FATHER'S DAY AFTER YOUR DAD HAS DIED
By Neil Chethik – www.NeilChethik.com
Father's Day is just ahead, and for more than 100 million Americans whose fathers have died, it will be at best a bittersweet day. While many of those around us will be celebrating with their dads, fatherless sons and daughters will have to depend not on the man in the flesh, but on their own memories.
Fortunately, that may be enough.
Here are some ways that you can mark this 100-year-old holiday even after your father has died.
Be a mentor to a child whose father has died, or who has no father in his life.
Write a Father's Day card focusing on the things that you loved or appreciated about your dad.
Wear an article of your father's clothing.
If your father loved music, spend an hour listening to his favorite album.
If your dad loved wood-working, use his saws, hammer and wood to build something simple or begin a new project.
Cook your father's favorite meal for your family of friends.
Read one of the books that your father loved.
Donate some money to your father's favorite cause.
Contact a current father-figure in your life whom you admire, and tell him so.
If you are a father, focus on being the best father you can be to your children.
Why do these kinds of activities seem to help people? Wouldn't it make more sense to “move on” from memories of one's father, to forget the loss, to “get over” it?
For decades, psychologists believed moving on was best. But recent studies have found that the best way to recover from a loss is, at least occasionally, to do things that honor the deceased person, that bring the person back into our minds and hearts. Over time, this helps the survivors resolve their relationship with their fathers and raise the chances that they will have a sense of peace about the death.
On the other hand, when we try to forget the person, or steel ourselves against the memories, we create an internal tension that can linger, fester, and make us unwell.
Of course, not all of the memories of our fathers will be happy ones, and there are times when it's important to acknowledge the anger and resentments we may feel as well. But what the research shows is that reminding ourselves of the positive – When was Dad at his best? What did he do that I'm grateful for? – can remind us of his humanity. That alone may take the edge off of our anger and allow us to forgive our fathers for the mistakes that he made.
If you are without your father this year, consider some ways that you can honor him. By honoring him , you will actually be helping yourself .
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Neil Chethik is a writer and speaker. He is author of FatherLoss: How sons deal with the deaths of their dads (Hyperion) and VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think of Their Wives (Simon & Schuster). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.NeilChethik.com .
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