Father’s Day for the Fatherless

Father’s Day is just around the corner and while this might be a joyous occasion for some for others it is a day of dread, sorrow, and foreboding. Being fatherless means different thing for different persons but no matter if your father passed away, was absent most of your life, or he is removed from your life by choice days such as Father’s Day can make for incredibly challenging times mentally and emotionally. This blog will look at a few suggestions on how to combat negative feelings depending on the reason why your father is no longer in your life.  

Fatherless Due to Bereavement

Many of you may be missing your late fathers on this special day. Father’s Day may give rise to feelings of grief and sadness which is completely normal. For others, it may bring on a depressive episode. And for those whose parents died in a violent or sudden way it may trigger symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Whatever feelings arise, remember that there are a variety of ways to honor your late father, even if he passed years ago. The following are a few ideas from several websites to help you get through this holiday.

Create a tribute video. Using your smartphone, tell a memorable story about your dad or narrate a slideshow, and share it with your family or on your social media pages. Sharing what made your father special to you can put a smile on your face. And it is likely to generate support from others that can help fill the void you may be feeling.

Set digital boundaries.  If every single image you see on social media is someone with their dad and a note of appreciation, it will make your loss feel like fresh and new. It is really just masochism. So put the phone down.

Visit his final resting place. Spend some time at your father’s gravesite if that helps you feel closer to him. Talk to him as if he were still alive.

Do a Father’s Day gift swap. Write a simple post on social media, it does not have to be long or elaborate, just say something like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of doing a little gift swap for anybody who is dreading Father’s Day.” You may be surprised at how many people are willing to participate.

Do something he loved. Did the two of you like gardening, playing golf, or fixing cars together? Relive those times by engaging in that activity again. Say a few words in his memory before you start.

Visit his favorite spot. Did your dad love watching the sunset from the top of a local hiking trail? Did he enjoy sitting on a park bench and watching the people passing by? Did he feel most at home just hanging out in the garage? Visit this spot, if possible, and try to see it through his eyes.

Write to (or about) your dad. Some people find comfort in writing a letter to their late father every year. Share the things in your life that you wish you could have told him in person and read it out loud on Father’s Day. Or you can write something about him.

Fatherless Due to Abandonment

Over 25% of children grow up in father-absent homes. And this statistic does not even include the “overlooked fatherless,” such as those who are donor conceived. These children are living without having a relationship with their biological fathers.

So, on a day when we celebrate fathers, here are a few suggestions for helping those children (or adults who may still be feeling the slight from an absent father) who are growing up without theirs:

Acknowledge the significance of father loss and give kids (or adults) the freedom to talk about it.  Well-meaning adults may say, “You’ve always lived without your dad, so what’s different about today?” Or “You are way better off with your mom.” They may even say that your current stepfather is a far better parent than your biological father ever had been.  How much better would it be to say to a child: “I know you are missing your father today. And I am so sorry you are sad.” And even though it may be hard to hear it, make sure children know that they can talk openly about missing their dads, and reassure them that they do not need to worry about hurting any adult’s feelings.

You do not have to deny the pain you feel because your father left. It hurts. It hurts when you were a little kid waiting for him to show up and it hurts even when you are an adult who knows he will never show up. Cry all you want.

Do not define who you are based on your father’s decision to walk away. Just because your father could not live up to his responsibilities does not mean that something is inherently wrong with you. He might not be able to see the gift that you are, but there is no need for you to be blind to your worth too.

There are people who will tell you that you should let go of your hurt and get over it. It is OK to tell them to back off. They mean well. They just do not understand that even after you forgive your father, every now and again, like say Father’s Day, your wounds will re-open a little bit. No need to panic. Just give it room to breathe until it re-heals.

You do not need your father to feel complete. I know right now you feel life dealt you a crappy hand by giving you a dead-beat dad. Ditch that thought. Whatever you feel the world is withholding from you, look deep inside and you will find it in yourself. If you are looking for love, then love yourself. If you are looking for acceptance, then accept yourself.

Fatherless Due to Choice

Some fathers are lovable. However, some fathers are not. For a myriad of reasons, they are outside the realm of our love: abuse, neglect, absence, abandonment, betrayal — many fathers have simply made it impossible for their children to feel the emotion of love or demonstrate it back. And if you are such a child, of any age, or even if your father is dead, particularly on Father’s Day when you are bombarded with Hallmark card messages of “love you dad,” you need to hear this at least once:

  • Not loving your dad does NOT make you a monster.
  • Not loving your dad is NOT your fault.
  • Is it sad? Yes, of course, but it does NOT make you bad!

So, what are some things you can do on Father’s Day to help not focus on the negative?

Honor thyself. In the era of ceaseless social media, few of us manage to escape the seemingly inevitable barrage of tweets and posts about loving, devoted fathers — and photos of them, too. While it is comforting to know that wonderful fathers who maintain a meaningful presence in their children’s lives do indeed exist, it just may be that coopting the day to celebrate and honor yourself is the way to go.

Sometimes a solo cocktail or some much needed humor is all you need for a reminder of the deep self-love you have worked to develop over time!

The power of positive thought. It may sound cheesy, but even if your relationship with your father is on the devastating end of the spectrum and you are not on speaking terms, you can always choose to send him love and kindness—from afar.

In the long term, this will help you more than him, because holding onto anger or resentment past the point when it might serve any constructive purpose can be very toxic—and you deserve better.

Neat and tidy “closure” may not exist for you and your father, but you can forge your own way forward by tapping into your sense of self-love and compassion for others—even those who have wronged you.

Learn from his mistakes. It is no secret that in spite of ourselves, we often inherit the qualities—both good and bad—of our parents. While men may worry they will end up like their fathers, women stereotypically end up with their fathers. Regardless of what your particular set of hand-me-downs looks like at this point in your life (daddy issues be damned), why not treat Father’s Day as a time to acknowledge and appreciate all the positive qualities you possess—both in spite of and because of your difficult or nonexistent relationship with your father. Take a moment and think about all the ways your father may have failed you, if he did, and let them go by resolving to do better in your life, or with your children. There is beauty to learning from the mistakes of others!

Celebrate all the positive parental figures in your life. Ultimately, Father’s Day should be a reminder to honor all the real dads out there who did/do so much more than help bring children into the world. Maybe you were raised by your mother, who played many roles in your life. Maybe your partner has a parent who has stood in for yours. Or maybe it is a friend’s dad, or a mentor who has brought patience, humor, and wisdom into your life.

Maybe there are great dads in your friend circle, working hard to raise young children with love, presence, and the resolve to do better than the generation before them. Whatever role good parents may play in your life, why not find little ways to celebrate them this Father’s Day?

Bottom line: Some of us have bad dads with few redeeming qualities. Sad, but true. And yet life isn’t so much about what happens to you as how you choose to react, now is it?

Information in this blog came from Special Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day When Your Dad is Gone, Fatherless on Father’s Day? Me too. Here’s how to cope, On Father’s Day, Remember the Fatherless, An Open Letter To Fatherless Daughters On Father’s Day, Father’s Day When You Have a Bad Dad, and How to Celebrate Father’s Day — Without Your Dad.

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