One of the hardest parts about losing my husband has been carrying the knowledge that my kids will grow up without such a beloved and important figure in their lives. As we come up on Father’s Day, this knowledge gnaws at me and has been making me dread a day I used to enjoy celebrating.
There is nothing I can do to change the fact that my kids’ dad will forever be absent from their lives. But I believe in honoring his memory and his legacy of love and reminding them daily of what a treasure they were to him. So this Father’s Day, we won’t be making Daddy construction paper cards or buying him silly socks and ties. This year we will honor him in a different way.
I know my kids are not the only children in the world without a father to celebrate this coming Father’s Day. Whether they have lost their dad through death, divorce, or abandonment, this Father’s Day can be hard on many kids. Here are some ways that we parents or guardians of these kids can help them honor their daddies, even in their absence.
Activities Dad Would Have Loved. Take your kids out for a day filled with “daddy activities.” For us, I will take my kids to a movie, grab dinner at Chipotle, then have ice cream for a treat. Their dad would’ve loved all of these things! You don’t have to go out or spend money to engage in “daddy activities,” though. You can easily have fun at home doing things your kid’s dad would have loved: puzzles, video games, grilling, building something, cooking. Talk about their dad a lot while you do all of these things. Keep his spirit front and center throughout these fun activities!
Celebrate Other Father Figures. My children are extremely lucky to have their Uncle Awesome (my husband’s best friend) and two amazing grandfathers in their life. Even though they are not a replacement for their dad, these men have stepped into Daddy’s shoes with grace and strength of character. They deserve to be recognized as father figures in my kids’ lives and we will celebrate them as much as we would have celebrated Daddy on Father’s Day.
Write Letters to Dad. While my kids are not quite old enough to write a letter to Daddy yet, this is a great way for older kids to honor their absent dad. Not only will this activity give kids an opportunity to express their love for their dad, it will also give them a chance to process feelings they have been experiencing since the loss of their father. Assure your child that you will not read the letter if that is their wish, but encourage them to “speak” freely to their Dad and tell him how much he’s missed. Follow up with lots of snuggles and encouragement.
Visit Dad’s Resting Place. If your child’s father has a final resting place, Father’s Day might be a good day to visit. Bring flowers, a letter for Daddy, or just yourselves. Spend time talking about their dad and remembering him, or telling them about him if they never had the opportunity to know him themselves.
Volunteer. Father’s Day would also be a good day to give of your time and energy for those less fortunate. If your kid’s dad had a favorite charity or a cause dear to his heart, find a way to get your kids involved with that cause for the day.
Grieve Together. Despite the way you decide to honor the absent dad in your kid’s life on Father’s Day, it will likely be an emotionally trying day for you and for your kid. Allow yourself and your child to grieve freely. There is nothing wrong with allowing your child to see your sadness. In fact, it may help your kid process his own grief by watching you process yours. Give yourself and your child permission to feel the sadness of the day, but also encourage him to remember the good times as well. Grieving together will be a source of healing and comfort for you both.
Father’s Day will never be the same in our family. There will always be a hole where there was once an amazing, loving, gregarious, kind, thoughtful man who loved us more than his own life. As much as we wish we still had him in our lives, we know that he is rejoicing in Heaven and we will see him again someday. Until then, we will honor him and his life whenever we can, especially on this first Father’s Day without him.
How do you honor your missing loved one on Father’s Day?