We’ve all met people who absolutely shun Valentine’s Day because of its capitalistic undertones, with individuals expressing their concern over celebrating love or their loved ones only “one day of the year.” Likewise, concerns have risen over having only one month celebrating / acknowledging Black history, or one month celebrating the LGBTQI+ community – and it brings me to think about the other holidays / celebratory days that pertain to one day, and likewise may be triggering for many.
In particular, Father’s Day. As someone who lost their dad when they were nine years old, it’s been sixteen years of me turning a cheek to grocery store Father’s Day cards, and deleting the unsolicited emails coming in showcasing amazing deals on gifts to get your dad. Whilst my own experience with losing my dad certainly doesn’t warrant the world taking down the millions of celebratory ideas, concepts, and gifts for the holiday itself, I think there is something to be said around how to handle and deal with Father’s Day when your father is absent. Whether that absence is through death, choice, adoption, divorce, or other reasons, it doesn’t make the holiday any easier to face. Therefore, I wanted to make a brief tribute piece to those experiencing this, this coming weekend in particular.
I’ll be honest, I – like a lot of people experiencing the absence of their father – have somewhat become numb to the over saturation of Father’s Day celebratory marketing schemes. This numbness generally became the case when my grievance was dealt with, and via healing around the shock & the loss, the trauma transformed itself onto other aspects of my life. Particularly around areas such as the anxiety & sadness over the idea of the inevitable day I’ll lose my mum. Beyond that, the concept of “choice” within the realm of Father’s Day marketing schemes really didn’t become apparent, until the other week. I knew I could turn my cheek again & again to the cards, and adverts announcing “great deals!” But as for companies and brands actually reaching out asking if we’d like to opt out of notifications around this topic – it was unheard of.
This was when the British Heart Foundation sent out a mass email asking if we don’t wish to be disturbed by Father’s Day emails to kindly notify them by clicking a link. This has never happened to me in the sixteen years of growing through the grief, trauma, and healing journey. Never had a company, brand, or corporation reached out asking masses if they wanted to opt out of automatic emails regarding a holiday that may be sensitive or triggering for some.
For many, this holiday, and it’s marketing schemes, can be extremely painful. Within my own experience with my dad, it was a real privilege to have had such a great childhood with him. However I know for many, all too commonly, this isn’t the case. Therefore, these marketing schemes far too often can bring on additional trauma, bad memories, and can trigger anxiety ridden flashbacks. Companies, influencers, and publications, should use their platform to raise the discussion around this.
My advice for handling this holiday when your father is absent is to become mindful around what is around you. I say this because initially I thought a great idea was to say “stay home and avoid the masses” however, most planning and advertising happens at least a month in advance, and asking those affected to simply stay home to avoid this is ridiculous. So, I say stay mindful in an arena of aspects. Being mindful has you in control, it allows you to really work through your mindset and work through the hurt and the feelings that may arise.
- Stay mindful, and acknowledge the good around you. With the absence of your father did your mum and you build a significantly strong relationship? Did she become the “father figure” as well in your life? What can you do to celebrate her this holiday or celebrate other figures in your life who brought you up. Was it a grandma figure that helped raise you? How does this change the way you see parenthood and how you want to raise your children (if you want children)?
- Stay mindful and take note of what triggers you. Is it the Father’s Day cards in shops that are most triggering? Is it social media posts of people celebrating their fathers? If so, avoiding social media over the weekend perhaps is most realistic. In terms of avoiding shops, perhaps avoiding the card aisle is a solution and likewise maybe asking your friends if they’ve seen certain stores which are more saturated with marketing schemes, you can then navigate your way around certain stores. Likewise in terms of friends or loved ones, perhaps ask them kindly to not bring up the subject around you.
- Stay mindful, and if you do want to celebrate this holiday regardless of the absence, allow yourself to do so. Perhaps invite some family members around who have fond memories of your father or ask some friends to come around and celebrate with you. When I was younger after my father’s passing, we would make a single brownie for my dad as brownies were his favorite. It was like a tribute for him, a special moment of acknowledgement for him. Don’t feel silly for doing so – allow yourself to enjoy this day just like anyone else would.
- Stay mindful, and take this day as a day to heal yourself even more. More emotions and feelings of confusion, anger, abandonment and sadness are bound to arise more during these holidays. It may be useful to use this time as a way to channel your feelings and work through them. Learn from destructive ways that were detrimental to your upbringing, learn about the value of life, learn about what it means to bring someone up, learn about what it means to YOU in terms of being a prominent figure in someone’s life and what it means to you in terms of being a strong, positive and kind person in your life.
I personally am so grateful to be able to thank my mother for being the absolute best individual in my life, in my upbringing, and in my growth process. It’s an enormous feat to be both parents in a child’s life, and to likewise work and make a home that was safe, comfortable, and happy for all of us. As a child when you’d be asked who your role model was, almost like second nature I’d write my mum down (as I’m sure plenty of us wrote our parent’s down). However, through all my twenty five years of living, it has become more and more apparent that she really has been my biggest role model and the biggest inspiration for what a successful person looks like and in general who a good person is. My mum engrained it in me to live life with no fear – not that there isn’t nervousness within, but rather to not let that or fear stop me from living a life I am happy with. She pushed me to embark head first into new, scary and exciting adventures in life. I’m eternally grateful that she’s built this great life where we can grow together, learn from each other and heal with one another.
I hope to everyone that this piece resonates with, that you all can use this weekend as a reminder of healing, growth and reflection. In particular, on looking at, who we are, who we hope to be, and where we hope to be. In turn, as a friend, a relative, or loved one, really look inwards at your loved ones this holiday and check in on them. Through loss, grievance, death, or absence through choice, there is something massive to be said about the strength and resilience that it gives those it leaves. May we never become “hard” to the vulnerability that loss brings, but rather, may we become reflective and welcoming to introspective healing, no matter how hard or long it takes to get there.