Honoring Absent Fathers: Celebrating through Grief with Love

Father’s Day with dad long gone: From grief to celebration, one baby step at a time

Celebrating those who aren’t with us anymore isn’t easy—something we (consciously) avoid. But without dipping our toes into sorrow, joy can often remain untapped.

The loss of a parent is perhaps the hardest to process. Especially when it hits you that you’ll never again be able to pick up the phone and talk to them, have mundane conversations, and get unsolicited life advice all the while cribbing about it. If only you could crib to them one more time…

I hadn’t given this subject much thought until last year when a close friend lost his mother to an expected illness. While I was merely a witness on the sidelines, his new reality and his struggle to cope got all too real for me. It’s hard to watch someone you love grieve when there is precious little you can do (as much as you may want to “fix it” for them, make it all better).

Mother’s Day was a tough one. As Instagram went on an emotional high with celebratory and ‘nostalgia’ posts, I watched my friend grapple with overwhelm and regrets—the could haves, would haves, and should haves. Regrets are a hard pill to swallow, I thought, but they are a much-needed reminder to never pass up opportunities to celebrate people while they are with us.

Yet the thought troubled me: How do you celebrate a Mother’s Day or a Father’s Day when it feels like a day of grief and loss?

Perhaps by changing the way we look at celebration? Sometimes, it can feel sombre rather than jubilant. And it’s ok! Celebrating those who aren’t with us anymore isn’t easy—something we (consciously) avoid. But without dipping our toes into sorrow, joy can often remain untapped. William Blake said, “The deeper the sorrow, the greater the joy.”

This Father’s Day, let’s reach out a hand to those who are missing their father figure and be there for them as they take baby steps to tune into the legacy of love their father left them.

Acknowledge your grief

‘Grief is the price we pay for love’, I recall reading these wise, haunting words by Dr Collin Murray Parkes. It reminds us that grieving is natural and necessary, never to be denied or judged. It is the gateway to healing. Unless we acknowledge it, we cannot process it. The memory of our fathers is etched in our minds, so why not remember them on this day with gratitude that they gave us the gift of life? It is because of their guidance that we could create our own worlds; because of their nudge we dared to tread the path of love, learned responsibility, and became our own people. Let’s celebrate the memory of their presence, not lament their absence.

Cherish the support of loved ones, community

Don’t assume you have to power through your grief alone—because you don’t.
It’s easy to go into a shell and not have to interact with others, but all it does is delay the healing. The well-intentioned condolences may feel overwhelming, and that’s ok; You may not have the strength to smile politely as others offer support, and that’s fine too. But isolating yourself won’t help you heal either, allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your loved ones and community will.

Honour their legacy

Did your father leave something behind that he created and cared for? A beautiful way to honour your father would be to give shape to his legacy. Be it a passion of his or a venture he undertook. I have seen friends assign themselves projects to document their family tree and plan large family reunions. Pick up something your dad left and take it to the next level. What better way to stay connected with those we loved deeply and miss dearly?

Connect with their ‘cause’

A colleague of mine started an organic vegetable farm after his mother passed away. For him, it was the perfect way to honour her memory since she loved her little kitchen garden and cooking and feeding others.

Rather than wallowing in regrets about all the things you couldn’t do, connect with a cause bigger than you. Books, nature, animals, or music—Build something your ‘old man’ believed in.

‘Carry what can’t be fixed’

“Some things cannot be fixed; they can only be carried…” says Psychotherapist Megan Devine as she talks about coping with grief. Taking a leaf from her bestseller It’s OK that you’re not OK; while you can’t fix the loss you live with every day, you can carry the grief with gratitude and love. Perhaps knowing this deep down can be the smidgen of balm that soothes the pain of losing your father. A reminder that even though he is long gone, you will always be his child and he your dad.

1 Comment
  • parul_shree35
    on June 15, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    Wow! Touched…



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