18 struggles of a fatherless Father’s Day: Navigating bereavement as a uni student

If you’re grieving, here’s a list of things you may relate to

Father’s Day – a day for celebrating the dads who have been pillars of support, sources of wisdom, purveyors of endless, albeit inappropriate, jokes. However, for those of us grappling with the loss of a father figure, Father’s Day can bring a mixed bag of emotions.

Whether you’ve lost a parent yourself or want to know how to best support a friend, these 18 common struggles are a little too relatable for those who have also lost their dad:

1) The constant reminders

From TV ads, posters in shop windows, “opt out” Father’s Day emails (I already opted out last year), to people out celebrating on Sunday 18th. These constant reminders can seem like Father’s Day is out to get you.

2) Away from family and home

Separation from our loved ones can leave us feeling isolated in grief. Leaning on our friends, self-care, regular video calls and making plans before the day might be necessary.

3) We don’t know how to mark it

Do we go to our dad’s favourite place and light a candle? For a special meal? A movie? Or do we just stay in bed all day with our comfort jelly cat and a Domino’s deal?

4) We try to ignore it, but it won’t go away

Equally, we might opt to ignore. Avoid the card aisle in M&S for the weeks leading up. Opt out of those reminder emails (I wish it worked). Take a social media break. You know the drill. Whatever we do, we might find our efforts to ignore the ‘F word’ are futile.

5) Our uni friends may have never met them

Reminiscing about our dad’s cringe jokes, his 3am cornflake snack sessions, or when he jumped off the stage at your primary school ‘parents’ night’ and broke his knee (not at all aimed), might just not hit the same if your uni friends can’t share these memories.

6) Other people celebrating their dads

Friends might have Father’s Day commitments or be reminiscing about their present dads. As much as we want to celebrate with them, good friends will understand when we need to take a back seat.

7) Coping with social media

Every year we log into Instagram to hundreds of snaps of people we don’t even know with their dads, another painful reminder.

8) Triggered memories

Father’s Day present vs Father’s Day past. Memories might be triggered by this significant day, back when our dads were around.

9) We don’t know how we will feel on the day

No matter if we’ve lost our dads or not, we can’t always prepare for what emotions Father’s Day will bring to the surface.

10) We might feel numb

If you’ve spent your Father’s Day desperately trying to squeeze out a single tear to prove that your inner being isn’t an emotional void, you’re not alone. It’s completely normal to have an emotional ‘switch off’.

11) Or completely overwhelmed with emotion

On the other hand, if you just can’t seem to stop the flood, I promise you’re just as normal.

12) Pressure to celebrate our mums too

After losing our dads, our mums may have taken on the role of dad too. Father’s day is also for our mum, and we want to make her feel special.

13) Difficult family dynamics to navigate

We know all too well that everyone processes their grief differently. Tensions can arise on Father’s Day when everyone has different ideas on how they want to celebrate. And, breathe…

14) Coping with other’s well-intentioned gestures

Some of us like grand gestures of support, though a three-course meal at the Ivy might seem overboard for most occasions. Though sometimes overwhelming, most gestures are coming from a place of love.

15) Our friends may want to be there, but don’t know how to be

Often, we just want our friends’ gentle company, rather than words. Someone to sit there when you cry, or keep you distracted. Communication is key, and our friends may need to be told how they can best support us.

16) A reminder of what we once had

Ultimately, Father’s Day is a celebration of all things “dad”, and we painfully miss ours.

17) A reminder of what we never had

Or if we didn’t have a present father figure before, it’s a reminder of what we’ve been lacking and that is just as difficult.

18) A reminder of a future without them

It’s hard to comprehend the reality of a life without our dads physically there. We can’t seek fatherly advice, wisdom, and reassurance. But Father’s Day is an opportunity to reconnect with the love for our absent dads, that is always there, and will never go away.

It’s Time is a charity that seeks to make the world a better place for young adults who have experienced the loss of a parent. They offer help guides, an online community, online meet ups and useful social media content for navigating parental loss.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, Calm (Campaign against living miserably) on 0800 58 58 58, and Student Minds online here. You matter.

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