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Man smiling in a counselling room

Father’s Day can cause a tidal wave of grief for those who have lost their father or father-figure, or for fathers who have lost a baby or child.

Whether the death was recent or many years ago, Father’s Day can evoke mixed emotions for people grieving. Especially if the relationship was complicated, creating not just sadness, but regret, confusion and anger.  

Sandra Fowles, our bereavement counsellor, has shared advice and guidance on how people and their loved ones can cope.

Be kind to yourself

This is a time to be really kind to yourself. Any feelings associated with your bereavement are a natural part of the grieving process and are individual to you.

“The most important thing is to accept all these feelings. Allow the emotions that come up to be expressed, rather than pushing them away.

Sandra Fowles, bereavement counsellor
Sandra Fowles, bereavement counsellor

“Being around others who understand and can be empathetic can make a big difference to how you cope. Taking the time to do something nurturing for yourself is okay and it’s alright for you to enjoy yourself too.”

Acknowledge the day and its impact on you

  • The lead up to Father’s Day may feel harder to deal with than the day itself, as there are constant reminders leading up to it. It can be hard to avoid messages and adverts on social media or television, and cards and banners on display in shops.
  • Have an idea of how you might spend the day. You may be tempted not to make any plans at all and try to ‘avoid’ those difficult feelings, but this could end up making you feel worse.
  • There is no one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to spend Father’s Day. Although your father may not be physically present, remember that you carry him with you in your daily life, in your memories and in the many traditions you take forward.

Talk to someone

  • Try and share with others how you are feeling and what you might need on Father’s Day. Sometimes people avoid the topic as they worry about upsetting you, so opening the conversation yourself can mean you getting the support you need.
  • If you know someone who is grieving the loss of a parent or a child, having a conversation with them about that person can be really comforting.
  • Mention the person by name, talk about the impact they had on your life and share memories and anecdotes.

On Father’s Day itself

  • Consider visiting a favourite spot of theirs or their resting place. Take something to commemorate the day such as a photo, their preferred drink or a special object
  • Pay tribute to your special person by spending time doing something they liked to do or that you did together. You could play their favourite music; watch a film they loved or celebrate by eating their favourite meal and raising a glass in their memory
  • Plant a tree or sow some flower seeds. Getting outdoors in nature can be healing in itself
  • You may even want to start a new tradition in their honour

For children, the same guidance can apply but allow them to have different views and needs from you and from their siblings. You can also involve them in discussions about any plans for the day.