone who listens without judgement.
Grief has no timetable. So despite our best plans or supports, some of us experience “a grief spasm” or “grief attack” that can feel overwhelming or even physical. Allow those moments to come, and know that they happen because we have loved and been loved.
Learn about our grief support resources on the North Shore, greater Boston and eastern Massachusetts.
Roxane Weddle, LMHC, is a bereavement counselor with Care Dimensions.