While Father’s Day might conjure images of backyard barbecues, cheesy dad jokes, and nostalgic memories, for some, it’s also a stark reminder that their own dad is no longer here.
“I was in Target the other day [and] I wasn’t even looking at Father’s Day cards, but the most perfect one stuck out at me and stopped me in my tracks,” said Ashley R. of Rochester, Michigan. “All I could do was take a picture of it and send it to my sisters. I no longer had anyone to buy it for and that hurt.”
Whether grieving a loss—or a lost relationship—Father’s Day can be tough for those who are missing their dad. Here we’re sharing how Father’s Day feels from those who’ve lost their dads and how to best support someone grieving a dad this Father’s Day.
What Father’s Day Feels Like for Someone Grieving Their Dad
I’m approaching my fifth Father’s Day without my own dad and my relationship with the day has changed over the years. I thought the first Father’s Day without him would gut me, but the anticipation of how I might feel was worse than getting through the actual day. Blair F. from Birmingham, Michigan shared similar feelings, “[Father’s Day] kind of looms over me for a few weeks prior.”
Which is yet another tough thing about grief. Just when you think you’re “fine,” something will pop up to remind you of what you’ve lost. And Father’s Day is hard to ignore. “It brings my grief to the forefront,” said Blair.
“Father’s day is about celebrating your dad, and if you no longer have one here to celebrate, it really hits you,” said Ashley. “Social media is flooded with pictures of your friends and family with their dads, or stories about Father’s Day plans and how everyone is going to be celebrating with their dads… [it’s] just a gut punch.”
Father’s day is about celebrating your dad, and if you no longer have one here to celebrate, it really hits you.
Others shared similar sentiments. Sarah C. from Grand Rapids, Michigan said the day makers her sad and nostalgic for things that remind her of her dad.
Feelings about Father’s Day may also vary year-to-year. “Sometimes it’s just another day,” said Shohn J. of Lansing, Michigan, who never had the chance to meet her father. “Other years it’s extremely difficult.”
Remember, those missing their dad on Father’s Day won’t know exactly how they’re going to feel on the actual day. But there is one thing all grievers have in common: Father’s Day isn’t the only day they’re missing their dad.
How Can You Support Someone Grieving a Dad on Father’s Day
If someone you care for is missing their dad, there are a few thoughtful ways you can show them support this Father’s Day (and any day).
Acknowledge the Day
The easiest way to show love and support is to share a simple acknowledgment of the loss, like sending a card or a short text that doesn’t require a response.
“I love getting the occasional memory shared by one of my friends,” said Jeff M. of Brisbane, Australia. “It’s a little beautiful reminder of the positive impact he had on people.”
Don’t know what to say? Here are some ideas:
- Thinking of you today.
- Sending you some extra love today.
- I’ll always remember… [if you knew their dad, share a specific memory, story, or photo].
“Just being there, asking questions about him, and allowing me to share stories about him [is the most meaningful],” said Ashley.
Send a Thoughtful Gift
If the loss is more recent, you might consider sending a thoughtful gift. My most treasured grief gift was a locket with my dad’s photo inside. I wore it to his funeral and still wear it often. It helps to have something tangible to remind me of him.
Sentimental gifts can also be very meaningful. “My grandparents photoshopped a baby photo of me into a family photo taken before my birth (dad died while mom was pregnant with me) so I could feel a part of the family as a whole,” said Shohn.
Say “I’m Thinking of You” With Food
Food often conjures up strong memories. Colleen S. and Sarah shared that they eat their dad’s favorite food on Father’s Day—KFC and a wedge salad, respectively. My family often serves my dad’s favorite dessert in his honor at our big family gatherings.
Consider sending someone grieving their dad a food delivery or gift card to their dad’s favorite restaurant. Or try a recipe he was famous for and text them a photo of the finished product.
What Not To Do
There’s one thing you shouldn’t do when you want to support someone who is grieving: let worrying about getting it “wrong” stop you from reaching out. And remember, everyone grieving their dad is not only missing him on Father’s Day. Ashley summed it up perfectly, “Grief has no end date, so continuing to check in with those who have lost a loved one is so important.”