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  • Writer's picturePatty Breen

Father's Day without a Father

Can I share something with you?

I have been dreading this day for about the last month or so.

As I was leaving church on Mother’s Day, I found myself preemptively anxious about Father’s Day. It was after receiving Holy Communion as I walked to my car I found myself thinking, “How do I celebrate Father’s Day when my dad is dead? What does that even look like now?

Feeling my sadness at that moment, I just began to cry.

My dad has been dead almost two years and this will be my second Father’s Day without his physical presence in my life. Grief is a strange mystery that arises out of nowhere and can totally knock the wind out of us.

While life moves on in a new way, the reminder of a loss is never too far away. I feel it when I watch a girlfriend dance with her dad at her wedding and I remember my dad will never dance with me when I get remarried. I feel it when I celebrate the joy of a new baby getting baptized, and remember my dad will never get to baptize my babies someday. Life goes on, you never forget.

Holidays like Father’s Day are painful and hard for many people. Whether an estranged relationship or the emptiness that death brings, it can bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings and emotions.

Over the years, my therapist has had to remind me that when we allow ourselves to “feel” our big, uncomfortable feelings, we can more easily navigate and move through them. When we numb or avoid our feelings, that is when we get emotionally constipated and stuck.

Whatever Father’s Day feels like for you or brings up, allow yourself to feel through it in your heart. Don’t shut down your heart. Numbing yourself will only work so long.

You can face and work through whatever comes up. Be gentle, loving, and tender to your own heart. Ask yourself, “what do I need right now at this moment? How can I take care of myself with how I am feeling?”

Maybe you have no dad or a fantastic dad. Maybe your dad is dead, non-existent, or not emotionally safe to be in a relationship with. Whatever this day brings up for you, you can be safe with yourself and your own heart.

This year on Father’s Day, I am going to be kind to myself. I will let myself cry, feel sad, or even smile and find joy. I will spend time remembering. I will do something that makes me think of my dad.

Celebrating looks different on this national holiday for me, but it can still be special.

Whatever your relationship with your dad looks like or the father wounds that have yet to heal, I am holding you in my heart and prayers this day.

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