How to Cope When Father's Day Feels Tough
June 15, 2018
Father’s Day is a great show of support for dear old dads—but for those who have difficult relationships with their father, are grieving a dad who’s passed away, and more, Father’s Day can feel tough and even triggering.
Thankfully, there are strategies to help you cope (that don’t require you to hide out for the day). With some planning and intentionality, you might be able to walk away from Father’s Day stronger or more self-assured than you were before.
Here, how to survive—and thrive—on Father’s Day, depending on your situation.
If you’re estranged from your father...
Not in contact with your dad? Remind yourself that that’s OK. The sentimentality of the holiday might make you feel otherwise, so try grounding yourself by writing down your feelings.
Remind yourself of why you made the decision you made—or, if your father was the one who broke things off, of the way you’ve grown since you last saw him. Then, focus on doing something you care about.
“Often doing something for somebody else is the best antidote to grieving the [father] you didn’t get,” psychologist Melody Bacon, Ph.D., told Real Simple.
That could mean spending the day volunteering, reaching out to thank a male mentor (or mom) who supported you, or surprising your partner or friends with a homemade treat.
Not feeling so pious? Do as writer Liz Lazzara does and spend Father’s Day gift money on a present for yourself.
If you and dad have a complicated relationship…
If you’re still on speaking terms with your father, try to save the big discussions for a day when the stakes are a little lower.
“Remember that even though your relationship with your dad may not be perfect, Father’s Day is a day to acknowledge that they ARE your dad, not a day to rate their success in the job,” Jeffrey Sumber, L.C.P.C., a psychotherapist, told HelloGiggles. “Kindness and forgiveness are essential to all of our relationships, and even though there may be unresolved issues with your father, use this as a chance to be kind. Think of this as an easy opportunity to simply be nice, be kind, and send a card or leave a voicemail just saying hello.”
Father’s Day can add pressure to what’s already a tricky situation.
Remember: Father’s Day can add pressure to what’s already a tricky situation. There’s no shame in keeping your interaction short and sweet, and taking the rest of the day to focus on you.
If your father passed away…
Parent-oriented days can serve as an in-your-face reminder of loss, Bacon told Real Simple. “It’s like you’re revisiting your grief,” she says.
Try giving your pain an outlet by writing a letter to your father, filling him in on recent developments or simply letting him know that you miss him. “Telling [him] what you want [him] to know is a way to feel connected,” she says. “Death doesn’t end a relationship, it just changes it.”
If you’re having trouble becoming a parent…
If you’re having a tough time starting—or growing—a family, celebrations of parenthood can feel particularly tough to bear.
Follow the Mother’s Day advice of Jamie Long, Psy.D., and cut yourself some slack. “After four infertile Mother's Day holidays, I've learned a few things about coping,” she writes in Psychology Today. “I now realize that my self-flagellation and judgmental self-talk only deepened my despair and was, at least in part, a consequence of lacking self-compassion.”
Then, reach out to your network. Maybe you know another couple struggling with infertility. Or perhaps you have a friend who’s childless by choice and can commiserate about the onslaught of father-centric merchandise. Even if you choose to ride out dad day solo, remember: You’re not alone here.
Even if you choose to ride out dad day solo, remember: You’re not alone here.
If your family isn’t Leave It to Beaver…
Never had a father to begin with? Have multiple fathers? Whatever your family situation, it can be tricky to navigate a holiday that seems tailored to a hyper-specific family type. The solution: Stop comparing your “normal” to everyone else’s scenario.
Create your own traditions. Make your own cards. Let go of the pressure to celebrate Father’s Day the “normal” way and do what makes sense for you.
Let go of the pressure to celebrate Father’s Day the “normal” way and do what makes sense for you.
And don’t forget: Those families you see as cookie-cutter traditional? They’ve got their own unique set of twists and turns. This year, embrace yours.