Coping with grief on Father’s Day

If you’re grieving for your dad or the father figure in your life, you may find that Father’s Day and the weeks leading up to it are particularly hard to cope with.

The messaging displayed in adverts or in shops can act as a constant reminder of the person you’re missing, and you may find that you experience sadness, anger or jealousy as you come to terms with having to deal with Father’s Day without your dad by your side. 

If you’re grieving for a relationship that was more complicated, the celebration of paternal love embedded within Father’s Day can be really difficult to face, and you may not know how to feel or where to turn. But we’re here for you. 

A parent dies every 22 minutes in the UK. That’s about 23,000 per year. For context, that’s 3,000 more than the capacity of the O2 Arena in London, one of the UK’s biggest indoor seating venues. 

Most people, whether they consider themselves children or adults, still need that feeling of being parented, of being looked after. Whether that’s having someone to turn to when you’re unsure, someone to show us how to age - or how not to - it’s important to recognise that even as adults, we’re still children. 

That’s why dealing with the death of a parent, or someone who felt like a parent to you, can be incredibly difficult, particularly in the lead up to days that shine a spotlight on the relationship you’re grieving for.  

How to cope with grief on Father’s Day

Whether you’re missing your dad, or you’re dealing with complicated feelings after his death, Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement, shares her advice to help you cope with grief during this time. 

Don’t be ashamed of your emotions

Grief isn't linear, which means some days might feel better or worse than others. On a day like Father’s Day, where people will likely head to social media to show others how they’re celebrating, you may experience a whole range of emotions.

For example, experiencing feelings of jealousy, envy, anger as well as sadness can be really common, but not everyone talks about them openly. These feelings often get pushed aside as an inner voice labels them as ‘bad’, leaving you feeling guilt or shame instead. 

If you no longer had a relationship with your dad before he died, or if things were difficult between you both, you may find that your grief is more complicated.

For example, you might feel regret for not repairing your relationship, relief that they are no longer part of your life, anger that they were not the person you needed them to be or sadness that you never received the apology you wanted. This might also mean you are grieving for what should have been, or the relationship you never had - and the celebrations of Father’s Day can put a huge spotlight on this. 

What’s important to remember is that any feelings associated with your grief are normal. It is likely you will feel a wide-range of emotions, and they may come and go in waves, but instead of trying to push them away - allow yourself to feel them, and eventually they will start to fade. 

Find others who understand

It may feel like everyone in your life is celebrating with their father, but knowing that you’re not alone and talking to others who are in a similar position may provide you with some comfort. For example, you could catch up with a friend who you know is also coping with the death of a parent, or you may want to consider joining a support group with others who can understand your thoughts and feelings.

If you don’t feel ready to talk about your feelings in person, Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Community also has lots of advice from others who are grieving about how to cope with these kinds of days. You don’t have to become a member to read what other people are saying, but you do need an account to take part in conversations and share your own experiences.

Being in or around a community of people who understand how you’re feeling can make a world of difference when it comes to managing your grief, and it’s really useful to know that there are other people going through the same thing.

“Father’s Day for me and my dad was always a little boisterous. We did the typical cards, but I’d always buy him an obscure present as well.  He never really left his childhood behind, and loved Thomas the Tank Engine, so one year I bought him a Thomas bath and shower set and he was absolutely over the moon with it.

Looking forward, hopefully I can make similar Father’s Day memories with my son. As he gets older, I’ll be sure to tell him what a wonderful grandad he had, and explain the silly things he would do to put a smile on our faces.” 

- Luke remembering his dad in his story

Remembering your dad on Father’s Day

While it can be upsetting to know that you can’t spend Father’s Day with your dad, finding a way to honour his memory on or around the day can help you to feel closer to him. For example, you might want to:

Write a letter to him

Sometimes getting your feelings out on paper can help you to process the complex emotions you are feeling. Writing a letter may feel strange, but it's a way of validating your emotions and feeling connected to him, even though he is not here with you.

Talk about your dad

Grief can feel really isolating, but it is likely that other people around you are also grieving for your dad. Taking the time to talk about your memories together and celebrate how much he means to you can help you to feel closer to him.

If you’re finding it hard to open up, try doing something that reminds you of your dad with someone you trust. This might be getting his favourite takeaway, going to his favourite place or watching his favourite TV programme. This can help you to start the conversation about him and how you’re feeling.

Try to focus on your happy memories

During times of sadness and grief, it can be easy to focus on the negatives, regrets and “what ifs”. Although it may be difficult, it’s important to try and focus on the time you had together, and to remember how special it was for both of you.

You may want to put up a photograph of him in your room or house in the lead up to Father’s Day, as this can spark those positive memories each time you look at it. Or, you may want to set aside some time on the day to watch any videos you have of him, as it can be reassuring to see him on film and hear his voice.

You could also ask people close to your dad to share their favourite memories of him, whether they are photos or words, and add them to a memory box. Looking through this on difficult days, such as Father’s Day, could provide some comfort during your grief

Ignore that it’s Father’s Day

If the day is too much of a struggle and you don’t feel emotionally ready to acknowledge it, it is perfectly okay to distract yourself instead.

Take the day off social media and do things that make you feel happy - perhaps that’s watching something on Netflix, going out for a walk or simply having a lazy day.

Supporting someone who is grieving on Father's Day

Each person’s grief on Father’s Day will be different, but there are a few ways that you can support someone close to you deal with their grief during this time.

Acknowledge the day

Acknowledging that you know Father’s Day can be hard and that you’re there to lend a listening ear can show your family member or friend that there’s a safe space for them to talk about their dad if they want to. They may take you up on the offer, say no, or not be ready to respond at all yet - but the important thing is that they know you’re there. 

Share your memories

If you knew the person who died, you may want to share a story or memory about them and the kind of person they were, or even a photo of them from a time you spent together. Try to choose a positive story and keep the focus on the person who has died, rather than what you said or did.

Use our Grief Kind resources

We know that it can be difficult to know what to say or do when you’re supporting someone close to you through their grief. That’s why we started our Grief Kind campaign, to give more people the confidence they need to be there for people experiencing bereavement. If you want to find out more, you can:

Online Bereavement Support

Find the information and advice that’s right for you through our Online Bereavement Support, a collection of resources and services to help you through your grief.

Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at Sue Ryder

Head of Bereavement

Bianca Neumann

Bianca is a healthcare professional and experienced psychologist and hypnotherapist, with a demonstrated history of working in the hospice, hospital and healthcare industry.