Whether it's your first or twenty-first Father's Day without a dad, honoring his memory and celebrating his life can provide healing.
Father’s Day can be difficult for those whose fathers have passed away. Though buying Dad a card may be in the past, honoring him doesn’t have to be. In fact, Father’s Day was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd as a tribute to her beloved late dad, who raised six children alone as a single father.
Stacey Lyster, 51, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., makes treasured memories part of Father’s Day. “When Dad died, I took part of his ashes and backpacked far into the Sierra wilderness. I honored him by scattering his ashes amongst the terrain he loved. He introduced me to the mountains. He’s the reason I reside in high altitude today.” Stacey has returned almost every Father’s Day since 1993 to acknowledge her dad.
When contemplating how to honor your late father on Father’s Day, decide what feels right, says Dr. Craig A. Clark, a board certified psychiatrist in Nashville, Tenn. "Families can meet somewhere important to the father and bring memorabilia, photos, a baseball, something that symbolizes their attachment to the person … Family members can talk about memories and help each other to move on.” In other families, that may not be necessary. “Treating Father’s Day like any other day is fine too,” continues Clark, providing there aren’t untreated emotional wounds or unresolved feelings.
If father-child relationships were problematic, Clark explains, “One of the tools therapists suggest is to write letters that you’re not necessarily going to send or journal your feelings. That can be really healing.”
Rob Kauffman of Cooper City, Fla., commemorates his mentor and best friend while coping with his loss.“This Father’s Day will be the third without my dad. The first was really difficult. That morning, I went to the beach where he liked to go. I brought pictures of him, talked to him and cried. I let out a lot of emotion … I went back to the beach alone the following year. This Father’s Day, I’ll probably honor him the same way, then be with family,” says the 54-year-old father of three.
Continuing her late, beloved dad’s annual custom is how Marilee Spanjian, 52, of Nashville, observes Father’s Day.“My father was full-blooded Armenian, spoke only Armenian until he began school and preferred Armenian food — especially lamb shish kebab on Father's Day. I've carried on that tradition. I grill them slow, the same way he did. It's my way of showing him respect. I know he'd approve.”
Include children in tributes to Dad, too. “Young children can honor their dads by telling stories about them, drawing pictures or making cards,” Clark says, which may provide “snapshots” of their feelings, too.