How to have a more positive Father's Day when you're Fatherless

Father’s Day. 

For most of my life I’ve dreaded that Sunday every June when most of my friends are at brunch with their fathers, and my social media feed fills with adorable photos and dedications to dad. I lost my father when I was six, and like one in three children in America who grow up without a father figure, it’s stays with you

Whether it’s because your father passed or just wasn’t around, spending Father’s Day fatherless often means the return to painful memories, grief, and loneliness. It took me many years to come to terms with these emotions. In fact, it was only recently that I started to flip my own switch and try to look at Father’s Day as less of a pinprick to my nerve endings and more as a chance to find my own way of celebrating. 

When you grow up without a father in your life, surrounded by children who have one, it can make you feel less than. Like there is some fundamental piece of life that makes you different and you have no control over it. I think, no matter how old you get or when you lose your father, you experience that feeling of missing out. Out of place, sometimes indescribable, but always painful when the right button is pushed.

I had to dust off that feeling and reevaluate the negative in my life when I made the decision to live a more positive existence. What it took was changing my perspective, and once I did that, I found there was a lot more to celebrate. To separate myself from the negative feelings, I sat down and made a list of the things I was grateful for instead.

  1. My Mother — My mom played the part of two parents growing up and has been a strong, stable force in my life ever since I can remember. She is the heart and soul of my family, she always knows what to say to give me perspective, and she did everything in her power to make my life feel full. She still does.

  2. My Tribe of Women — I think the fatherless often find each other. I’m lucky to have friends that understand the pang of emptiness associate with missing their father. It’s the worst kind of club to be apart of, but being there for each other and filling each other up is key.

  3. My Step Father — My step father is a kind, caring man who goes out of his way to make sure my sister, mom, and I are taken care of. He came into my life years ago, but has only been my step dad for a short time, and he’s the best I could have hoped for.

  4. Love — Father’s Day is hard, but when you look at it, it’s simply a day to celebrate loving someone else. Chances are you know a dad that you do love, so instead, celebrate him and put some more love into the world. We need it.

If you struggle with negative feelings when it comes to big holiday’s like this, it might be helpful to sit down at the beginning of that day and make a list of the things you’re grateful for. I often find that shifting my perspective to a positive place helps me to let go of the negative feelings long enough to let the day pass. But, also remember that what you’re experiencing is a kind of grief, and that doesn’t easily go away.

I bought my first Father’s Day card only a few years ago. I remember standing in the aisle at CVS and breaking down in tears, feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing or like every card lacked the right sentiment. I’m in my 30s and I still struggle with the grief of being fatherless.

And that’s the thing we all need to remember about grief. It is constant and ever changing. It doesn’t simply go away. Grief comes in stages and we all get there on different timelines. So, don’t beat yourself up for not getting there when you feel like you should have, or you’re not ready to see the positive in your situation yet. 

Celebrate every forward step towards a more positive mindset, because eventually, it will lay the foundation for healing and open your heart to the good things around you. Even on the dark days. 

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there — whether you be step, pet, or single mother. And to all the fatherless kids, let’s celebrate each other as well. 

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