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Father’s Day, like other holidays, can be a trying time for those grieving – especially for fathers who have lost a child. While losing a loved one is never easy, losing a child is one of the most painful challenges we can face in life. The pain of loss can consume all we do, making it feel impossible to find joy. That pain can also rob us of celebrating life’s happiest moments, like Father’s Day, as celebrations become just another reminder of what we have lost.

Whether this is your first Father’s Day following the loss of a child or if it’s been years since their passing, your grief may be overpowering your joy. You may be dreading the thought of celebrating Father’s Day. You may even wonder if you are allowed to celebrate Father’s Day if your loss was of your only child.

No matter how much pain you’re feeling, remember that you and your family are allowed to enjoy special days while grieving. The key is finding a balance between joy and grief.

So, this Father’s Day, lead your loved ones in celebrating the paternal figures in your life and the memory of your child. Remember the positive impact your child had on you, your spouse/partner, and your other children. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Honor Your Child’s Memory

Happy family of three persons walking the grass in the park.

Your child’s memory will be with you forever, but it can be hard to remember the good times when grief consumes all you do. Use Father’s Day as an opportunity to honor your child’s memory by taking part in their favorite activity. You can watch their favorite movie, eat their favorite meal, play their favorite game, or do something else they enjoyed. This intentional activity can help you feel closer to your child and make Father’s Day truly special for you and your family.

Tell Favorite Stories of Your Child

When we lose a loved one, the pain of loss can sometimes grip our ability to talk about them. That’s why sharing heartfelt stories of your loved one is important. Stories can help you acknowledge the reality of the loss and move you toward healthy grieving. The same is true if you’ve lost a child. Share stories of your child that make you laugh, smile, or even cry. But ultimately, share stories that make you proud to be their dad. Your child touched so many lives, so embrace their impact together as a family.

Share Your Love and Support for Your Family

Support, love and couple holding hands in a therapy session while talking to a relationship therapist.

Sometimes it takes losing a loved one for us to understand the importance of saying ‘I love you.’ Whether you say it every day or typically keep your emotions to yourself, tell your family how much they mean to you this Father’s Day. Let your words speak life and support your family on their grief journey. Father’s Day is the perfect time to express how much your family means to you. You can even write notes or letters to your surviving children, letting them know how much you care.

Take Time to Reflect

Spending time with your family on Father’s Day is important, but you may need a few moments for yourself as you grieve the loss of your child. You’ll likely feel a mix of emotions, which is perfectly normal. So, take time to reflect on your loss without distractions. Write your thoughts in a journal. Visit your child’s grave. Speak to a trusted friend or mentor, if you don’t want to be alone. All these options can help you take account of your emotions on what may be a difficult day.

Make Father’s Day Special

Rear view of little girl holding paper card behind her back, greeting positive adult man with Father's Day.

Balancing joy and grief is one of the most difficult things we can do in times of loss. Yet, finding that balance is also one of the most important things we can do to heal. You may believe that it’s wrong for you to celebrate Father’s Day with your family, but finding happiness through your pain is key to healthy grieving. Enjoy the time you have with your family, go out for a nice dinner, and smile as you unwrap your Father’s Day gifts. Though grief never leaves us, it also shouldn’t stay at the forefront of our lives forever.

If you’ve experienced the horrible pain of losing a child, you know that holidays, like Father’s Day, can be difficult. But find peace in knowing that your grief is proof of your intense love for your child, and that love will never fade. Instead of fearing Father’s Day, use that special Sunday in June to remember all the joy your child brought you and your family. And don’t forget, your child will live forever in your memory, so you’ll never have to celebrate Father’s Day without them.

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