Oh Father’s Day!
Father’s Day, like all holidays, can come with some baggage. Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or it’s close relative, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day can bring up unresolved grief.
When I say grief, remember, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dad has died. Grief can come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps your relationship with your dad is strained, your dad wasn’t around when you were growing up, or your parents split up, and you are angry that your dad cheated on your mom, etc. Since family can be complicated, it is important to remember that so can Father’s Day.
While Father’s Day is traditionally about honoring your dad and setting aside time to say thank you, this can be a challenging day for someone who has unresolved grief. If your dad has died and you miss him, this may be a special opportunity to spend time doing things you loved doing with him. You can also consider doing something that he loved. This weekend, I encourage you to set aside time to honor him in whatever way feels good to you.
If you have a less than loving relationship with your dad, living or dead, this may be a good opportunity to be kind to yourself. Perhaps do something for yourself that you wish your dad would have done with you or for you. Some people try to make amends on this day. If that feels like something you would like to do, let me just give you a couple tips.
1) If you want to forgive him, please note that forgiving people who have not asked for forgiveness most often comes across as an attack. Perhaps you can forgive him in your heart and not to his face.
2) If you have an expectation of the response you want, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Go into any interaction with your dad with an open mind and heart.
As we say at the Grief Recovery Institute, forgiveness is not about saying what they did is okay, it is about letting go of resentment so that we can be free.
So, as you go into this Father’s Day weekend, I want you to remember that it is normal to have feelings of sadness, longing, or just wishing things were different, better, or more.
Give yourself permission to feel however you feel and know that you are not alone in those feelings. While I am fortunate to have a loving relationship with my father, Father’s Day makes me sad because it makes me miss my mom. She was always really good at making Father’s Day special for my dad, which often leaves me not knowing what do for him.
Whatever your story is, please know that you are not alone. If you have the best dad or the worst dad; if your dad died or you sometimes wish he had; if your relationship with your dad is complicated and healing, or simple and growing; please remember that there is nothing wrong with you.
You may look around on Sunday and see a whole bunch of people looking happy and celebrating their father, and you may even be one of them. Just know that underneath the surface, everyone has a story, no one is perfect, and we are all just trying to figure it out.
I hope that reading this message allows you to find peace this Father’s Day. To all the Father’s out there, good and bad, who gave us life– thank you.