No father or father-to-be expects to bury a child. It’s common to expect (and welcome) the opposite. Unfortunately, however, there are countless parents each year who lose one or more children.
While Mother’s and Father’s Day in May and June respectively serve a celebratory purpose, Bereaved Mother’s and Father’s Day have a different intent.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What is Bereaved Father’s Day?
- When is Bereaved Father’s Day?
- How Do People Recognize Bereaved Father’s Day?
Bereaved Mother’s Day and Bereaved Father’s Day both have an international component. International Bereaved Father’s Day can be acknowledged in any way that helps you and the bereaved father feel safe and understood.
That being said, international holidays serve as a way for groups around the globe to feel connected to one another, especially through tough circumstances such as the loss of a child. Below, we’ll discuss what this holiday is and some ideas for how to observe it.
What is Bereaved Father’s Day?
Bereaved Father’s Day is dedicated to fathers who have lost a child. It serves as a day of remembrance, hope, healing, and a time to deal with the often immense pain associated with such a loss.
Some fathers may not give Bereaved Father’s Day a second thought. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said about bereaved fathers. Traditional Father’s Day often comes as a harsh reminder of what life was or could have been.
This doesn’t mean that bereaved parents are incapable of moving on and loving their children and subsequent grandchildren. However, granting them an extra dose of grace, especially around these holidays, is the right thing to do.
If you aren’t a bereaved father yourself or do not have one in your life, it may also cause you to consider the flipside of many holidays we observe. Holidays are often meant to be joyful, happy, and a way to recognize togetherness in a tangible way — but what about those who cannot do so?
As you can imagine, Bereaved Father’s Day goes along with a few corresponding holidays, including International Bereaved Father’s Day and International Bereaved Mother’s Day, observed on the first Sunday in May. Though Bereaved Father’s Day and International Bereaved Father’s Day may be spoken about interchangeably, they may technically fall on different days, as we discuss below.
Though these holidays serve to recognize mothers and fathers separately, their origin remains the same. Both Bereaved Father’s and Mother’s Day were started in 2010 as a way to specially recognize parents who have lost a child or multiple children.
This includes children of all ages — miscarried or stillborn, young, and adult children. You may also be interested in this post about dealing with the death of an adult child.
Bereaved Father’s Day serves to recognize fathers who have endured or are still enduring the loss of a child. This type of loss — no matter how old the child was — is particularly excruciating for parents. Father’s Day, in general, may seem to ignore fathers who could have been or once were. Or, understandably, fathers who are mourning may not feel that celebrating Father’s Day is appropriate. Bereaved Father’s Day serves to ensure that these men feel that they matter, too.
These holidays for bereaved parents serve as a reminder and a declaration that no matter how long someone was a parent for, it still counts. The death of a child does not mean the erasure of the life they lived or could have lived and how much they were loved by their parents during this time — no matter how they passed away.
In fact, Bereaved Mother’s and Father’s Day provide a day of mourning for would-be parents who are struggling to have a successful pregnancy, as their attempts to bring a new life and love into the world should not be overlooked. The prospect (or the process) of failed pregnancies can be just as painful as losing a child that has already been born. Furthermore, this event (or events) can be equally confusing and frustrating for both the immediate and extended family of the would-be parents. Bereaved Mother’s and Father’s Day can create an opportunity for everyone to come together to remember, pray, and hope.
When is Bereaved Father’s Day?
International Bereaved Father’s Day is August 26. However, other countries sometimes recognize differing Bereaved Fathers Days. For example, in the UK, US, and Australia, Bereaved Father’s Day is observed on the last Sunday in June.
This may seem like a stark contrast to Father’s Day, which falls on the third Sunday in June — certainly for those who observe one or the other, or even both.
How Do People Recognize Bereaved Father’s Day?
Bereaved Father’s Day serves as a way to call out any stigma that may exist against fathers in general. Though no less of a parent than mothers, bereaved fathers may be viewed differently by some groups. Bereaved fathers everywhere come together to recognize one another’s grief as well as demonstrate that they feel it no less deeply than their wives or partners do.
That being said, there are a few traditional (and less traditional ways) of observing Bereaved Father’s Day with a mourning father in your life. Be mindful that some years may be harder than others, no matter how much time has passed. It’s unfortunate — but true — that some pain does not know time.
It may seem like an odd day for gift-giving. However, a gift is still a great way to show a bereaved father that you’re there for him if you’re unsure how else to do so. There are times when gifts are the perfect gesture, even if the recipient doesn’t consider himself the “gift type.” For example, you may consider one or more of these books about losing a child.
Certainly, no gift can make the day any easier or the death anniversary of their child any easier. However, books and related items about coping and grief may help the bereaved father in your life unlock a new level of healing.
Words of support
Possibly even more important than lending traditional Father’s Day messages, bereaved fathers are in need of love, too. While you know the bereaved father in your life the best, it’s not a bad idea to be extra gentle and supportive.
You can make jokes with him 364 days out of the year, maybe it’s best that Bereaved Father’s Day is not one of them. You can never go wrong with a simple, “I’m thinking of you,” or an “I love you.” Here are some Father’s Day messages you may also be interested in.
Make a day of it
If you’re able to spend time with the bereaved father in your life, try to see if he’d be up for a day of activities. Eat all his (or his late child’s) favorite foods, stop by all his favorite spots, go for a hike or to the beach — somewhere to make a new, lasting memory filled with joy, not pain.
A car ride or time on the water or on a hiking trail is also a great opportunity to talk things through or simply sit peacefully with one another. The important thing is that you’re together.
Send (or make) treats
It’s no secret that food is comforting for many people. If you can’t physically cook or bake anything edible or you don’t live close enough to the bereaved father in your life, many gourmet businesses can ship and deliver (you’re encouraged but not required to shop small). A quick Google search should do the trick. Look for something outrageous or indulgent that he wouldn’t normally eat. Help him smile, even if it’s with something as simple as a few treats.
Plan a tradition
The tradition you plan for International Bereaved Father’s Day or Bereaved Father’s Day can be unique to you and your family. Or, perhaps, you can invite a larger community of bereaved fathers to join in.
This can include something like having a firework show, a candle lighting ceremony, or even sending off paper lanterns with messages attached. You can plan an event as relaxed or involved as you would like. Some other ideas include sporting events — like a neighborhood game of baseball — or even a mini-marathon.
Grieving Is As Important As Celebration
It’s important to fully recognize what International Bereaved Father’s Day can mean for you or a bereaved father in your life and for fathers everywhere.
While grief is perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum of celebration, it still serves an important purpose in our lives. Grief can help us take stock of what we do have, even though it often emphasizes what we don’t.
Burying a child — no matter how old, is never meant to be easy, regardless of the circumstances. Here are some baby memorial ideas that you may also be interested in. Though it may not always be possible to plan for the end of a loved one’s life, it may help to learn more about end-of-planning for the future. Check out the rest of Cake to learn more about end-of-life planning.