By Neil Chethik
Father’s Day is just ahead, and for more than 100 million Americans whose fathers have died, it will be a day of missing Dad. Because I’ve written about how sons deal with the death of a father, Gloria and Heidi asked me to write something here about coping with Father’s Day after Dad is gone.
For my book, FatherLoss, I interviewed several hundred people about the death of their dads. And some were actually a little relieved on Father’s Day after their dad had died. This was especially true if they had a troubled relationship with their dad. After he died, they didn’t have to come up with a gift for him, or send him a card or apologize for not sending a card. And they didn’t have to make small talk on the phone on Father’s Day. It was a kind of liberation.
For some, this relief continued every Father’s Day. But for most, Father’s Day without a father eventually brought sadness too. To deal with that sadness, a lot of the people I interviewed said they started doing little things to remember their dads on Father’s Day.
For example: 1) One man’s father had always loved Beethoven, so the son put Beethoven on the CD player at some point every Father’s Day. 2) Another man pulled out his father’s old tools and made something in the wood shop on Father’s Day. 3) Still another man, on Father’s Day, always cooked a pot roast, his father’s favorite meal.
For these men, it was helpful to consciously think about their father on Father’s Day. They felt connected to their father’s memory, and actually looked forward to future Father’s Days when they could “commune” with their father again.
Sometimes we think that ignoring our sadness is best. But in most cases, honoring our sadness by connecting to the memory of the person we’ve lost is most healthy.
Feel free to check out more about my book at www.NeilChethik.com.