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Father's Day Without Dad

Father's Day wasn't recognized as a national holiday until 1972, nearly 60 years after the national recognition of Mother's Day. While there was initial skepticism about the popularity of Father's Day in the early 1900s, it is a day that now generates over $1 billion each year in gifts.

Father's Day can be a less-than-joyful occasion for those who have recently lost their father or struggle with the loss of their father. It can serve as a painful reminder of what has been lost. On the flip side, though, it can be transformed into a day of remembrance and celebration—a way to keep memories and traditions alive with each passing year.

We spoke with people who have struggled with Father's Day since losing their beloved dad but have found ways to find more love and joy in the day.

We Tell Funny Stories in His Honor

As told to us by Laura Flynn Endres

My father was larger than life. He was full of energy, a natural leader, a community servant, and a tireless worker. He was tough but loving. Traditional, yet forward-thinking. Rooted on our fifth-generation family farm, yet adventurous. When he died at 58, it left an enormous hole. He was also quite the joker. I tell everyone that humor is a must in my life, and I got that from him. So, one of the things my family will do is tell hilarious stories. There are a lot of "Dad-isms." He retold his stories over and over, but he was so funny while retelling them; we loved every minute.

One of the ways we honor him is by keeping those stories alive. On Father's Day, my siblings and I will have a group text where one will simply blurt out a Dad-ism, and the rest will follow. No word of "This is a hard day; we miss him. I love you." No, our style is irreverent and obnoxious—just how my father would like it. But because he had a big heart, the mushy feelings come, whether we like it or not. We tell our kids stories about him, and now that my kids are grown, I write them letters and share the stories that I think they'll appreciate knowing.

We Do His Favorite Things

As told to us by Melissa Spadin

Each year it's bittersweet because the second year [after his passing], I was pregnant, the third we were stuck at home [because of the pandemic], and this will now be the fourth Father's Day without him. It was a big holiday because he flew airplanes and [the day was a] big event every year. This will be the first year without my father-in-law as well, so the baby and I are going to shower my husband with all the love we can.

My advice is not to try to run from the pain—it will find you. Instead, think of how you can remember and honor him that first year after the loss and in future years. For me, that means that we play his records he left me, dance together, and wear the airplane shirts he had collected over his lifetime.

We're Going to Plan a Dad Day in Nature

As told to us by Jaime Leigh Howard

I lost my father this past year so it's pretty fresh. I've thought about what I'm going to do to honor him, and how I can try to keep it together as much as possible. I plan on spending the day doing things he loved. In his case, that means enjoying nature.

I plan on taking a drive up the Blue Ridge Mountains and watching the birds while listening to his favorite tunes. I'll have his favorite dinner that night (steak) and drink an Amstel for him. I think that he would like that, and I think, or hope, it will bring me comfort.

We Visit Him at the Cemetery

As told to us by Liz Rosenthal Weiss

I go to the cemetery to see my dad around Father's Day, if not on the actual day. It's nice to spend that time with him. My son was born after he passed away—he's still so young, so I don't take him with me, but I'd like to once he gets a little older. He is very aware of who Grandpa is. There is a picture of him in my son's room that he kisses frequently. It's a really beautiful thing to see.

Hilary Young Author

Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.

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