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Grief & Loss... Navigating Father's Day Without Dad

bereavement support grief & grieving remembrance ideas sympathy gifts

Fathers Day Grief

The death of a father can be one of the hardest losses to bear.

And at this time of year – around Father’s Day – the space that dad used to occupy in someone’s life can feel emptier than ever.

Of course there are other triggering times too – birthdays, Christmases, the memories of holidays and family events that pop up on our facebook feeds – but Father’s Day, when it feels like everyone in the world is sitting down to a Sunday roast with their dad, is when the loneliness and sense of loss can feel immense.

So how do we get through Father’s Day, and the other difficult dates, remembering the person we loved without feeling the world is falling apart under our feet?

Missing your dad

Bianca Neumann, head of bereavement at the charity Sue Ryder, says those who are grieving on Father’s Day shouldn’t push their feelings aside.

“What’s important to remember is that any feelings associated with your grief are normal. It is likely you will feel a wide-range of emotions, and they may come and go in waves, but instead of trying to push them away - allow yourself to feel them, and eventually they will start to fade.”

Finding a way to honour your dad on Father’s Day, or other special dates, can help you cope with your feelings and make you feel closer to him.

It can be a chance to treasure what you had with him. You could share memories with others who knew him, have a pint in his usual pub, watch his favourite film or look through old photos.

Bianca also suggests writing him a letter to help you to process your complex feelings, which in some cases may be tinged with regret or even anger as well as loss.

“Writing a letter may feel strange, but it's a way of validating your emotions and feeling connected to him, even though he is not here with you.

For some it may help to remember him with something tangible – a photo that you can look at or to light a candle ‘In Loving Memory of a Wonderful Dad’ that burns brightly to remind you of him.


Others may find all the fuss around Father’s Day just too hard to bear. In that case it’s fine to turn off social media, take yourself away from memories and do whatever it takes to get through this difficult day.

Helping others

All of us know someone who will find Father’s Day – or other special dates – hard to deal with, so how can we help others in their time of grief?

Ignoring the day is unlikely to help. Even if they don’t seem to want to talk, acknowledging that what day it is and showing you care can open the door for them to express themselves further down the line.

Bianca says: “Acknowledge that you know Father’s Day can be hard and that there’s a safe space for them to talk about their dad if they want to. They may take you up on the offer, say no, or not be ready to respond at all yet - but the important thing is that they know you’re there.

Photo: Ervin Cividini

Little gestures can also make a world of difference. Taking the time to send them a card or even a text message to say that they are in your thoughts can mean a lot. Sharing a happy story about their dad will make your gesture even more personal.

Maybe you could send a small remembrance gift, like a photo in a frame or a journal for them to record their memories.

And don’t forget dads who are dealing with pain…

There will be men this Father’s Day who will be dealing with a change in their own family life – they may be recently widowed and parenting alone or even be facing the agony of grieving a child.

Other dads may find themselves in circumstances where they cannot be with their children, even though they want to.

We can all reach out to the fathers we know who may be facing a different kind of day and who will appreciate the kindness of being in other’s thoughts.

  •   For free online bereavement support, Angel & Dove has partnered with Grief Chat.

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