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How to cope with grief on Father’s Day

The Independent logo The Independent 20/06/2021 Ellie Abraham
a person taking a selfie: iStock-980072272.jpg © Getty Images iStock-980072272.jpg

With the arrival of Father’s Day on Sunday 20 June, for those who have lost their parent, the day can be difficult to cope with.

Constant reminders, from cards in shops to adverts on TV, can be triggering when already trying to deal with unimaginable grief.

And, with the Covid-19 pandemic killing more than 100,000 thousand in the UK over the last year, for many, the loss will be recent, with this the first Father’s Day spent without their dad.

Regardless of how recent or long ago the loss was suffered, the day can bring difficult emotions to the surface.

The Independent spoke to Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at national bereavement charity, Sue Ryder, for advice on how to cope with grief on Father’s Day.

Don’t be ashamed of your emotions

Grief is not linear and some days can be better, or worse, than others. On a day like Father’s Day, when people will likely take to social media to show others how they’re celebrating, a whole range of feelings can come up for those who’ve been bereaved - and they are all totally normal.

Neumann said: “When it comes to losing a parent, feelings of jealousy, envy, anger as well as sadness are very common, but not everyone talks about them openly.

“These feelings often get pushed aside, and the remaining feeling is that of guilt or shame, as an inner voice labels these feelings as ‘bad’ when they are normal.”

She recommends that, instead of trying to push them away, you allow yourself to experience these emotions and eventually they will fade.

Talk about your father

Though your dad might be gone, you can still take the day to celebrate how much they still mean to you and to talk about precious memories with loved ones.

“Grief can feel very isolating, but it is likely that other people around you are feeling the loss of your dad too or have been through a similar situation. Talk about your dad with others, light a candle in his memory, or do something with a loved one that reminds you of him,” Neumann suggests.

Focus on the happy memories

During times of sadness and grief, it can be easy to dwell on the negatives, regrets and “what ifs”.  Though it’s difficult, Neumann says it’s important to focus on the time you had with your dad and to remember how special that time was for both of you.

Write a letter

Sometimes, it takes writing your thoughts and feelings down to fully articulate what they are. It can help our brains to process them and make us feel closer to loved ones who have passed away.

Neumann explained: “Sometimes getting our feelings out on paper can help us to process the complex emotions we are feeling. Writing a letter to your dad may feel strange but it is a way of validating your emotions and feeling closer to him, even though he is not there with you.”

Attend a support group

Being around a community of people who understand how you’re feeling can make a world of difference when it comes to managing grief.

“When you are grieving, you may find comfort in talking to others in a similar position. This could be a friend who has also lost a parent, or you could consider joining a support group where you will find that many other people are experiencing the exact same feelings as you,” Neumann said.

With coronavirus restrictions, these communities can be sought online, not just in-person, making them accessible when you need them.

Ignore that it’s Father’s Day

If the day is too much of a struggle and you’re feeling too raw to be able to manage, it is perfectly OK to disengage and distract yourself.

Neumann said: “Take the day off social media and do things that make you happy – maybe that’s baking, watching a Netflix show, going on a walk or simply having a lazy day.”

Check in on friends who are vulnerable

If you know someone who has recently lost their father or someone who struggles with Father’s Day, it’s important to check in on them.

Perhaps consider sending them a token to let them know you’re thinking of them - a care package, card or flowers can all show a person they’re not alone on such a tough day.


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