Marking Father’s Day

It’s hard to miss the numerous reminders for Father’s Day.

Every supermarket and card shop are advertising it loudly in their window displays. Even clothing stores are selling ‘number 1 Dad’ t-shirts, and food shops have an offering of cakes, chocolates and sweets with slogans like ‘Dad, you’re the best’.

I remember forty years ago when I was a child, it would be more than easy to miss the Sunday of Fatherly celebration, because it was not such a ‘big thing’ in our culture. But as with other celebrations in our British calendar, like Mother’s Day, we have ‘gone big’ on marking this day for Fathers. And taking the opportunity to set aside a day to remember fathers is a great idea.

Acknowledging the reality

However, it is important that we remember that there are men in our communities who will not be wearing a ‘Dad, you’re the best’ t-shirt, or for whom celebrating fatherhood is not simple or straightforward. At Care for the Family we are all too aware of the complexities of Father’s Day, because the reality is that for some men, there are no feelings of celebration.

For some this will be a day of loss, mourning the death of a child. A day of dashed hopes, for those longing for a child. A day of strained relationships and anxiety as couples experience infertility. A day of disappointment, at the prospect of never becoming a father. A day of grief for those who have lost their father. Many of these men will be carrying their experiences privately, so we may not even know the extent of the heartache in our midst.

And so, how do we offer support to those for whom Father’s Day is a challenge, and join in celebrating with those for who, the day is a joy? There are wise words in the Bible that perhaps could help – ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’.

We all know that life brings both discouragements and encouragements, times of sorrow and times of joy. I wonder if as families, in our friendship circles and in our communities we could take this wisdom and stand with one another, whether that is in rejoicing, or in mourning.

Mourning with those who mourn

In our families, or amongst friends, could we take the opportunity to speak about the significance of Father’s Day, talking about the full range of emotions that the men around us could be experiencing. With children, explain that the day can bring to some men in their midst feelings of sadness or confusion, even if they have never shared it openly. And of course, we cannot forget that Father’s Day may bring mourning for some children, young people and women too. In creating spaces where people of all ages feel noticed and valued, we can act on those words to mourn with those who mourn.

Are there opportunities within your community to acknowledge the often silent struggles that people experience on Father’s Day? Could you support a baby loss charity, champion fostering and adoption, or send a card to someone you know will feel a particular loss this year? At Care for the Family our Bereaved Parent Support offers help to those who are living with loss to discover hope for the future and the strength to rebuild their lives and the lives of their families.

Are we able to offer practical support to those who have lost children or parents? What opportunities are there to visit, to meet with, or to simply sit with, those who will be apprehensive about Father’s Day? Often just being with someone, without speaking words, without giving answers, can be the most powerful acknowledgement of their pain. As individuals or as a group of friends, could we proactively commit to supporting people long after an initial loss or struggle, remembering that their pain will not reduce on the Monday after Father’s Day?

Rejoicing with those who rejoice

And what of rejoicing? We exist to support families in the difficult times and the good times. Often in life, and in our communities, we experience both at the same time. Therefore, along with mourning with those who mourn, it is entirely right that we should rejoice with those who rejoice.

I saw a card in a shop this year that said ‘You are like a Dad to me’. What a wonderful acknowledgment that being a father does not need to be restricted to those who are birth or adopted fathers. Being a father figure is an immense contribution to a community, and there are many children, young people and adults who will benefit from the care, concern and wisdom shared by these father figures. Let us not forget these father figures this Sunday, perhaps we could even take the opportunity to tell someone the impact they have had on our life.

On Father’s Day we can sensitively acknowledge fatherhood, giving thanks for the children in our midst, and celebrating the lives of all men. May we stand with those in our families, friendship circles and communities, rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn.

Gill Lyth

About the author

Gill Lyth is Care for the Family’s Scotland Representative. Her particular interest is in speaking about mental health through her own experience of living with it, and in reducing stigma around it. She lives in Dunfermline with her husband and two children.

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