Grieving and the New Meaning of Father’s Day

Fathers are characteristically known to be the foundation of the family, of kids’ lives. They are strong, steadfast, disciplined…different in so many ways than from the nurturing and comforting presence of mothers, but still critical to a child’s well-being and successful development.

The loss of either parent can be devastating, but for most of us, it is an inevitability. When we lose a dad, no matter our age, it can feel as if our very foundation of life is now gone.

We grieve differently when losing a father than when losing a mother, no better or worse, just differently. And when Father’s Day rolls around, what is normally a happy occasion to celebrate dad and all the love and support he gave, turns into a sober holiday filled with grief.

Maybe this will be your first Father’s Day without your dad. Maybe you haven’t spoken to him in years, or maybe he passed away unexpectedly. Whatever the situation, it’s OK if you’re feeling sad on Father’s Day and coping with such a huge loss. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to deal with this alone and there are ways to cope with loss and honor your dad at the same time on this special day.

Acknowledge that Father’s Day may be difficult for you or others.

Honoring – or missing – Dad is not a one-size-fits all endeavor. If you’re grieving a father, it’s okay if you don’t want to celebrate Father’s Day with family or friends. You may even choose not to acknowledge it at all. It’s understandable to have mixed feelings about this holiday, whether your dad’s passing was months or years ago.

Your feelings are valid and may continue over a long period of time. Sometimes just taking time each day to think about what was good about him is enough; if this doesn’t feel right for you right now, then take some time off from thinking about him altogether until you’re ready again.

Recognize that your emotions are valid.

It’s perfectly normal to feel sad or angry on Father’s Day. You may even feel confused or out of control at times.

That’s okay. Grief is a complex process, and your emotions are one of the many ways that you can navigate through it. Honor them.

Ask for what you need.

If you’re struggling to cope with the loss of your father, you might need to ask for help. Ask for what you need from family, friends, religious leaders, and support groups. You can also ask for help from a therapist or grief counselor who specializes in helping people deal with the death of a loved one.

You can also consider visiting your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping or eating properly because of grief issues related to losing your father. A friend may also be able to offer some advice on how they got through their own experience with a loss similar to yours!

Give yourself permission to do something fun on Father’s Day.

While you may feel guilty about it, having fun on this day, if you feel up to it, is also important. The truth is, sometimes we need to do things that are fun or relaxing or both—whatever makes us feel better at the time—even if those things aren’t what society has told us is “appropriate” for the grieving of our dads. While it is true that grief does not follow any set timeline (and many people will want or need more time than others), there is no rule book telling us when we should be able to start living again after losing someone so important in our lives (in fact, some people never do). Just remember that, in most cases, your dad wouldn’t want you moping around depressed that he has passed. He would want you to move on with life and enjoy it!

Nourish yourself.

The process of grieving is full of ups and downs. There will be moments when you feel like celebrating, and other times when you’ll just want to curl up into a ball and cry. Eating is often a way natural reaction humans use to cope with stress and fluctuations in mood. However, eating too much or too little can have negative effects on your body so it’s important to find a healthy balance. Think nourishment and self-care. Besides overeating, or eating the wrong foods, avoid going without the food your body need. This only leads to the inevitable crash-and-burn cycle that will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Volunteer on Father’s Day and do a service project your dad’s honor.

The following are a few ideas to honor your dad on Father’s Day:

  • Volunteer at a nursing home, maybe even adopt a dad who is alone on Father’s Day.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
  • Volunteer at a food bank. Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank is always welcoming new volunteers to help package and distribute food to those in need!
  • Volunteer at a school and daycare center.
  • Volunteer at a local Boys and Girls Club and be a father figure to a child who needs one.
  • Volunteer in your community garden or park, if there is one nearby that needs help with maintenance and get out in nature.

Do whatever you need to do to remember the good times, even sharing funny stories with other family members.

When you’re ready, there are many ways to honor your dad. You can share stories with other family members, friends, therapists, and support groups. You can also write them down in a journal or a book, write letters to him, or blog about your dad as a way to keep his memory alive. Take part in one of his favorite pastimes, or activities you used to enjoy together. Reliving these fun times can be very therapeutic and still a valid expression of grief as any other way.


Dealing with loss is never easy. A holiday like Father’s Day can be especially hard because there are so many reminders of what was, what no longer is, and how things have changed. If you’ve lost someone close to you, our condolences go out to you and your family. This is a difficult time for all of us, but we hope these tips will help make it a little easier for you to cope with the pain and remember happy moments from the past.