Here at the WARM Place, children often report feeling anxious, sad and alone when special days like Father’s Day roll around. While their peers are eagerly participating in special celebrations for Dads at schools, churches and with family and friends, the children in our support groups are reminded of a deep and tragic loss they experienced at a very young age. Many of the children in our program report avoiding school, church or other special functions such as “Donuts with Dad” on Father’s Day for fear of being “singled out”. While many organizations make special considerations to help include children who have lost a father, very few take the time to ask grieving children what special considerations they would like to be given on special days.
It is important to remember that all children grieve differently and should be allowed to celebrate (or not celebrate) in a way that feels comfortable to them. For some, adapting their special projects to include mom and/or another significant person in their life might be helpful. Others may choose to avoid the celebrations all together. Even still, some may choose to actively participate in the special celebrations as a way of honoring their loved one’s memory. Whatever action they choose, allowing children to tell you their thoughts and feelings about how they choose to celebrate is the most helpful thing that we as caring adults can do. Recognizing that we are not the experts on children’s grief and companioning children as they guide us through their healing journey is one of the best gifts we can share with grieving children on this Father’s Day.
-Teresa Bartniki, Counselor