One of the hardest things to deal with are all the ‘Firsts’ – the first Birthday/Christmas/Father’s Day etc.
For many special days like Father’s Day dealing with your emotions on these days doesn’t get any easier, in some ways get harder as you are often more numb initially.
You are naturally missing your child every day, but the intensity of your emotions can feel worse on these days by either your expectations of the day or what others expect of you. The first step is to take care of yourself on those days, and not expect too much of yourself and do what is right for you. Decide if and how you want to mark the occasion, but be aware that not marking the day can be a way of suppressing how you are feeling about the day and what it means to you.
To a bereaved Father, Father’s day is probably one of the hardest to deal with, such a mix of emotions and everywhere you turn there are reminders of the day both on the lead up to it and the weekend itself.
Using the 4 C’s to deal with Father’s Day
Have a plan about how you are going to CARE for yourself on the day. Start with the basics and try to get a good night’s sleep the evening before so you can be as fresh and strong as possible on the day. Make sure you have food in the house, maybe have something pre-prepared the day before if you don’t particularly enjoy cooking, or, if you enjoy cooking then have a plan for what you are going to cook on the day and get all the shopping in you will need, but only if you feel up to it.
Keep yourself hydrated, drinking water is vital to everyday health and can help if you are physically processing and releasing, if it’s a time where you would normally drink alcohol to celebrate, partake if you feel like it, but please watch overindulgence of alcohol, as that could be a way of masking your feelings. Start and or finish your day with something you like to do to relax.
CONNECT & COMMUNICATE with family and friends about how you feel about the forthcoming Father’s day and how they can help and support you to get through that day; they might want to take you out to show you how much they love you. However, going out to eat in a packed restaurant with everyone else celebrating the special day, when you just feel like crying because you miss your child, could be the worst thing for you, so you need to communicate how you feel and what would make you happy on that special day, or at least make it endurable.
You may prefer to be alone on that day; if that is the case then it is important to communicate this with friends & family and hopefully they will respect your wishes. However, please be wary of being on your own, as you don’t want to be wallowing in your sadness and maybe unwittingly pushing people away if they genuinely want to help you.
As mentioned before, it is particularly important to be open with your partner as you have both lost a child, and this is a massive trauma for you both to cope with. There is no right or wrong thing to do, trust your instincts about what feels right for you and communicate this with your partner. If you have other children, you may wish to think how you would like to spend the day with them, depending on their ages communicate how you are feeling about the forthcoming day, directly with them.
Remember that both sets of parents have lost a Grandchild too and will be suffering seeing you, their own child suffering too. Talk to your own Father if you can and share your feelings about the day with him and try and make a connection that suits you both in marking the day.
Holidays and special days help us mark the passing of time and jog our memories of events and people. This is especially true for parents who have lost a child, whether that child was a baby, young child, youth or adult. Connection is vital at this time and sharing stories can help you to heal, remembering joyous times you had, special memories of previous Father’s Days, if you can release any negative thoughts and feelings, so you can raise your vibration to feel connected with their soul and link to memories of happy times.
Think about how you can CONNECT with the child you have lost; would you like to visit their gravesite with some flowers or go to a favourite place of theirs and just spend some quiet time there. Again, communicate this to your partner and any other children you have. Maybe you can be taken there first to spend some special time connecting and then be taken to have a family meal with the other children you have (if you have them), where you could share favourite memories and family stories around the dinner table and CREATE a special day with all your children, or, if it is just you and your partner now, go home for a special meal and share your precious memories together, your hopes and desires for the future.
Probably, just like me, you were brought up to believe that Special days like Father’s Day are fun and joyful. But now that you are grieving, it can make special days like Father’s Day, a painful and exhausting experience.
Take the time to find healing activities and appreciate your life. Look at what your loss experience has taught you about the strength you have found in yourself. You know what it’s like when Father’s Day is all around you, in the shops, on TV and Social Media etc… and everyone around you seems to be busy celebrating when you just feel miserable.
You can also keep busy by focusing on those things that help you manage. CREATE activities which can bring a sense of personal renewal and a feeling of significant accomplishment. Be flexible in your thinking, as you do practical and sensible things that help you deal with things.
Here are a few ideas:
- Keep a journal for venting
This can become an outlet to share what you are going through. Then reflect on what you wrote, how you have changed and how you are managing so much better. You can create a biography of your child in the journal that helps you search for answers to your questions
- Use poetry to memorialize your child
Poems have great meaning to those who write them and those who read them
- Write a letter to yourself
This can be about your child, what you now know about what happened to them, what got you through it, and how you found meaning in it
- Create a memory book
This can contain photos or be a box with mementoes and reminders of the connection you shared with your child
- Wear something your child gave you
You can just wear this for you or let others know of its significance
- Purchase a fragrant candle and create a ritual as you light it, you can use this to reflect on your child’s life
Rituals have a beginning and an end. That is why lighting and extinguishing a candle is symbolic
- Keep an item that belonged to your child
These objects are physical items that connect you to your child and can help you with acceptance. These transitional items hold special meaning and serve as reminders that you are still spiritually connected with your child
- Create a memorial fund
This can be done in your child’s name. Contact your local bank or a foundation to help you and then let others know how to donate to the fund
- Focus on others in need and volunteer
This can also be done in your child’s memory at a nursing home, homeless shelter or charity they supported, or which helped them
- Read a card or letter given to you by your child
I still have a couple of items Adam made at his playgroup on display in my living room
- Watch a home video of your child
When watching this you can remember the happy times you shared with your child and fire the neurons which will create more happy memories
- Express your feelings through music
Whether you choose to sing a song or write one, the creative expression can be healing. Sit back and listen to a song that is meaningful to you and brings you strength
- Buy a gift for yourself
This gift can be one your child would have liked or what they may have bought you
- Create a memory quiltwhich can be used to cover a bed or chair include family and friends in this activity if it helps. A quilt can be made of digital photos transferred to fabric squares and you could use some of your child’s clothing
- Take care of yourself
Focus on eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy body weight, and getting adequate sleep
- Review what you have done
Think about what you can simplify. As you focus on traditions, be mindful of those things you can handle and those things you want to change. Let others know the changes you intend to make
- Give yourself permission to leave early from a gathering
If you went to a family gathering and felt ill after you have arrived it would be perfectly acceptable to leave, so if you don’t feel ‘right’ at a gathering it’s perfectly fine to say so and leave if you feel you need to
- Shop online
If you don’t feel like going out shopping, especially during the lead up to Father’s day, when there may be many painful reminders around, consider catalogue and Internet shopping
- Let others know that it’s okay to reminisce, if you want to talk about your child, let people know, they may be keeping quiet for fear of upsetting you, it could simply be a lack of communication. Usually, stories lead to stories that will make you laugh which can actually help you manage these special days.
These special days should be joyful and fun times, so use some of the ideas above to remember these special times with love and happiness. Review the traditions you follow to see if they are right for you now and make new ones to do on those special days. Creating these new traditions and rituals can transform the way you feel about those days.
These days can highlight the special connection between a parent and child (no matter how old the child was). Parenthood is a bond like no other. On these special days, it can highlight who is not there with you.
How to feel connected with your child on Father’s day
Your child will be in your heart forever, just because they are physically not with you doesn’t mean their soul isn’t still with you. When you wake up on Mother’s day, spend a few minutes either meditating about how you feel and sending messages to your child through meditation. You can also spend this time journaling to your child, what you loved that they used to do for you or whatever you want to convey to still feel connected to them.
You can reminisce about your child with those who are compassionate and are happy to just be there and listen to the stories you wish to share.
As with everything else in life, there is a yin and yang balance, not talking about your child and bottling up your thoughts and feelings is one side and constantly talking about your child is the other; neither of these are ideal. Create a balance that suits you, releasing any resistant thoughts and feelings and then you will be able to share openly from the heart about your child, but still have perspective and harmony in your life.
One of the things I want to see change, is people become more open about loss and that it is not seen as a taboo subject, that few want to discuss.
Dealing with thoughts and emotions on those special days
It is very likely that these special days will trigger thoughts and emotions. Be aware of this and have your way of dealing with anything that comes up, imagine the thought in writing and then imagine a big fat rubber erasing this thought for you. If you have worked with me you will have the technique I share with clients to release any unwanted thoughts that arise. The method, in short, is just releasing the thought you don’t want and turning it into a more positive one, and then we replace your unwanted thought with the one you do want. This will raise your vibrations and change how you feel to something lovely.
No matter how short the life of your child – CELEBRATE IT in a happy, joyful and loving way.
On Monday 18th June I am running a FREE online 7 day Guided Journey to taking your first steps into understanding and moving through your grief, please register here
and/or join Sadness to sunshine support group for bereaved parents