As Father’s Day approaches, there’s no escaping the jokey cards and incessant stream of emails trying to sell you socks, watches and golf clubs. But for people who have lost a father, or father figure, it can be an overwhelming reminder of their loss.
The lead up to the day can be especially distressing for people who are bereaved as it creates “anticipatory anxiety”, says Dr Erin Hope Thompson, clinical psychologist for The Loss Foundation, tells HuffPost UK. Sometimes, she says, the build-up can be even worse than the day itself.
But when 17 June arrives the most important thing to do is talk. “It can be a really hard thing to talk about and often people are either scared to bring it up because they think people aren’t going to listen, they think they’re being a burden or they’re worried about getting really upset,” Dr Thompson explains.
“But one of the things we encourage is not to go quiet on your loss. Having a space to talk is really valuable and also really beneficial.”
Dr Thompson says occasions such as Father’s Day, as well as birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries can affect people in different ways and therefore there’s no “one-size-fits-all approach” to grieving. It’s also worth noting people in the same family can respond differently. There are, however, some small acts that could help make the day easier.
“For some people that might be being around family or friends, for others it might be spending time alone,” says Dr Thompson. “For some people it might be going to a gravestone or memorial site, for others it might be doing something that their dad really liked, say gardening or fishing, or something that reminds them of their dad.”
Instead of ignoring Father’s Day cards, buying one might actually help. “Write in it what you would like to say to your dad,” advises Cruse Bereavement Care, who shared a helpful infographic for those missing loved ones. “You may want to put the card up at home or take it with you to your place of remembrance. You may also like to mark the day by giving a gift on his behalf to someone special to you both.”
If you want to hold a simple memorial Cruse advises lighting a candle, planting something in your garden or undertaking a special trip that reminds you of him.
It’s also important to have company if you feel lonely – you could invite a friend over or go to a family member’s house. “Grief is such an isolating experience,” says Dr Thompson. “So even just being around people - it doesn’t mean you have to talk about it - can be helpful so that you don’t have that intense feeling of isolation that might be worse on days like Father’s Day.”
Dr Thompson highlights it’s important to recognise that if you’ve made the decision to do something and it doesn’t feel right, you can change your mind. “Some people might decide they want to go and be with friends, but when they go they feel rubbish,” she explains. “Allow yourself to give yourself what you need. Allow yourself to say if you’re finding it difficult or need to change your plans.”
If you are struggling and feel you have nobody to speak to, you can call Cruse Bereavement Care’s free number on 0808 808 1677.