Not everyone will be able to celebrate Father’s Day. For those who have lost a father it can be a day of heightened mourning, especially if this is the first Father’s Day without Dad.
Unfortunately, there also are many fathers who are faced with mourning the loss of a child.
Recognizing this, the Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support, a nonprofit which provides free services to individuals and families throughout Western Pennsylvania, offers suggestions for coping.
Tips for Those who are Grieving Their Fathers
1. Grief is work, requiring time and energy. Write Dad a letter. Say what you would tell him if it were your last chance.
2. Men and women, as well as siblings, mourn differently. Share and respect your differences. Neither way is right or wrong, and each gender can learn from the other. Ask a trusted friend or coworker what helped them when their father died.
3. Do something in memory of your father. Choose an activity that will connect you in a positive way to him. Repeat this activity as often and as long as you feel the need.
4. Seek out others who are helpful and supportive. Do not feel that you need to do this alone. Someone who has been through grief can often empathize with you. This may be a friend, family member, counselor or bereavement support group.
5. Take care of yourself. Give yourself time and space to begin healing. Get enough rest. Eat nourishing food. Give yourself a break.
Tips for Fathers who are Grieving Their Children
1. Be kind to yourself. Many fathers may feel anger, sadness, guilt and a host of other emotions because their child died before them. These emotions may seem foreign but are very common with grief—don’t try to avoid them.
2. Reach out for support; it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of courage.
Boys are taught to “shake it off” and “take it like a man.” It is unrealistic and mistaken that grief can be “shaken off” or avoided.
3. Allow time to grieve and express your emotions in a healthy way. Finding balance is key to healing.
4. Be patient with yourself. Talk openly with family and friends about your child and encourage them to talk openly with you too—hearing your child’s name mentioned can be helpful.
5. Create your own memorial. Whether it involves planting, writing, building or painting, be creative and put your energy into doing something in memory of your child.
The Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support (GGC) creates a safe place where people who have experienced the pain of death can work through their loss and learn to manage their grief. For emotional support, education and other resources, contact GGC at 2717 Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill); firstname.lastname@example.org; 412.224.4700 or 1.888.GRIEF.88. Or visit www.goodgriefcenter.com.