How to help parents who are grieving on Father’s Day
When someone loses a child, their world changes forever. Father’s Day is just one of many days that make that loss feel even more profound. Bereaved parents may feel angry, cheated, heartbroken, or all of these at once—and they may worry they can’t be there fully for surviving children the way they want to be. Whether it’s the first or the fiftieth Father’s Day after a child dies, part of a parent’s heart always belongs to their lost child. As Darcy Krause of the Center for Grieving Children puts it, “A child is a child no matter how old they are. In a mother’s or father’s heart, it’s their child.”
Parents who have living children in addition to the one who passed can find Father’s Day bittersweet. One child doesn’t replace another or soften the blow of that loss. Sue Lloyd of Kara, an organization that provides grief support to families, tells us, “It’s like having a separate bank account for each child. Parents want to have pure joy and celebration for their living child but also need to set time aside to mourn the loss of the child who is gone.”
Miscarriage is another loss that can ache on Father’s Day. In this case, even though parents and family didn’t get to know their child, they might grieve for the life that child won’t have. And if it was a loss early in pregnancy, friends and family might not even know that it happened. That can be isolating as well.
Dr. Kory Floyd, a professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Arizona, explains, “Fathers are sometimes forgotten, but miscarriage or the death of a child is as significant a loss for them as it is for mothers. Both want to be parents but can differ in how they express grief. Men are taught to be less open with their emotions and can sometimes feel shame for experiencing or expressing grief. It’s important to know that even if he’s not vocal, a father still has needs and feelings.”
As a friend to a grieving parent, you can never take away that pain. But there are things you can do to help support bereaved parents—especially if they’re not looking forward to Father’s Day. Experts suggest that you