The Open to Hope show’s Father’s Day special provides a number of tools for handling one of the most difficult days of the year. Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley welcome guests Neil Chethik (Executive Editor for the Open to Hope Foundation and author of Father Loss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads), Jenny Wheeler (author of Weird is Normal: When Teenagers Grieve), and Mitch Carmody (author of Letters to My Son, Turning Loss to Legacy). There are many complicated matters in father loss, explains Chethik. The younger the child, the greater the loss feels.
If a relationship was strained while the father was alive, the grieving can become more complex. The type of death also influences grieving. For example, death by suicide can lead to extremely challenging bereavement periods. If your father passes before you tell him everything you want to, as the bereaved you can feel stuck with all the baggage. “Maybe I should have said that,” is a common mantra. The most important thing you can do to prep for a father’s death is to bring the relationship to completion.
Leave Nothing Unsaid
When a father dies at a young age, a son can grieve the future they were expected to have. “I’m proud of you,” “You’re a good kid” and “I love you” are common phrases sons wish their father had said (or said more often). The father-son relationship can be a strained one, and many times the son needs to reach out first (even if that doesn’t seem “fair”).
Dr. Heidi Horsley points out that there’s a false idea that if you have an estranged relationship with someone, you don’t grieve hard for them. Sometimes the opposite is true.