This Sunday, June 21st is Father’s Day, while many families will be celebrating Dad with backyard cookouts, gifts, golf, or fishing trips, others will not be celebrating. In 2019 Ryan’s Place provided grief support to over 800 children, of those 800 plus children, 11% of them were coming for services after the death of their father. Ryan’s Place also served many adult clients grieving the death of their father. The death of a parent is not easy to cope with, no matter at what age the death occurs, and holidays like Father’s Day can be very difficult for the children and adults who are left to celebrate without their fathers. Father’s Day can evoke several different emotions. Some individuals are sad because they miss their dad, others may be angry or jealous because others around them have a dad to celebrate and they don’t.  Their lives are being flooded with ideas for Father’s Day gifts, activities, and recipes to make for a Father’s Day cookout on television and social media. Those reminders of the holiday, while well intentioned, can be very upsetting for individuals whose father has died.

Knowing how to comfort an individual who is facing Father’s Day without their father can be very difficult. The most important thing is to be available for whatever the person needs. That may be just someone to listen to them, someone to offer a shoulder to cry on, someone to provide a distraction, or someone to help them plan or preform a memorial activity. Letting the person know that any emotion they have is valid and there is no “right” way to spend the day, they can do what feels good to them. You may try to encourage the person to share good memories and stories about their father or do something they enjoyed doing with them to celebrate the day, but if they don’t feel up to it that’s okay too.

This Father’s Day in addition to celebrating the fathers in your life, remember those around you that are grieving the death of their father. Check-in on them, see how they’re feeling, and offer to be whatever support they need.

Author: Peyton Petty, Program Coordinator