How to Support a Grieving Father on Father’s Day

Milestones like Father’s Day can trigger a plethora of feelings in bereaved dads, from feeling heartbroken and angry that they aren’t able to watch their child grow up to the joy that reflecting on happy memories together can bring.

The rollercoaster of emotion is particularly magnified on holidays, especially when the emphasis is on spending time with family. This is where your role as a support network becomes invaluable to fathers who are coping with the loss of a child.

While you may feel that you don’t know what to say or do to help a friend or family member, even small gestures can remind the bereaved that they’re not alone on difficult days.

Here are a few ways to remind a bereaved dad that you’re there for them on Father’s Day.

Pay Attention to Their Grief

Not everyone is in the same place on their grief journey, so it’s important to listen and take your cue from how they are coping at the time.

Some dads will want to reminisce about their child, and others will just want a friend to check in on them. Don’t be afraid to ask whether they want to talk about their child on Father’s Day. Acknowledge that it must be a difficult day and that you’re there to listen if they need to talk.

Offer a Listening Ear

If they want to talk, be a present and active listener for them. You don’t need to add advice or judgment to the conversation unless you’ve been asked for your opinion.

You also don’t need to offer ways to “fix” the way they are feeling. Humans are programmed to look for the silver lining and not dwell on uncomfortable feelings, but the grieving process is long and difficult, and there is no quick, easy fix.

Just being there to really hear and acknowledge the way a dad is feeling is a helpful way of supporting them.

Drop by with a Meal

Tangible support can be particularly helpful for newly grieving fathers. Offer to bring over a meal, do some grocery shopping, or help out around the house by doing chores.

Taking the pressure off some of the daily or weekly tasks that need to happen regardless of how we’re feeling will show your friend or family member that you care and are there for them.

Share a Memory

Don’t shy away from saying their child’s name or recounting a treasured memory about them. Knowing that other people remember and miss their child is comforting.  And reminiscing can sometimes help bereaved parents share more about their feelings on difficult days.

The Tim Griffith Foundation offers separate Meadowlark Retreats for mothers and fathers who are grieving the loss of a child. Check back for this year's Father’s Retreat date.

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