How To Deal With Father's Day If You're Grieving

Photographed by Winnie Au.
All the card stores, TV ads, and social media feeds tell us exactly how we're supposed to feel on Father's Day. But if you've lost your father or you're a father who's lost a child, you might not be spending the day playing catch or wrapping up ties and socks. Instead, this holiday is a harsh reminder of your grief.

"The holiday can trigger painful emotions that may cause emotional distress, depression, anxiety and, in some cases, nervous breakdowns,” Asim Shah, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine's Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said in a post on the school's website. "It can be a day full of sorrow, loneliness, and grief; but you should focus on the day, because no matter what you do, you cannot escape it."

To that end, Shah gives some tips on how to cope. First, plan ahead and know that the day will be difficult. Consider volunteering to reap the emotional rewards of helping others. You could also do something to honor your lost loved one, either by donating to a cause that would be meaningful to that person or simply lighting a candle at home. Or, you could honor someone who is a father figure to you, making this a celebration once more.

Shah recommends doing more than just symbolic gestures, too. Joining a grief support group would help you talk to others who don't feel particularly cheery on this holiday. Seek professional help for any residual guilt you might be holding onto from your relationship with the deceased.

"It is of great importance that you acknowledge your state of mind," Shah concludes. "The consequences of ignoring your feelings can lead to building up stress and tension, resulting in serious consequences over time."
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