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How to Comfort a Child on Father's Day After a Father's Death

Updated on January 5, 2014
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Art Therapist

I spent several years as a grief counselor for children and teens at a hospice. I worked directly with families who were anticipating the death of a loved one, as well as support their grief process for years afterwards.

On father's day we would have a workshop for the children and teens who were grieving the death of their father. It was open to the community. Men volunteered and helped the children build a wooden kit making a bird house or the like. After the children completed their project they would light a candle for their father's and we will openly and compassionate allow them to talk.

Giving the children something to do on father's day helped with the feelings of being helpless in their grief.

Opportunities to Remember

It is important children and teens be allowed to talk about and have opportunities to honor the death of their father. While not talking may seem to offer protection and keep sad feelings away, it only masks what is really happening. Not talking about grief does not mean children are not actively hurting and grieving.

Through commemorating a child has the ability to express their grief appropriately. Children need to talk about the death of their father as they would with anything else that is bothering them.

By being a part of remembrance activities children learn that they are important members of the family and their grief process is a normal reaction to a significant loss like a father.

Father's day is a day to honor fathers. This is true for all father's alive or deceased. On father's day children get to can honor, reflect and remember their deceased father just the same as those children who honor their alive father's.

Express Feelings

Children, teens and adults have many similar feelings when a family member dies. However, the method of expressing the feelings maybe be different. Feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, hopelessness and helplessness can be verbalized by adults. While children may tend to act out the feelings behaviorally and some teens may draw inward. It is also common for children and teens to experience physical symptoms as a result of keeping their feelings and concerns inside.

Symptoms may include head and stomach aches and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

It is normal for these feelings and symptoms to resurface around holidays like Father's day.

Special occasions bring grief feelings back. Children and teens like adults re-grieve during holidays, birthdays and the time of year when the death occurred. This is normal and predictable part of the grief process for every family member and the occasions can provide healthy opportunities for you and your child to express thoughts, memories and feelings.

A loved one can help the child identify the feelings by saying, "I wonder if your stomach keeps hurting because you miss your daddy. I miss him too." Children and teens need to know adults also share their feelings. It helps normalize the process they are going through. "I feel that way too sometimes," can be very affirming to a child and can go a long way towards reducing feelings of isolation.

Source

Ideas To Remember on Father's Day

  • Make a Memory Book
  • Make a Memory Box
  • Plant a tree
  • Write a letter
  • Bring flowers, balloons, teddy bears to the grave
  • Go to the father's favorite restaurant
  • Light a candle next to their picture
  • Tell a funny story about their father
  • Write a letter to your father and tie it to a balloon or burn it as a way to symbolically send it
  • Visit a place where their father enjoyed
  • Ask the child what they would like to do
  • Go to a church service
  • Draw a picture of you and your dad doing something together
  • Make a photo collage video
  • Interview family members asking what is their favorite memory, make a video
  • Make the father's favorite meal together

Katie Couric and Elmo Talking about Grief and Loss

Recomendations

Understanding Children's Grief

  • No two children grieve alike.
  • Grief is a sensory experience for young children who often do not have the words to express their grief.
  • Children grieve in spurts, grieving in doses is healthy for a child, they can quickly change from being sad, angry to wanting to play, follow their lead.
  • Throughout the child's development the loss may resurface so it can be understood and integrated in new ways.
  • It is not until about the age of 7 do children understand the permanence of a loss.
  • Children may blame themselves for the death, thinking they could have done something to prevent the loss. Children may lack the ability to correct faulty thinking and may not every say words to let you know they are feeling this way. Let the child know they did nothting wrong and it was not their fault.
  • Regular activities and home rules help reassure children.
  • Recognize and support a child's need for both solitued and support.

Will your children be dealing with Father's day without a father this year?

See results

Remember you are not alone. There may be support groups in your area to help you or your children. There are even support groups available online.

Grieving.com has a grief forum and instant chat if you need additional support.

Carly Sullens 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 4 years ago

      This is the second time I'm reading this. Great hub. I used to make a card for my father and burn it so that it'll go to heaven, I thought :) Writing helps a lot.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you for stopping by and reading. I like the idea of burning your letter, I think I would add that to the hub.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Carly, you have touched upon a topic many will find useful as the day approaches. I only wish we never had to deal with such sorrow. Great job in covering this sensitive issue.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      So sensitively composed and I am sure that many will benefit from reading this gem. I now look forward to reading so many more of yours also. Thanks for sharing and have a great day.

      Voted up and shared.

      Eddy

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Eiddwen. I appreciate you stopping by voting up and sharing.

    • profile image

      Denizee 4 years ago

      Exceptional Hub on grief. I have experienced way too much sadness after the loss of my Mother, my oldest son and then my only sister in the span of one years time. My youngest sons father also passed not shortly after and as a woman who does grieve and will never stop grieving the loss of my 29 year old son - I thank you for your time and effort with what you've written out so carefully and with great insight in this piece. Voted up - Bless you

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Denizee, I am so sorry to hear the amount of grief and loss you are having to endure. I lost both of my parents in a short time frame and it is difficult. You have the right to grieve as much as you need. There is not 'getting over' the death of a loved one. We just try to integrate the loss into our lives as we continue to live on without our loved ones. Hubs.

    • profile image

      Denizee 4 years ago

      Thank you for your kind words. It is difficult and at some point we tend to find acceptance and a new normal way of living; my only continued heartache is of course the loss of my son. I hope to read much more of your Hub.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 4 years ago

      This is a great and resourceful information for those who have lost a dad. You have shared wonderfully the ideas and placed them together that inspires the heart. Shared, Up +++ and tweeted. :-)

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Jo, thank you for commenting. Grief and loss is hard enough. Having the information that is concise and is to gather it helpful for those who are in the throws of their grieving process.

      I appreciate the sharing.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      My father died over 50 years ago when I was only 6 years old. That's a grief that never ends, you accept it and live with it, but it's always there. Each year on Father's Day I look at the few photos I have of him, and share memories with those few others who still remember.

      I think I feel even worse though, for those who have no father to remember. There's a growing number of children who never had a father in their lives, some who don't even have the name of a man to grieve for.

    • CarlySullens profile image
      Author

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Sherry it is hard when your father dies, especially young at 6 years old. I agree, I do not thing grief ever ends, and you do have to accept it and live with it.

      It is hard for those who grieve a father they never knew or met. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story.

    • profile image

      Kris Simpson 3 years ago

      This year my 15 year old daughter will be spending her first fathers day without her dad. He died tragically on 7/8/13 trying to save a boy drowning in the ocean and she witnessed the whole thing from start to finish. I was not there that day so I have no idea what she is going through. I am trying to prepare myself for these upcoming months since his birthday is the same day as fathers day this year and then his passing will be another 2 weeks later. My daughter has been on an emotional roller coaster good and bad and I try to keep her centered but she does not care about anything anymore. I pray very hard that it will all come together one day for her.

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Kris, this sounds like a very difficult time for you and your daughter. Sometimes the anticipation of the anniversary's and father's day is wort than is actually experienced. I am glad you are writing about it and seeking support for her. Perhaps your local hospice has grief counseling for both of you or can connect her to other teens who are also grieving the death of a parent. My prayers go out to both of you.

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