Supporting the grieving on Father’s Day
Father’s Day can be a difficult day for many of us. Reminders exist in every shop, email and advert, with pictures of happy families and close, loving relationships. You may have lost your father, or be supporting a child who has. You may be a father who has lost his own child. Whatever your situation, you can find, and offer support and comfort.
If an adult you love has lost their father
Fathers, and our relationships with them, are complex. If someone you love has lost their father it’s important to acknowledge their grief, and any way they wish to express it (even if that is not at all). Here are some ways you can help
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Some people want to mark a loss on Father’s Day, others want to ignore it completely, or somewhere in between. Ask directly what they would want, and don’t be quick to judge their response. Every person’s grief is individual, so give people the space to do what they need.
- Embrace shared memories. Encourage people to share happy memories, if they would be welcome, ask questions and take an interest. If memories are more painful, allow space for those too.
- Seek support. Events such as Father’s Day often bring grief to a head, and feelings that had been suppressed can bubble up. If that is the case with someone you know, do offer them space to talk, and be aware of organisations that can help. We’ve listed some at the bottom of this article.
If you are supporting a bereaved child
Children who have lost their fathers may find Father’s Day particularly distressing. Hopefully schools and clubs will show sensitivity when doing activities such as card-making and be aware that they need extra care. You may be struggling with your own grief too, so take care to look after each other.
- Talking is good. Encourage children to talk about their Dad. They may not want to, but let them know that you are there if they do, or maybe share some memories of your own to start things off. Whether there is joy or sorrow, make sure there is space for both. Even if they don’t want to, make sure they know that you haven’t forgotten or are ignoring it because it’s no longer for them.
- Create rituals and tributes. Children will spend the rest of their lives marking Father’s Day without their father, so help them create rituals and tributes that can give them a way to mark the day. This could be writing a letter, making a card or picture, or eating his favourite food, or watching his favourite (age-appropriate) film or TV programme. This can help them feel connected to him, and also give them tools for the future.
- Let them escape. Children often can’t hold onto feelings for long. They may wish to do something to remember their dad, but they may then want to go and do something else completely such as play with their friends or watch TV. Allow them the space to decide.
- Ask for help. Once again, if you feel that grief has become overwhelming or all-encompassing, ask for help. There are charities and support groups available to help both you and your child.
If you know someone who has lost their child
Every day is difficult for bereaved fathers, but Father’s Day can make those feelings particularly raw. It brings their own grief to the forefront, for them and in the minds of others. Here are some ways to support men during a difficult day.
- Don’t ignore them. People are frightened of causing upset or saying the wrong thing, but often saying nothing at all is just as hurtful. A simple message or note to say you are thinking of them is often enough to let them know that you care.
- Offer a listening ear. It’s worth checking in during the days after Father’s Day, when feelings can remain low. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic intervention, but the offer of a quiet beer or walk can welcome.
- Acknowledge that you don’t understand. Losing a child is a very different grief to other losses, so don’t feel you have to empathise or try to find feelings in common. Acknowledging that you don’t know how it feels is important. Many bereaved parents find support from each other, and there are many organisations that can help put people in touch. Have some details of support to hand, if you need to mention it in conversation.
In conclusion, Father’s Day is an emotional time for many of us, but can be an important and powerful day of remembrance. If you know someone who is likely to find Father’s Day hard, show them your love, support and compassion.
Here are some charities that offer support to the bereaved, and those who love and look after them.
Strong Men – supporting men after bereavement –
NHS – here’s some advice from the NHS but do also talk to your GP –
Samaritans – Someone is always available to talk, day or night. Call 116 123 to speak to a Samaritan or check the website for other ways to contact
Sue Ryder – online bereavement support
For Children and bereaved parents
The Compassionate Friends Supporting parents after a child dies with in person and online community groups .