Father’s Day is not a day of joy for everyone. For many people, Father’s Day makes the loss of a father or child more profound. As the holiday approaches, you may feel a range of emotions—from anger to sadness to guilt. No matter where you are in your grief journey, Father’s Day can bring up these emotions and remind you of who you’ve lost. 

It’s impossible to avoid holidays like Father’s Day. Grocery stores set up Father’s Day displays. Commercials on TV market gifts for dad. Acquaintances ask you how you plan to celebrate, unaware of your loss. You may be wondering, “How do I deal with Father’s Day?” Know that there is no right answer or normal way to grieve. 

Grief does not have a cure, but you learn to cope with it over time. Preparation, planning, and finding a connection to the person you’ve lost can help you get through this Father’s Day. 

Your First Father’s Day Without Dad

The first Father’s Day without your father or child is the first time your loved one isn’t there to celebrate or participate in family traditions. Experiencing this first Father’s Day can feel all-encompassing.  

People experience the acute phase of grief shortly after losing someone. In this first  stage of grief, people feel intense and overwhelming emotional pain. Many people also experience physical reactions, forgetfulness, and distracting thoughts. On your first Father’s Day without your dad, the loss may feel extremely heavy. 

“It can be incredibly difficult—that first Father’s Day and that second one. After that, it doesn’t get better. It’s just that you’ve had experience managing [your grief], so you’ve figured out what works well and what doesn’t,” says Dr. Iman Christians, Chief Clinical Officer of Lost and Found Grief Center.  

Managing the Anticipation of Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, you may feel like doing something to honor your loved one, or you may feel like doing nothing at all. For some people, the days leading up to Father’s Day are worse than the day itself. At Lost and Found Grief Center, we encourage people to create a plan for Father’s Day and spend time with the people they love. 

Form a Plan for Yourself 

It’s important to decide what you will be doing on Father’s Day. Where will you be? Will you spend time with your family? Will you go to the gravesite? Will you volunteer with an organization? Whether you want to participate in a special activity or stay home and do nothing, planning helps you feel prepared, and it can ease anxiety you feel about the holiday. 

If your children have lost their father, let them play a part in the planning process. Ask your children how they’d like to remember their dad. When children get to decide how they spend Father’s Day, you acknowledge the family’s loss and give them an outlet to express their love for their father. 

Think About Social Media

In today’s world, it’s hard to separate yourself from social media. Many people post about their fathers on and around Father’s Day. You may not want to see images of other people with their dads. Decide if you want to see those things before and on the day, and monitor your social media use accordingly.

Be With People You Love

Sometimes, the simplest things can be the most affirming and uplifting. If you feel up to it, plan to spend time with the people you love this Father’s Day. You may feel comfortable gathering with those who share your loss or talking to those who understand your grief. Together, you can do something meaningful like a balloon release or a visit to your father’s favorite place. 

Missing Dad on Father’s Day: How to Honor Your Father This Year

Finding a connection to the person you’ve lost helps you navigate grief. There may be a place, activity, or organization that meant a lot to the person. You could visit your loved one’s favorite fishing hole, make a donation in their name, or cook their favorite meal. 

No matter what you do, acknowledging that the person existed and that you miss them is essential. Sharing stories about the person you’ve lost with others can reaffirm their impact on your life and give you a chance to express how much they mean to you. 

You may wonder how to honor your deceased father or child this Father’s Day. Depending on how you feel, what you do around Father’s Day may change, and that’s OK. Remember that there’s no right way to honor or remember your loved one. 

“Don’t get stuck on trying to find the right way. Try a few different things. Whether it’s lighting a candle or it’s looking through pictures that you have, try a few different things out and see what feels right,” says Dr. Christians. 

The Cyclical Nature of Grief 

Grief is complicated and confusing. As holidays come around, you won’t feel the same way every year. You may not feel many emotions this Father’s Day; ten years down your grief journey, however, you may feel strongly around this time of year.

“Grief is not a single line that you follow. It’s cyclical. It can come back to you. It can hit you in different ways,” says Dr. Christians. 

Milestones in life also impact how we feel on Father’s Day. Graduations, weddings, and births can make us wish our fathers were there celebrating with us. 

This Father’s Day, make a plan for yourself and your family to celebrate your loved one in a way that feels right to you. 

Remember that you are not alone in your experience. Lost and Found Grief Center offers support groups and grief counseling services for children, teens, and adults at any stage of their grief journey. 

Contact Lost and Found for more information about how we can support you this Father’s Day.