The month of June brings the end of the school year and the beginning of the long, hot, days of summer. June also includes Father’s Day, and an opportunity to honor and show appreciation and love to the dads and father figures in our life. The thought of celebrating Father’s Day may be difficult or even confusing for those who have experienced the death of their dad, husband, other significant fatherly figures, and for fathers who have experienced the death of a child. You may find yourself asking:
“What do we do now that Dad’s not here?”
“What if we don’t feel like celebrating?”
“How do we spend the day?”
Some families may want to continue traditions that have been meaningful to them in the past, such as firing up the grill and having a cookout or going fishing at the lake. One family shared they like to wear their dad’s wackiest ties on Father’s Day as they run errands, go to the grocery store, or eat out at a restaurant. When they get a funny look or comment, they use that as an opportunity to share a story or favorite memory of their dad with others.
Something we often discuss in our adult groups is how we are all at different places in our grief journey. This can be true even in our own families. One person may be ready to watch dad’s favorite movie and eat his favorite flavor of ice cream, one may want to take flowers to the cemetery, and one may want to stay in bed all day. The reality is that none of these are “bad” ideas and might be exactly what is needed for each of them. The key to navigating this special day is open, honest communication and a chance to share your wants and needs with each other.
In the days leading up to Father’s Day and for other special dates throughout the year, you may find it helpful to gather and check in with one another. This allows each person a chance to share how they are feeling and gauge where they are in their grieving process and what would help make the day a meaningful experience for them. With open dialog, active listening, trust, and reassurance that it’s okay to be honest, your family can come up with a plan that meets everyone where they are and honors your loved one as well.