“Death ends a life, not a relationship” – Mitch Albom

Father’s Day can be a day of deep sadness for those whose father or father figure has died and their absence is painfully felt. The meaning that exists in our memories of them may help to make sense of the feelings we encounter when grieving.

Our parental relationships have a significant impact on our development as individuals. When we experience the pain of the death of a parent or parental figure, we lose someone who has helped to shape the person we are today. It changes our experience of our world and it is a destabilising transitional time at any age.

However, relationships are complex and grief can also be felt when you have longed for an experience you may not have had with someone.

We also grieve the future that we may have hoped for.

Sometimes people may not have felt seen, heard, valued or important to their father and their grieving experience can be for the relationship with their father they never had in life. It is also common for people to feel they did not manage to get to know their father and would love the opportunity to meet them once again.

When people die, we feel deeply aware of the absence of our relationship with them.

Through talking with another, there is always hope for new meaning, and understanding of relationships, through processing the feelings evoked when we experience grief. When we fully experience the pain of grief we can then gradually start to experience a new way of living our lives.

We’re often afraid to ask our friends and family about loved ones who have died but providing an opportunity to talk can be cathartic. On Father’s Day you can share memories, hear funny or interesting stories, or even revisit some of the more difficult traits belonging to our loved ones who have died. These are all ways of processing loss and help us to feel connected to the deceased, which can provide comfort and support when you are grieving.

You may wish to do something to honour the memory of your father, visit somewhere special to you both, eat their favourite meal or sit and listen to their favourite song.

When I work with people who are bereaved, I often hear that they wish they had asked more questions or been curious about more aspects of their own fathers. Sometimes, I ask them about whether they feel able to tell me what they would have wanted to ask or say to their father. This often brings up a lot of emotion and meaningful questions, which if answered could have helped the adult child to find meaning in their experiences of their father, whatever their relationship was like.

This Father’s Day, if your father is still alive and you have a relationship that allows it, then you may be able to ask questions about their life, what matters to them, or if not, you may be able to talk to others in your life who can help you connect with and understand your experience of your father, and what he means to you.

If you need bereavement support:

If your loved one was cared for by the Hospice, you can get in touch via bereavementsupport@pah.org.uk or leave a message on 01372 461 842 and we’ll get back to you.

If your loved one was not cared for by the Hospice, you can contact us via helpline@pah.org.uk, or you may like to contact the Cruse Bereavement Care helpline on 0808 808 1677.