As Father's Day fast approaches, for those children who have experienced the death of a father this day takes on an entirely different meaning. Father's Day can be an incredibly difficult time for bereaved children but it also can be a day when they can 'celebrate' the relationship they had with their Dad and share lots of positive memories together as a family. For those young people whose father died when they were very young, it is also an important time to talk to relations and friends about their father and learn more about them.
For some children it might be tempting to ignore the day and just see it as 'a day to get through' while it appears like the whole world is celebrating with their fathers. However, for those children it can offer a great opportunity to reflect, revisit special memories and talk about their loved one.
As a society we find it very hard to talk about death and this can make it difficult for children who need to have their loss acknowledged and often find talking about their memories comforting. An adult's reluctance to talk about the death will prevent children asking the questions they need to know, so don't avoid the subject and be guided by a child's responses. All children grieve differently; don't assume a child who is quiet is managing their grief well, or a child who is outwardly happy is not struggling inside.
This Father's Day acknowledge the day – that it might be hard, but it can also be a day that is an opportunity to celebrate the life of their Dad. Ask a child what they want to do on this day, how they would like to mark the day and be led by them.
Some ideas might be:
• Make a Father's Day card to put in a special place (memory box, graveyard, mantelpiece).
• Watch a family film or Dad's favourite film
• Visit the graveyard or special place
• Play football or another sport enjoyed by Dad
• Ask friends and family to share some new memories
• Cook his favourite meal
• Revisit a day-out you experienced previously with Dad
• Look through family photos
• Create an online memorial website – www.muchloved.com
• Listen to Dad's favourite music
• Plant some bulbs or a shrub in a place that holds special memories of Dad
• Create a Father's Day Memory Jar
Every child's grief journey will be different and will continue to change over time. Remember, it's ok for children to be happy and it's ok for them to feel sad on Father's Day. Just be there for them at their own pace and help them mark this day in their own way.