Parents can be the cornerstone of many people’s lives. If your dad died today, chances are you may have no idea how to go on with your life. If you were close to your father, it may feel impossible to explain the huge hole or loss you are suffering.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What You Can Do When You Miss Him
- What You Can Do to Remember Your Dad
- What You Can Do to Preserve or Pass On Your Dad’s Legacy
The person that you've always looked up to is gone and it feels like there is no replacement for him. You are grieving, you are emotional, and you are sad. And all of that is normal. But how do you adjust after losing such an important person in your life?
According to an article from the William James College, grieving adults may often underestimate how much time and energy it takes to grief. Grief is unique to every person that experiences it, and so not everyone may cope the same way or at the same rate. Find your own way to remember and honor your dad with some of these suggestions.
What You Can Do When You Miss Him
Sometimes you just need to feel the presence of your dad around. These ideas can help you take care of yourself and keep the warmth alive in your heart.
Relive happy memories
Do you miss your dad's voice, his bad jokes, or the way he smiled? Gather up your favorite photos and videos to relive some of those happy memories. Think about how you felt when those events occurred. Look at the pictures and put yourself in the frame of mind from that time. Feel him in your heart.
There's no guarantee this approach won't make you miss him even more. But, it could put you in a better mood than before.
Practice good self-care
You may feel overwhelmed and sad when you miss your dad. Sometimes the feeling grows stronger even with the slightest reminder. This is normal, no matter how long it's been. It could be just days, weeks, or years, but you can still get very sad whenever he crosses your mind.
Take extra care of yourself during this time. Take some time to yourself for some peace and quiet. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy and nourishing foods, and drink lots of water. Take care of your basic needs so that you feel energized to move on with life.
Express and release your emotions
You may find yourself dealing with several emotions at once or over time when you lose a loved one. It’s also hard to find the proper time and place to express these emotions freely. But, the quicker you release these emotions, the sooner you can relax and move forward with your life. Emotions are a part of life but don’t try to hold them back if you can.
If possible, excuse yourself for a few moments. If you feel like crying, don’t hold it back. Release the tears. Crying is healing. If you are not able to leave or need to remain more composed, journaling may be an option.
Find a grief support group
A support group can help you connect with others that have had a similar experience. You might find a general grief group with people who have lost loved ones of all ages. If you are in a larger city, you might find a group that focuses solely on losing a parent. You can also look for online grief support groups.
Speaking with people who have lost a parent can help you sort out your emotions, and you can make sense of some of the thoughts you've had over your loss. It may be helpful to hear about any feelings or circumstances that mirror yours. And within a community, others can help you learn how to move forward with your life and cope with the tough moments.
What You Can Do to Remember Your Dad
There is no correct way to grieve over the loss of your dad. Keeping some small or large items that belonged to him can give you some peace, as a part of him is close by. Share and cherish his memories with friends and loved ones. Use these ideas to keep his memories and spirit alive.
Organize photos and videos for easier viewing
As mentioned before, you may have used videos and photos to relive happy memories of your dad. Make it a point to organize these photos. As time goes by, if these pieces of the past aren't well-organized, you'll have difficulty finding them. Schedule a day or half a day to go through your photos and videos of him.
Contact other family members to see what they have as well. Offer to share videos and photos with each other. This can help all family members have a more complete set of recorded memories. You'll not only save these for yourself, but also for future generations.
Retell stories with someone who knew him
Trying to remember stories about your dad on family vacations? Ask your mom or siblings to help you fill in the blanks. This may encourage everyone to refresh these important stories. Also, you may hear parts of these stories you've never known before. This can be important, especially if you have siblings with age gaps.
The same may hold true for your memories. Other family members may not have heard stories that you think are common knowledge. By retelling stories, you can spread the memories and love around for everyone. You also have the chance to laugh or feel nostalgic with the support of others going through the same struggle.
Record your memories
As long as you're sharing these memories out loud, write them down now while they are still vivid. It won’t be possible to capture every memory as clearly as you want. But, even a vague memory you preserve now will be a story not completely lost to the passage of time. Your experience of retelling not only preserves but also allows you to share your perspective.
Try writing these stories in your own handwriting. The physical motion of writing words has cathartic value on its own, and a unique part of you is preserved as well. You might find it easier to use a voice recorder to recount longer stories. You can also get verbal recordings done more quickly.
Keep a few of his possessions nearby
If you miss your dad, having a simple item like a pocket knife, a watch, or a coffee mug around can be comforting. Knowing that your dad used these items daily can help you feel connected with his life and your memory of him. You don't have to use them either. Just seeing them around your home may be a source of warmth.
These don't have to be small objects either. Some people keep their dad's vehicle, pieces of art, or tools. Whether they are practical or just for looks, these personal items can create an ongoing reminder of your dad's life.
Remake meaningful objects into a collection or collage
This is a more advanced version of the previous idea. Some meaningful objects can be taken apart and remade into a memorial gift for yourself or for another close family member. For example, fabric from clothing can be made into a quilt. Some pieces of jewelry can be taken apart and remade into different items for multiple family members. Favorite magazines or collections can be reformed into a display.
Remaking items may not apply well to all kinds of possessions. However, it can help to consolidate and organize some items in a more meaningful way for more family members to enjoy.
What You Can Do to Preserve or Pass On Your Dad’s Legacy
Make your dad's legacy stand out to others in your community. Use one or more of these ideas to share and memorialize your dad's spirit.
Create a memorial scholarship
A wonderful way to publicly memorialize your dad is to name a scholarship after him. You can create a scholarship fund and notify his alma mater or local schools about the qualifications.
Be sure to sponsor something you think he would care about. Consider who would review and approve the applications and how you would provide the funding. Every year, your dad's name will be read aloud and associated with young people building their future.
Plant a tree or memorial garden
Take your time designing this green space. Will it be vibrant or calm? Will it have trees that grow slowly over time or an ever-changing color palette from year to year?
Consider planting a tree in your own yard, and see if your siblings or other relatives might enjoy doing something similar. Doing a project like this together can be a good way to share memories as well.
Donate an item to a local museum, church, or business
When you keep a special item that belonged to your dad around, you create a reminder of his memory. When you share them publicly, you create a reminder for others as well.
Consider giving a prized item to a local museum or a club he belonged to. Another idea is dedicating a special item at his church. Consider donating money to purchase something in his name.
Participate in a charity event in his name
If your dad died from a particular disease or health condition, sponsor a charity event in his name. Many organizations hold 5K runs or fitness walks as fundraisers. Family members often raise money in their loved one’s name.
Also, consider charities that meant a lot to him during his lifetime. Get involved and donate your time or money to these organizations. Keep the special connection with charities and allow his name to live on with them.
Do something special on his birthday
Every year around your dad's birthday, you know you always thought about it. Why not make it a day of celebration instead of sadness? Get together with family members, or send a thoughtful message to them, as they may be thinking of him too on this particular day. Take yourself out for a birthday dessert and toast your dad before you dig in.
Did he love flowers, antique cars, coffee shops, or museums? Do something special your dad would have liked on his birthday. Make that your special day for connecting with him.
Read our guide on recognizing a deceased loved one's birthday for more tips.
Keep Your Dad's Memory Alive
Losing your dad can be devastating. You may feel overwhelmed without control. But over time, you'll find ways to keep his memory alive in your heart. Again, everyone journeys through their grief in different ways. However, should you ever feel like grief is too much for you to manage, try locating a grief counselor in your area. You do not have to grieve alone.
You may feel alone in your constant aching to have your father by your side, or knowing that he was just a phone call away. Try to keep active and find ways to honor his life in a way that he would appreciate.
- “Grief and Loss.” Byrns, Heather; James, William; Harvey, Crystal. William James College Interface Referral Service, interface.williamjames.edu/topic/grief