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Surviving Father’s Day When You’ve Just Lost Dad

father's day

Father’s Day—Home of the “Grill Master” apron and football on the lawn. It tends to be a relaxed day of fun and food and avoiding the wayward frisbee whizzing by your head.

Unless you’ve just lost your dad.

Losing a parent can make you feel lost yourself. And Father’s Day makes that loss all that much more stark.

What then?

Here are some ideas to help you work through the grief.


Grieving Isn’t Done in a Day

Even if you aren’t normally an emotional person, grieving can set you on a roller coaster: denial, anger, acceptance, depression, back to anger…

And it doesn’t follow some nice neat pattern. It might look different for your brother than it does for you. It might not even look the same when you lose Dad as it does when you lose Mom. That’s okay!

The important thing is to allow yourself time to work through it however it hits.

Grieving can affect your health

  • Take a good vitamin supplement like zinc or echinacea to boost your immunities. Colds and flus like to attack when you’re down.
  • Get out in the sun for some exercise. (Sun = Vitamin D = healthy emotions. Exercise—well, you know all the emotional, physical, and psychological benefits of that.)
  • Choose healthy foods. Don’t feel up to cooking? When friends offer help, ask for a healthy meal that you can eat right away or stick in the freezer.

Grieving can affect your sleep

  • Don’t be shocked at crazy—even awkward—dreams. Your mind is defragging, and the end result can be heffalumps and woozles.
  • Exercise first thing in the morning or during your lunch hour. It helps you stay awake during the day and sleep at night.

Grieving can affect your concentration

  • Use cruise control on your car.
    Mourning and speeding tickets can go hand-in-hand. (Take extra care at stop lights, too.)
  • Make lists of what you need to do for the day—and lists of what you’ve done.
    Take notes in discussions.

Grieving can affect your relationships

  • Find friends who will let you talk about Dad. Friends who’ll let you cry. And friends who can distract you now and then.
  • Take time to be alone with your thoughts. Sometimes you need the world to be quiet.

Grieving isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Take the time your body and emotions need to work through it.


Grappling with Regret

No matter what your relationship with your dad was, when he’s gone, you might start questioning everything.

Mourning for what you WISH the relationship had been

  • Maybe the relationship wasn’t what you wanted it to be.
  • Maybe you wonder if he knew how much you loved him.

Talk to someone else who knew you both. Share your regrets, your wishes, your worries. They may be able to give you comforting insight that you can’t see right now.

Then reach out to your loved ones around you now. Make sure they know how much you care.

Recognizing you're all “grieved out”

If you’ve been watching Dad fade away for a long time, you may feel like you have no more tears to cry.

That’s okay.

Celebrate the man you knew before and take some time to recuperate. Grieving is as much about figuring out who you are now as much as it is letting go of him.


Realizing He’s Not There for Your Flat Tires

Whether you’ve called Dad for advice any time in the last decade or not, it was always a possibility.

Now you suddenly realize you can’t.

  • Take time with the family to share some of Dad’s best advice—some wise and, of course, some hilarious.
  • While you’re at it, write it down for the next time you need it. Or record it for the cloud.


Keeping His Memory Alive

Dad may very well have been your first superhero. And while you watched him slow down over the years, his cape still waved on.

  • Bring the family together to play an epic game in his honor. Football, basketball, Monopoly, Parcheesi, … whatever was his favorite.
  • Name opposing times by his nicknames, his beloved sports teams, or his choice of foods.
  • Make it a yearly event—and don’t forget the pictures.

Then take time to share other stories of your real-life Marvel.

(Sorry, Dad. The story of you splitting your pants in class will probably make the list.)


Living On –with a Little Help from Your Friends

Grieving takes time. Sadly, the world doesn’t always appreciate how long…

But find some friends and family who get it!

And if all else fails, find a furry friend. Studies show more and more how helpful those animals are when we’re grieving.

  • Just petting them helps us emotionally and mentally.
  • And they’re always looking for an excuse to take a walk. (One of those things you need!)

So don’t be afraid to grab the phone—or a leash. You don’t have to do this alone.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

--(Psalm 34:18)


We want to know! What was the best—or funniest—advice your dad ever gave you. Tell us on Facebook.

Guest post written by Elizabeth Daghfal

Elizabeth Daghfal

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it—except for the fifteen months of winter. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry.

When she isn’t teaching or writing—who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she’s ALWAYS teaching and writing. But she also loves reading, singing, creating art, and just trying to stay ahead of the stories and research in her head. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.

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