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Coping on Father's Day When Dad Has Passed Away

Father's Day can be an emotional time if dad is no longer with you. But whether you're young, a parent, or childless, just because your father has passed away doesn't mean you have to bury yourself under the covers and wait for the day to be over.

Here’s how to remember those you’re missing on Father’s Day.

Let Yourself Grieve

Have you been told to just move on?

It's tempting to criticize yourself for feeling sad or depressed for "too long" after your father has passed away. "It helps to first recognize that all feelings of grief are normal. Even years later, it is okay to feel lonely, sad, or angry about a loss," says Katherine Supiano, PhD, director of Caring Connections at the University of Utah College of Nursing.

Give yourself permission to grieve and feel whatever emotions spring up. Recognize, name, and talk about those emotions. Research suggests it's healthier to identify and name specific emotions rather than suffer with general feelings of anxiety and unhappiness.

"To remember a loving father, allow feelings, foster warm memories, and live and do what would honor the life your father lived."
Katherine Supiano, PhD

Ignore Others' Expectations and Treasure Good Memories

Just like allowing yourself to feel whatever emotions arise, don't let others' ideas about the holiday ruin your day. Remember these coping tips:

  • Everyone celebrates holidays differently
  • If it's too painful to do something a relative or friend asks—like cooking a special meal or going out to dinner—don't do it
  • Don't feel guilty about setting healthy boundaries!

Also, remember the good times with dad. "Focus on positive memories more than memories associated with the circumstances of the death—for example, trips to the lake versus those last difficult days in the hospital," Supiano says.

Honor Dad by Doing the Things He Loved

One of the best ways to grieve the loss of your father on Father's Day is to do an activity he loved.

"An especially effective way to remember is to actually DO something to honor a father," Supiano says.  We think of going to the cemetery as one way, and that can be a good way for some people, but it's lovely to do something your dad loved."

Sharing these rituals with your children, siblings, or friends can teach the people you love about who your dad was, helping you feel closer to him.

How to Have a Happier Father’s Day

Grieving is a long process. On Father's Day, don't forget to focus on coping strategies – even little ones – that help you feel better.

Supiano reminds us, “To remember a loving father, allow feelings, foster warm memories, and live and do what would honor the life your father lived.”