Father’s Day: After Your Dad Has Died

Father’s Day can be difficult when your father has died.  Whether the loss is recent or long ago, your Dad is always your Dad in your memory and your heart.  How can you make this holiday meaningful and ease the pain?

Sometimes people think that ignoring their sadness is the best way to cope.  But in most cases, remembering your Dad and connecting with what you’ve lost is healthier. 

“It’s important to accept all of our feelings,” said Jenny Casey, MSW, a social worker with years of experience working in grief and bereavement.  “We need to keep our hearts open, to feel what we are feeling—that’s how we move on.”

Casey recommended giving thought beforehand to birthdays, holidays and other events that recall your Dad to you.  “Plan ahead,” she said. “To get through the day, think about, ‘What will serve me, to be with someone or to be alone?’  It’s ok to decline invitations.”

For some people it’s important to maintain an existing tradition.  For others, starting fresh can be helpful.  “Maybe you can create a new ritual as simple as lighting a candle, or writing a letter to your Dad,” Casey said. 

It is important not to neglect yourself and practice good self care.  Caring for yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually includes proper nutrition, exercise, and seeking support. 

Many bereaved people find individual counseling or bereavement group helpful.  Our culture is not accepting of expressions of grief, but in bereavement groups you are surrounded by others who can relate to what you’re going through.  You can be heard and understood, and find that others share your feelings.

Casey recently led a bereavement workshop at the Healing Hearts Center for Grieving Children & Families, a program of Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western CT.  The Healing Hearts Center has ongoing programs for adults, children, teens and families.  For more information call 203-792-4422.


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