Tips for Father's Day

Author: Amy Dozier

I remember, very fondly, the third Sunday of every June growing up. My dad made it so easy to pick out just the right gift for Father's Day. He loved the homemade card I made as a small child with scraps of colored paper and an array of pastel crayons. As I grew older, my gifts became a little more sophisticated. Things have changed, however, and I have learned that gifts for dad aren't always things you wrap up in colorful paper and big, fancy bows.  While I still have my dad here on earth, my daughter does not. I mourn with her as we sometimes reflect on the things that were, and what might have been.  After a long talks with family members and friends who have felt the great loss of a father, I have compiled a list of three tips to help us all get through this special day for dads. Whether you are a widow with a child, or a fatherless son or daughter, these words are for you. 

Amy Dozier and daughter

Have your moment(s): This may be the first Father's Day without dad. It may be the 10th. The loss is just so painful sometimes, especially on a day like today. My mom recalls the first Father's Day without her dad.  "I just sobbed when I realized I couldn't send a card to dad". Do you ever want to just lie down and cry? Are you angry? Numb? Wondering, "What do I do now?" That's okay. Be gentle with yourself today. Allow yourself to feel absolutely everything that comes your way. You may feel a whirlwind of emotions that seems incomprehensible. You are not alone. The elusive feelings of grief seem to catch all of us off guard at some point or another. Let these feelings come in, stay for a bit, and then kindly ask them to leave until another time. 

Keep the traditions: "I remember that first holiday without him. I couldn't function. I didn't want to function. I just wanted to sleep the day away", one person said. While this is a very natural feeling, try to lean on someone close to you who will give you the encouragement needed to continue traditions you once had with your dad. This is critical, as going through the motions during these challenging times will actually begin to change your thought process for the better. Let your friends and family members help you through the day. Write a letter to your dad for Father's Day.  Go to church if that's what you did as a family. Have a cook out this afternoon or enjoy his favorite recliner with a good book. Your dad may not be here physically, but the spirit of his memory will be near you with everything you do in his name. 

Create a life around your new normal: At some point the new normal will begin to happen organically. Life will be different. Things will naturally change. You will still have your moments and will hopefully continue the wonderful traditions that keep your dad's memory alive. What about starting something new in his honor? Did you know that you could name a star after a loved one that would be recognized on a national registry? You could also plant a tree-a very symbolic way to watch life continue go grow after the death of a loved one. One of the greatest sources of healing I have found is in helping others. Acts of kindness have this amazing way of taking you out of yourself in the midst of a hard time and redirecting that negative energy into something positive. Perhaps paying it forward every Father's Day-even in a small way-will fill your heart with the kind of love you once felt from your dad. 

Father's Day may be filled with a huge range of emotions for you. My hope for you today is that you know how much your dad loved you during his lifetime and that you will show yourself and others that same kind of love. Today, have your moments, live the traditions, and celebrate the new life you're creating in memory of a wonderful man! 

Amy Dozier
Surviving spouse, mother to 8-year-old Emma