As Father’s Day approaches, many of us are looking forward to pulling out the barbecue and cracking open a few cold ones with our old man. Maybe you’re making your annual trek to the cottage for father’s day weekend, or perhaps you’re planning a meal with all his favorite foods. Whatever your traditions are, you’re likely preparing to celebrate and thank the man who raised you. To reminisce on old stories and memories you’ve made with your dad over the years, and to simply spend some quality time with him. Some of us, however, are approaching the holiday with a certain amount of dread. A father’s day without a father is no holiday at all.
Father’s Day without a father can be difficult, no matter how many years your dad has been missing from your life.
Getting Through Father’s Day Without a Father
This year will be Samantha Charleston’s fifth father’s day since her dad passed away from metastatic lung cancer at the age of 62. Nearly six years later, she is still struggling with grief but has learned a few lessons since her loss.
The first of those lessons is that it’s okay to let go. Grief has taught her many lessons about control, namely that she can’t outpace heartache, nor can she do anything to change what happened. She can’t bring her father back, nor can she change the way he suffered.
“What I can do is absolve myself from trying to fix the unfixable. There is extraordinary relief in letting go. The good news? Grief and growth are good friends.” 
Charleston also learned what it truly meant to be of service to someone while her dad was dying. After assuming many of the duties of a caregiver, she was the one feeding him, giving him his medications, and helping him to the bathroom- much like the way he used to help her as a child.
During his last moments on earth, all she could do was try to make him comfortable, and make his final days the best they could possibly be. This time taught her the profound power of giving, and she suggests that for others who are grieving a loss, reaching beyond your own to-do list and providing for someone else can be an effective way at side-stepping anxious thoughts or emotions.
“Lose yourself in the gift of giving, caring, loving, and living for something or someone.”
Finally, she suggests building your “tribe”. A tribe could include family and friends, whom you rely on for support, or could mean a good book, a delicious, home-cooked experimental meal, or your favorite music.
Since the death of her father, Charleston likes to listen to some of her dad’s favorite music, to make her feel closer to him.
“I hold the people, places, and things he loved close to my heart and at the top of my mind so that he’s never too far away, no matter how many Father’s Days come to pass. I talk about him to anyone who will listen. I share his stories proudly in hopes of lessening the weight of my own.” 
How to Celebrate Father’s Day Without a father
Father’s day can be a very triggering time for individuals who have lost their fathers. It can be difficult to prepare yourself for the possible ambush of grief that you are facing, but there are some ways that you can make the day special, and easier to get through.
- Do something in memory or honor of your father. This could be donating to a charity in his name, planting a tree or a memorial garden, or making him a memory book.
- Buy him a card and write a note to him, thanking him for everything he’s done for you. The physical act of writing in a card can help you to observe the holiday in his memory.
- Tell stories. These could be stories he told you or stories you remember about him. You can write them down, share them on social media, or tell them to your friends and family at a gathering- whatever helps you to feel like his memory is being kept alive.
- Prepare a family meal with some of your dad’s favorite foods. You can invite others over, make a toast in his name, or even set his place at the table to really feel his presence.
- Do an activity that you used to enjoy doing with him. Maybe that’s tossing a ball back and forth, going on a hike, and watching the game. Whatever it is, engaging in that activity might help you to feel closer to him .
If you’re someone who has never had a father in your life, or if your relationship with your father was strained, you can use the holiday to honor other people who have been father figures to you. You can also honor the other fathers in your life who are doing a great job, like your husband, your brother, or a friend .
Any holiday can be difficult after the loss of a loved one, and Father’s day without a father is no exception. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone you trust, and be kind to yourself. No matter how long it’s been since you lost your father, that feeling of grief may still, at times, feel just as strong as it did the day he died. There is no rule book on grief, and remember that the sadness you feel is a sign of the amount of love you had, and that love can never be taken away.