When Father’s Day brings painful emotions: A counsellor’s helpful tips

When Father’s Day brings painful emotions: A counsellor’s helpful tips

Father’s Day, celebrated on June 16, can be a great day to celebrate those who have fulfiled a paternal role in our lives, however, for some it can be a painful reminder of a difficult time or experiences. 

Chanel De Freitas, Licensed Professional Counsellor at Silver Lining Counselling Services, has some advice for those who may find themselves struggling with difficult feelings or memories on Father’s Day. 

“For many, Father’s Day is a day of celebration and appreciation, while for others who have experienced loss or strained relationships with a father or father figure, it may be a day that exacerbates difficult emotions.”

“If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone. Understanding your feelings and needs is key to coping with emotional distress that may arise around this time.”

Coping with feelings of loss, sadness and anger

De Freitas says it’s important to acknowledge, not ignore, one’s emotions. 

“Loss or strained relationships can bring up feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment and even a sense of abandonment. Allow yourself space to acknowledge and sit with your feelings.

“You might find yourself trying to balance obligations to celebrate with loved ones on this day while grieving the loss of someone special, or dealing with feelings of resentment or disappointment tied to a difficult relationship with a father or father figure. It’s important to remember that it’s perfectly okay to honor whatever emotions arise.”

De Freitas advises engaging in activities that support one’s emotional well-being and perhaps considering talking to a professional if the issue is a serious one. 

“Get in touch with your needs around this time. Do you need to feel closer to your father/father figure on this day by looking at photos or sharing memories and stories with loved ones? Perhaps it’s the opposite, where connecting deeply with your feelings might just be too painful- it’s okay to engage in activities and practices that nurture your emotional well-being and provide you with the support you need during this sensitive time.

“A session with your therapist, speaking with a friend or family who shares in your loss or experience, or another healthy emotional outlet, like journaling, may bring comfort or release.”

What are some ways to cheer up or improve one’s mood?

De Freitas says that it’s ok to acknowledge one’s feelings; you don’t have to force yourself to “cheer up”:

“I’d like to challenge the expectation to ‘cheer up’ when experiencing grief or dealing with complicated feelings about a parent or father figure on this day. Emotions are powerful indicators and we should listen to them!

“For example, what might your anger be trying to tell you?  “I feel cheated, or someone hasn’t met my expectations, my boundaries have been crossed”.

“Similarly sadness may remind us that we miss a loved one deeply, and we struggle with accepting their absence- these feelings are all valid and deserve acknowledgment.

“I advocate for a narrative around self care and nurturing the parts of ourselves that need attention. It can be challenging to show up or put on a brave face this weekend, so perhaps take a moment to check in with yourself: Do you need to stay in bed, spend time in nature, move your body, seek support from family and friends, or stay off social media today?

“Creating space for your needs can make a significant difference in how you navigate this time.”

Discussing difficult emotions with children

De Freitas says children who are having a difficult time at Father’s Day should be allowed to safely express their feelings and that relatives, parents or guardians can help by listening and supporting them. 

“Everyone processes grief and loss in different ways- this includes children. While we as adults may make efforts to lift children’s spirits and offer comfort, I think it helps to hold space for their emotional process as well.

“Allow them to safely express their feelings of sadness, disappointment or confusion around Father’s Day. Children are more emotionally intelligent than most may expect. Encourage them to talk about their memories and emotions, and validate their feelings by listening attentively so that they feel understood and supported.”

She also suggested perhaps seeking guidance from a professional if the child is severely affected. 

“I encourage a flexible and responsive approach to each child’s needs also. If they prefer quiet time or to engage in an activity that distracts them, respect their preferences. If a child is struggling significantly, consider consulting a child therapist who can provide specialized support and guidance.”

De Freitas said overall, it’s important to be kind to oneself. 

“Remember that your emotional experience on this day is valid. Relationships are complicated- and this includes parental relationships. Grief can also feel isolating when it seems like the world around you is celebrating.

“Remember that it’s okay to make room for what you need in the midst of making special efforts for the people in your life. Here’s to navigating Father’s Day with compassion and care for our loved ones and ourselves.”

For more information about Silver Lining Counselling Services, visit them online: https://silverliningcounsellingtt.com/ or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/silverliningcounsellingtt

  • PublishedJune 14, 2024