How to cope on Father’s Day without dad there

Sunday 16th June is Father’s Day and it can be a difficult time for many families if dad has died.

If children attend school, they will often have the chance to make a gift or card. The remaining parent might have lots of Father’s Day-themed emails about ‘the perfect gift’, treat or day out, and be wondering how to cope with the looming celebration day for them and their children.

It’s something we’ve already been speaking to our families about, to help them cope in the run-up to the date, on the day and beyond.

Often we find it’s the anxiety and worry that is worse than the actual day and with a bit of planning, communication and recognition of the day, it won’t be nearly as bad.

If it is still difficult, we are here to help you some more. Our families are often in touch to ask for help at various times throughout the year or the coming years after a death, for more help and guidance on how to get through the next stage, hurdle or chapter.

Here are some tips from our Clinical Lead Debbie McSwiney on how to cope with Father’s Day before it arrives, and also on the day too.

Find out how your child feels about Father’s Day and ask what they’d like to do. Doing nothing is OK – and if that’s their choice, it’s fine. If you have more than one child, they may want to do different things, so you’ll need to try and find a way to best accommodate each of their needs.

Talk about the day – explain that although dad isn’t here, he can still be a remembered.

If your children would like to do something, think ahead so that you have all you need to make it happen. You might need some craft materials, or some petrol in the car to pop out. If you prepare, it will reduce anxiety and help to manage the day.

Allow the child to choose a different male role model in their life to focus on for Father’s Day. It’s OK for them to do this without forgetting their dad.

You may want to do something big or small – it’s about making sure you and the children do what suits you and feels comfortable.
Our ideas include:
Making a card
Arts and crafts
Making music
Going for a walk
Visiting somewhere their dad liked
Doing something their dad liked to do
Listening to his favourite music
Watching a film
Making something

Find out what’s happening at school. Younger children usually make cards in class and your child might quite like to join in rather than being removed from the classroom to help with a ‘job’ – always with the kindest intention but not always the right approach.
If you are a teacher, talk to the child’s family about the best approach to take. You may be a part of the discussion around what the child would like to do.

People around you may try to do what they think is best for you to help you, but if it’s not welcomed or what you want, do feel able to let them know that you’re OK and have made your own plans.

Don’t ignore the day in the lead-up for fear of upsetting the child. They may not talk to you about it for fear of upsetting you too, so talk to them to see what they’d like to do. If they want to ignore it, you can.

There is no right or wrong way to cope with the day – every family is different and it’s what’s best for you and your child that matters.

Don’t surprise them with anything – the child is likely to want to know what’s going on so they can work through their thoughts and emotions ahead of the day. A surprise may upset them when it wasn’t intended.

If your family needs help to support a bereaved child aged with Father’s Day, whether it’s the first without Dad or not, please do get in touch with us.