Historians seeking an ancient precedent for an official Father’s Day observance have come up with only one: The Romans, every February, honored fathers-but only those who were deceased. More recent 20th century history offers more than one proponent of a day to honor fathers. However, Father’s Day actually didn’t become an official holiday until 1972 when President Richard Nixon proclaimed it so.
In some ways, it might make it easier for those of us who are bereaved to honor only those we have lost. When a parent or husband dies sometimes it seems the only way to cope is to ignore holidays altogether.
It’s been almost five years since my own dad died too soon. There are so many wonderful stories about him. He was such a positive, adventurous, and loving person. He was a great dad. The best and most lasting message that he passed on to me was that really, anything is possible.
It was back in October 2007, and just after the funeral, when I got back to town. I thought I saw my dad everywhere. I couldn’t believe he was really gone. His lack of existence was completely outside of my perception of reality. Not only was it hard to accept, it was also just plain unfair.
But over time, my disbelief that he wasn’t on this earth anymore did give way to something new. A new layer seemed to grow over the layer of raw pain. What I now felt was emerging into more of a wistful sadness.
What I notice as each Father’s Day passes is that I can hold two feelings at the same time. I see the bond that so many of the dads I know have with their children and can also remember the special times I had with my own dad.
A new kind of presence seems to have developed where I am in my dad’s company despite his not really being here. While I will always be sad that he is not here on this earth with me and my family, his essence remains strong. Talking with my family about my dad helps. Telling my children stories about their grandpa helps him to live on.
Trying to make sense of the enormity of losing a spouse or parent can feel so overwhelming. The main thing to remember is that there is no right way to mourn. We don’t just “get over” the death of a loved one. The grief process is different for everyone. Below are some suggestions to help you begin to cope with the death of husband, father, or any family member:
1. Notice what you are feeling and don’t feel you have to do anything about it yet. It is enough to just feel the loss.
2. Talk with supportive friends and family. Meeting with a grief counselor can also be helpful.
3. Get a massage or some other healing support to help your body feel well cared for.
4. Listen to guided imagery to help your mind and body relax.
5. Take care of your own health and emotional needs.
6. Ask for help so you don’t have to take care of everything alone.
1. It is recommended that kids continue to engage in their familiar activities.
2. Be available and have other loving friends on hand to listen and talk with kids about their feelings.
3. Help kids remember their dad by drawing, writing, or watching videos. This can help kids feel connected. Saving special items or creating new touchstones can be also very comforting.
4. Tune in to your child at every stage of development to see how they are experiencing the loss of their father.
5. Create a family ritual to honor your children’s dad. For example, going on a hike that he enjoyed or reading a book to the kids that he used to read.
6. Remember there is no right amount of time to process this immense loss.