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“Celebrating” Father’s or Mother’s Day after the death of a parent or child

Suggestions for making the most of a difficult holiday


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June 16, 2017

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Each year, Father’s Day rolls around on the third Sunday of June – not long after Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. While many parents and their children will be spending time together celebrating with gifts and outings, some will be marking these days without dad or mom.

And for parents who have experienced the death of a child, these days may serve as a painful reminder of that son or daughter.

Holidays can feel particularly difficult after someone has died. And it is perfectly natural to have feelings of anxiety or deep sadness as they approach. Elizabeth Giffin, a grief counselor at HealthPartners Hospice, notes that the day will likely look and feel much different than years past. But she says it is still possible to connect with Father’s or Mother’s Day in a meaningful way – and even to find some unexpected gifts. Here are her tips:

  • Make plans for the day. Sometimes having a sense of control of the events of the day can help ease anxiety. Plan ahead and take time to do something enjoyable for yourself. You can also plan to make this a day to consciously remember your loved one. Take the opportunity to remember the special times you had with your mom or dad, or with your child.
  • Do something the person loved to do. Connect with your memories by preparing a meal that was a favorite of your Dad’s or your child’s. Or, by spending time listening to the music your mom or child loved. Make a trip to the places where you used to go together, like a hiking trail or restaurant.
  • Start a new tradition in honor of the person. You might want to plant a tree or make a donation to a charity in their honor. And if there was cause the person cared about, give back to it through volunteering.
  • Plan a family gathering. Build in time to share stories of your loved one.
  • Perform a random act of kindness for somebody. Even a simple act, such as holding the door for someone or letting someone go first in traffic can remind you of the comfort that can come from helping others.

The writer Isabel Allende observed that “People die only when we forget them. If you can remember them, they are with you always.” Hopefully, these tips will help you to not only survive Father’s or Mother’s Day, but to find comfort and new meaning in the day.

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