It’s Father’s Day, and for more than 100 million Americans whose fathers have died, it will be a day of missing Dad. What can these fatherless Americans do to make the holiday meaningful?
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 daughter’s father had always loved reading Hemingway, so she pulled out her father’s Hemingway books and read a few chaptersevery Father’s Day. 2) One son pulled out his father’s old tools and made something in the wood shop on Father’s Day. 3) Another man, on Father’s Day, always cooked a pot roast, his father’s favorite meal.
For these people, 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. What will you do to connect with your father even after he has died?
Neil Chethik is executive editor of Open to Hope, and author of FatherLoss (Hyperion). See more about his work at www.FatherLoss.com.