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How to Cope with Grief on Father’s Day

This Sunday, June 16th, is Father’s Day. For many people, this is a day of celebration, however for some it is a painful reminder of loss and how their Dads have passed away.

For myself, Father’s Day is a triggering occasion. My Dad died by suicide almost 3 years ago and not a day goes by where I don’t think of him. But on Father’s Day those feelings of grief are amplified. It’s a time of immense sadness, and if I am being honest, jealousy. Seeing close friends and peers post about their own Dads on social media is incredibly hard to see and can provoke feelings of anger. Why can’t that be me? Many other emotions arise at this time, especially loneliness. It’s difficult to be surrounded by people who haven’t lost a father. It can feel like no one gets what you’re going through and how you may be feeling.

I’m not sure what Father’s Day will entail for me this year, but I’m hoping to let myself feel whatever emotions come my way. I believe that however you spend this day, is up to you. You are allowed to grieve in whatever way feels right to you.

Preparing for Father’s Day

If Father’s Day tends to be an emotional event for you, preparing for the occasion may help you to better cope on the day. This could look like: planning a way to celebrate your Dad in a way that is meaningful to you; or making plans with friends or family in advance, so you are not alone.

Preparing may also look like practicing helpful coping strategies beforehand. There is no harm in implementing more self-care sessions into the days leading up to the occasion. Also, if you are connected with mental health services, it may mean scheduling an appointment with your therapist so you can talk about any unresolved grief, or even anxiety you may be having about the day.

However, be mindful that you can only prepare so much for days like these. You won’t know how you are going to feel until the day arrives. This can be a scary thought, but just know it’s going to be okay! Depending on how you’re feeling, you may have to change your plans around, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

On the Day

Waking up and coming to the realization that it’s Father’s Day can be an incredibly difficult moment. But remember, Father’s day is only 24 hours and you can and you will get through it.

Like grieving, there is no right or wrong way to spend this day, so if curling up on the couch to binge watch Netflix is going to be helpful or comforting for you, go for it! You have permission to do what is best for YOU, no matter what that looks like. There is no normal when it comes to grief. Everybody is different and everyone’s experiences are different, you may feel numb on Father’s Day and others may feel depressed. You don’t have to feel a certain way or feel exactly like someone else who is grieving.  

While you grieve, it may be helpful to take a social media break. Especially if people’s posts are upsetting or triggering you. Log out of your accounts or turn off your phone all together. You can always log back on the next day and catch up on what you’ve missed when you are in a better place.

Spend the day doing something your Dad enjoyed doing, talk about him with family and friends, play his favourite song, take a look through photo albums, or eat food your Dad really liked-- these are all simple activities that you can try. You don’t have to move mountains to honour him, the little things count. Or if you’d rather brush off the day as if it were any other day, then you can do that. There are many other days in the year to remember your Dad and his life, you don’t have to do it on a day where you feel forced to do so, or may not feel strong enough.

And if you are able to come to peace with your grief and celebrate your Dad on Father’s Day, then give yourself the permission to. Being able to remember your Dad and the memories you shared together, to smile and laugh as you talk about him, is a big deal. It doesn’t mean that you have “moved on” and are “better,” it just means that you are healing and growing. Losing a parent is likely one of the hardest things you will ever have to go through. The grief will always be there, but these joyful moments matter and deserve to be felt.

After Father’s Day

The days following Father’s Day may be particularly difficult for you. So be kind to yourself. You may have to seek out support from loved ones or a professional. And that’s okay.

Remember that these feelings will pass, they are not forever. Although there are many more occasions to come, where you will miss your Dad with all of your heart, remind yourself that you got through yesterday and the day before that. With each difficult day that you overcome, there is a chance to have an “okay” or even a “good” day. Allow yourself to experience these moments-- they may come and go, but they exist.

So don’t have a Happy Father’s Day, just have a day. Keep breathing, keep doing what feels like the impossible, and if you’re needing to hear this: your Dad would be so proud of the person that you have become.

Check out these resources for more information on grief: