Dealing with the death of a parent is never easy. The pain can persist throughout the year, especially when it’s fresh. But sometimes a new wave of grief can wash over on special days. Birthdays, holidays, and significant anniversaries can trigger painful feelings and memories, no matter how much time has passed.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Survive Your First Father’s Day Without your Dad
- Things to Do in Memory of Dad on Father’s Day
Losing a father is one of the most difficult things one can experience. Most people have a unique relationship with their dad. This grief is worse during certain times of the year, especially Father’s Day, making coping and remembering a bit harder.
Father’s Day is a chance to celebrate our relationship with our dads. Unfortunately for those who have lost a parent, Father’s Day is a challenge. Surviving your first Father’s Day without dad might feel impossible. Though it doesn’t always feel like it, you can both cope with your grief and pay tribute to your father.
Tip: If you recently lost your father, you might be sorting through the complex life he left behind. Our post-loss checklist can help you understand what tasks you should tackle next.
How to Survive Your First Father’s Day Without your Dad
When Father’s Day comes around, you might be surprised by the power of your grief. It’s important to remember that you will get through this.
These tips may even help you get through this holiday in the future — here the dates for Father's Day for the next few years:
2021: Sunday, June 20
2022: Sunday, June 19
2023: Sunday, June 18
2024: Sunday, June 16
2025: Sunday, June 15
Read on to learn how to survive your first Father’s Day without dad in a few simple steps.
1. Learn about grief and pain
An important first step is to learn about grief. A lot of times our grief brings about a physical and emotional reaction. This can be confusing if you’re new to dealing with loss. Depending on the situation in which you lost your dad, you may experience trauma-like emotions. Holidays like Father’s Day can trigger feelings of trauma.
For those who have lost someone they’re close to, such as a parent, Complicated Grief (CG) is common. CG is an acute anxiety condition and can include loss of interest in ongoing activities, longing for the deceased, and frequent thoughts of their loved one.
A therapist or grief counselor can help you overcome these feelings and learn coping solutions. Grief comes in many forms, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore extreme symptoms. If you’re experiencing ongoing loss of interest or feelings of depression, talk to a professional. For more help with everyday grief, read one of our picks for books on grief.
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2. Read quotes about loss
The right words can be hard to find. Sometimes you don’t know what to say on a death anniversary or holiday. Your feelings might be painful and fresh, but they also might be hard to place. In these moments, it’s okay to look for solace in other people’s words and quotes.
Reading quotes about grief and loss or how to say "Happy Father's Day in Heaven, Dad" can often shine a light on your own feelings. Even the masters of literature and poetry felt sad. The difference is that that they wrote beautiful prose stemming from that particular sadness. So take solace in the fact that you are not alone. Reading quotes from those who suffered a similar loss brings comfort when you need it most. You deserve to feel heard.
3. Connect with loved ones
You’re not facing Father’s Day alone. If you’re struggling with feelings of loss, reach out to your friends and family. If you have any siblings, they’re likely experiencing similar emotions as Father’s Day approaches. Reach out to offer comfort and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to spend this time together.
Even if you don’t have any loved ones to rely upon, you’re still not alone. There are many local and online groups for those experiencing loss. You’ll find that many others are going through something similar and might be looking to share their experiences with others.
4. Create a new tradition
Finally, you don’t have to let Father’s Day pass unnoticed. It’s painful to approach this holiday without a plan. If you’re worried about how to handle your first Father’s Day after losing your dad, create a new tradition.
Doing something in memory of your father is a great way to honor his memory. This might be something you do alone or with loved ones. You’ll know that Father’s Day won’t pass without taking time to remember your dad. Honoring your loved one keeps their memory alive and gives comfort to you and your family.
Tip: Read our guide on what to do if you're missing your dad on Father's Day for more ideas.
Things to Do in Memory of Dad on Father’s Day
While you can do these all year-round, Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to start a new tradition. It may not be the same as picking up the phone to call your dad, but it can be a new way to honor your memory of your dad.
5. Give a gift to another family member
Giving to others is a great way to bring joy to your life. While you might have gifted something to your dad on Father’s Day, you can still evoke the gift-giving spirit even after he’s passed on.
Think about another family member that could use a gift. Your mom, a sibling, or a grandparent might be in need of support during this challenging time. Offering a gift to a loved one is a lovely tradition.
6. Write a letter to your dad
Getting together and talking with one’s dad is something most people do on Father’s Day. Even though your father has passed on, writing a letter to him wherever he is can be a powerful grieving tool. This is a common practice for healing emotionally after the death of a loved one, so why not include it in your Father’s Day tradition?
In your letter, don’t be afraid to share details. Share what’s happening in your life, family news, global events, and so on. It can be lighthearted or emotional, the choice is yours. While it might feel strange at first to write your dad a letter, you might get lost in the words.
Once you finish writing your letter, you can either share it with another loved one or keep it yourself.
7. Host a family meal
Getting together as a family gives you much needed support on Father’s Day. Inviting friends and family to a gathering in honor of your father will keep his memory alive and well.
You can host a dinner party, an outdoor barbeque, or even a movie night. Have fun with it. Think about the type of event he would have loved attending and go from there.
Use this time to share your feelings, talk about your favorite memories, and get the emotional support you need. Knowing that you’re not the only one who misses him will help you through this time.
8. Do your father’s favorite activity
Did your dad have a favorite hobby? Maybe he always spent weekends fishing or he loved to collect model cars. No matter what he loved, why not consider continuing the hobby on Father’s Day? This is a time to cherish his memory. Doing something he loved will help you feel closer to him.
You can do your activity at home or go to your dad’s favorite place. Whether that was by the beach or in nature, take time to remember him while you’re there. There might even be somewhere he always wanted to go. Why not take the trip now? Life is short. Take advantage of every moment while reflecting on your memory of your loved one.
9. Visit his grave
Finally, many people use Father’s Day as a chance to visit their loved one’s final resting place. If you have not visited your father’s grave since the funeral, this may be a chance to bring flowers and to have a few moments of peace.
If you write your dad a letter, bring it to the grave and read it aloud. You could also play his favorite song, say a prayer, or reflect. All of these actions are easy ways to pay your respects and honor your father’s legacy. Graveyards are often quiet, reflective places to take a break from the chaos of everyday life.
Honoring Your Dad on Father’s Day
Dealing with grief is never easy. Holidays and anniversaries only make this pain worse, especially within the first year after losing a loved one. If you recently lost your father, it’s normal to feel intimidated by the first Father’s Day without your dad.
You don’t have to suffer in silence. There are steps you can take to change your perception of this time of year. Whether you create a new tradition or you surround yourself with friends and family, Father’s Day is a time to cherish the memory of your father. Honor his life by making Father’s Day a new part of your life. The ones we love are always with us, so don’t be afraid to celebrate this holiday in a way that makes sense for you.
- “Bereavement and Complicated Grief.” The National Institutes of Health: National Library of Medicine, 1 November 2014. NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov.