Article adapted for the Bridge to Healing Newsletter
It’s hard to turn on the TV or scroll through social media without seeing references to Father’s Day. Ads everywhere for the perfect gift, sweet articles highlighting a father’s sacrifice for his family, even memories 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. There is no typical section labeled “For Grieving Dads” or “For the Death of a Father.”
Two kinds of people read this post right now, those who have never had a significant death 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 difficult never occurred to you, that’s okay. By reading this, you help 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 death – 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 memories are not foreign to you. Father’s Day can be hard. Maybe your step-or grandfather died, or maybe you’re a father whose child died. Maybe you and your partner are experiencing infertility. Maybe you’ve never even had a dad. Father’s Day may 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 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, allows them to talk about it if they choose, or simply thank you for your sentiment if they choose not to go into it. It also spreads more awareness that grief is hard and that it’s okay not to be OK sometimes.
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.
Here are 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 with the new normal you have to live now.
- 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 okay with a last-minute cancelation if you’re not up to it or with whom you feel comfortable sharing these bigger emotions.