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Finding your own path through Father’s Day

Whether it’s a day you look forward to or one you loathe, you can’t avoid Father’s Day approaching over the horizon. You’ll see the ‘dad jokes’ on cards, novelty mugs and socks popping up in your local supermarket, and you may see your mates making plans for what to do on the day. What you won’t see as much of is the grief and loss felt by those who have lost their fathers.

Companies now let you opt out of receiving emails about Father’s Day, but you cannot opt out of the feelings that may overwhelm you. We know it can be a difficult time; whether you’ve lost a parent, have strained relationships with a parent, or are feeling the strain of parenthood yourself. We don’t all have cookie cutter lives and a day celebrating dads can be really crap if things don’t line up with the ‘picture perfect’ idea we’re often sold.

If you’ve lost someone, feelings can hit you at any time: you hear a song that reminds you of them, or an advert comes on the TV or sometimes just when you’re just wandering around the supermarket and see a wall of cards. There are reminders everywhere – ones that can hit hard and affect your mental health.

Over time you’ll realise that there is never really a ‘Hollywood’ moment of closure. In reality you’ll find, as time goes by, you’ll slowly be able to remember happy memories of them – the cheesy jokes, their laugh, the little memories that you can keep hold of in the back of your mind. It’ll always hurt, of course, but the more you talk about them with others the stronger those memories will be. 

So this Father’s Day we’ve put together some ways to help you cope with the day, get through it, and hopefully be able to focus on the good times you shared with them.

— Focus on those happy moments

Harry Corin, who has shared his experience of losing his father to suicide on The Book Of Man, didn’t always mark Father’s Day. For a while, he didn’t want to talk about his dad full stop. Now that he doesn’t hold as much hurt and anger, instead Harry will now spend the day being that bit kinder to himself.

“For much of my childhood, I buried any thought of my dad, which meant that I point-blank refused to do anything on Father’s Day. Like most days, I went on as if nothing really happened at all. Since opening up more in recent years, I will do all the things that make me feel good: running, eating good food, and watching sport.”

Sharing stories of his dad can be tough, but Harry has some amazing memories. From 900 mile journeys to watch their rival football clubs Newcastle and Spurs, to his dad’s canal boat. “All he had was the frame at first and over a couple of years, he built a truly amazing interior. I have some great memories from the boat, especially the first time it was ever placed in water. I remember thinking, ‘will it float or sink?’ I was young, I can be forgiven.”

— If you’re doing your best, you’re doing enough

There can be a lot of guilt around the relationships you build as a dad – or with your dad. Am I doing enough? Are we close enough? And if you lost someone you loved to suicide Father’s Day may bring back some unanswered questions that may start to swirl around your mind again.

A good thing to always remember is: if you’re doing your best, you’re doing enough. You can’t fix everything so go easy on yourself if everything’s not perfect. and that taking time out for yourself sometimes doesn’t mean you’re not giving enough to everyone else. 

Sometimes you just need to hear that: like our ambassador Leon MacKenzie says: “Many years ago having attempted to take my own life, my dad showed empathy, love but ultimately listened to me. After waking up, ever since that day he has called me most days and I always took those calls for granted before. This taught me a valuable lesson, showing someone you care about them and are making an effort that can change your mindset forever. Thank you, Dad.” 

And if you’re grieving you need to look after yourself and cope with how you’re feeling the way you want to. So have that afternoon nap or binge watch that Netflix series and don’t leave the sofa today. Tomorrow is another day to get up and tackle all the emotions. And don’t feel guilty if you find yourself feeling happy or enjoying yourself – it doesn’t mean you’re forgetting about them.

— Spend time with others – but don’t push yourself 

Being around others is often a great help and place for support. Chatting, relaxing, taking your focus away from your own thoughts for a while. So, if you want to see your mates, don’t be afraid to be up front and ask them to do something – they will want to support you in any way they can. 

But it’s also OK if you don’t feel like meeting up or jumping on a video call and facing everyone. Taking some time to reflect and remember them quietly – maybe looking at some photos or just going over a happy memory of them might work best for you. Thinking about what they’d be doing now can be comforting in some ways, too. Even without his father here, Harry’s dad still has an immeasurable impact on his life. “He was a role model for me. I looked up to him and I still do now and a thought that sits on my mind is – ‘what would our relationship be like now?’ I have so many questions like this.”

— Don’t be afraid to talk

Grief is different for everyone and there are different ways of ‘dealing with it’. But it’s always better to deal with your emotions than hide how you feel. And that means talking.

We know, it can be easy to avoid talking about grief – people may feel awkward around you or they’ll be worried about upsetting you. But talking to your mates and your family about how you’re feeling is really helpful – and it’s often best if you remove that awkwardness by bringing it up yourself. Even if that’s with a crap joke or a memory about them. Just be yourself.

Tom, who lost his dad almost a decade ago, told us: “The most helpful way I found of dealing with my grief was talking openly and honestly as much about his death as well as his life. It doesn’t always have to be negative memories of death, happy memories of a loved one’s life can really help in the grieving process and bring a smile in dark moments. It was during the periods that I didn’t talk openly about him, for worry of making people feel uncomfortable or being a ‘party-pooper’, that I felt the worst. The more I talked, the more alleviated I felt and able to focus on our elements of my life.” 

If you just skimmed that then the main point to remember is that there’s no right way or wrong way to do Father’s Day. So grab one of those novelty mugs, pour yourself a cup of tea (or even a beer) and toast to the Father’s Day that you want.

If you’re struggling today, or any day, you can always talk to us. 

Our helpline is open every day of the year, 5pm-midnight. It’s free, confidential and is here for anyone who’s finding things tough. No matter what. 

Call us on 0800 58 58 58 or have a chat online here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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