Many families spend Father’s Day fatherless. It can be painful to spend this holiday alone. Whether you have lost your father or  husband, there are some thoughtful and healing ways to spend Father’s Day. This holiday can be a great way to honor your dad or spouse — celebrating his memory.

Grief, particularly when it’s fresh, can often peak around holidays, especially on Father’s Day when we miss our dad, grandfather, or spouse (father or stepfather of our children). Coping with our grief on Father’s Day can be challenging but honoring memories may be a way to soften the grief slightly. You can honor your loved one by sharing memories with your children —teaching that we can grieve while celebrating. This may be incredibly difficult to work through, yet with some personal work surrounding the grief process, it will set the stage for your children to better understand the grief they are experiencing, allowing them to open the door to positive memories as well.  

How to Honor Memories While You Grieve

Start by studying the five stages of grief. No matter which stage of grief you might be in, a holiday can often trigger you to slide back into an earlier stage of grief. This slide back can feel frustrating, hopeless, or even confusing at times. Remember, grief is not linear; therefore, it is essential to allow yourself to slide up and down the continuum of grief. 

Five Stages of Grief

  •     Denial
  •     Anger
  •     Bargaining
  •     Depression
  •     Acceptance

Since each person may grieve or celebrate differently, it’s important to remember that honoring our dad on father’s day may also look unique for each family member. One idea would be to have a family meeting, allowing each family member to offer ideas of how to grieve the loss and then suggesting ideas on how to celebrate their dad on father’s day. Talking through the good and bad sides of grief and celebration creates an environment for the family members to acknowledge their pain while also processing the good memories as well. 

15 Ways to  Honor Your Late Father on Father’s Day

Ideas for children of young ages, elementary school age, to celebrate their late father are listed below in numbers one through five. Ideas appropriate for older children, high school or early college years, to celebrate their late father are listed below in numbers six through ten. Ideas for you to celebrate your late father’s memory are listed in numbers eleven through fifteen. 

  1. Plant a tree or memorial garden in honor of your dad.
  2. Go to some of your dad’s favorite places for the day, such as his favorite golf course, fishing pier, or a baseball game of his favorite team.
  3. Buy or make a Father’s Day card and add some of your favorite memories inside. 
  4. Do an activity you used to enjoy doing with your dad.
  5. Donate to a charity in your father’s name or purchase a memorial at a local zoo, botanical garden, etc. 
  6. Share the stories through a social media post.
  7. Have a moment of silence to honor his memory. 
  8. Gather with family and prepare your father’s favorite meal or visit his favorite restaurant together. 
  9. Write a letter to your dad about the things happening in your life now. 
  10. Watch a few old family videos with your family, encouraging others to share their stories of your dad.
  11. Write your father a letter of gratitude filled with many of your favorite stories about him.  
  12. Visit your dad’s grave and bring flowers or a special item to place on his grave.
  13. Share pictures and videos of your father with your children or family members. 
  14. Share stories about your father to honor his memory. You can tell these stories to your children and family members.
  15. Go to a service at his place of worship or honor him spiritually in one of his special places.

In addition to the suggestions above, you may also consider honoring the day with another father figure in your or your children’s lives such as a grandfather, uncle, stepfather, brother, etc. This is not intended to replace your father but rather allow you and/or your children to celebrate the loved men in your lives. This helps you or your child reframe the holiday to celebrate future Father’s Day. This reframing may help with some of the grief.  

On Father’s Day, try to shift your energy from grief and loss into a celebration of good memories while honoring your father or husband’s life. Some friends or family may not be comfortable discussing the holiday with you, as they don’t want to cause you any more pain or grief. When your family or friends are unsure of how to address Father’s Day with you, initiate the conversation with some positive affirmations, such as:

  • “I’ve been thinking about Dad today a lot…”
  • “I miss him, especially today”
  • “My favorite memory of Dad is…”
  • “Remember when Dad use to…”

Need Help with Your Grief? 

You can start new traditions with other positive father figures in your life while honoring your lost loved one. This can help you and your children recognize and move forward through grief. During this holiday, seek support from your family members, find a local bereavement group, or reach out to your therapist for extra support.