There’s no manual for many things in life; how to raise a child, how to foster a healthy relationship with your partner, etc. Similarly, there’s no guidebook for coping if you lose a parent. Losing a parent is an everyday ache as you continue to remember the special moments you shared. This can make the healing process long and complicated.
Losing a father is a traumatic experience, whether you were close or not. While healing is not an overnight process, there are ways to cope and make the process a little less painful.
Each day, week, or year may bring fresh memories and a fresh wave of sadness, especially on Father’s Day. With Father’s Day just around the corner, we’ve put together a short list of ways you can honor your father, even if he is no longer physically present.
Write Him a Letter
The best way to go about this coping mechanism is to write it as though he’s still here, and to tell him what’s been happening in your life. Be sure to add details about anything that’s changed; family, friends, school, work, etc. If the two of you had special traditions, you can also mention how you keep those alive even though he’s gone.
Mentioning how much you miss him and how you would have loved to have him around on this special day is another anecdote you may want to include. While this can feel odd as you write it down, it helps to take the weight of grief off your shoulders. Once you finish, you can keep this letter in a special place and continue the tradition every year to create a special keepsake for your father, and for yourself.
Visit A Special Place You Two Shared Together
This could be a burial site, a hiking trail, a park, a favorite coffee shop - any place where the two of you may have shared special memories. The intention is to spend time in this special place, to hold room for uncomfortable feelings that may surface and to acknowledge them in a healthy way. Visiting a place the two of you went together frequently may also make you feel closer to him.
If you’re visiting a grave or hiking trail, bring flowers or something similar to leave in his memory. If you’re visiting a coffee shop or park, purchase or bring his favorite foods, or enjoy the ones you shared together. Wherever it may be, try to recreate the moments you shared there, and to welcome any feelings that may arise.
Bring Out Old Photographs and Keepsakes
Taking time to bring out photos from his past to share with family is a nice way to remember your father. Or even to just scroll through your phone and enjoy looking at more recent photos. You can also put together a slideshow or photo album.
Whatever you decide to do, photos (or videos!) are a great way to remember the entirety of your father’s life, and to look back on fond memories.
Spend Time with Friends and Family
Although this may sound counterintuitive, sometimes spending important days like this alone can make you feel isolated and therefore more upset. If you don’t feel like spending time alone, inviting family over is a great way to grieve, or to happily celebrate, with those who knew your father. You can even invite some of his friends over to relive some of the best memories each of you had with him.
Participate in a Moment of Silence
Set aside some time during the day to respectfully sit in silence to honor your father. During this time, whether you are spending it alone or with others, be sure there are few distractions so you can really focus on connecting with your father and his memory.
Taking time to do something special on Father’s Day, even when your dad may not physically be with you anymore, is an excellent way to keep his memory alive and to nurture your connection. Our loved ones are always a part of us, and although Father’s Day can go from a fun day to celebrate dads to one filled with sorrow, there are still many ways to honor your father, whether he is still with you or not.