How do I deal with my father's deathday
and Father's Day?

I am in the process of reading your book, When Your Family's Lost a Loved One. My dad died of heart failure after a weeklong stay in hospice. The problem I am having is that he died on my birthday. I read in your book to anticipate the death days and about being open to doing something to honor him that day, but I guess my question is how do I go about celebrating my birthday next year knowing that my dad passed on my birthday? How will I make it through my birthday in good spirits remembering what happened that morning in hospice?

Also, I am a youth minister at a church currently. I am wondering how I tell my church that I do not want to go to church on Father's Day as I am unsure that I can even make it through that day let alone go to church on that day and sit through a Father's Day sermon.

I am so sad with you over the loss of your father. I know it hurts deeply and pervasively.

Obviously you have a lot of fear and anticipation of these important days being very difficult for you. I think it is natural and even wise to anticipate that these will be difficult days and prepare for them.

There are two important things you need to embrace as you anticipate your birthday next year and Father's Day this year.

  1. Gratitude. The antidote for these days being only agonizing is gratitude—choosing to thank God for your Father, for the long life God gave him, for giving him to you, so many things. Focus on nurturing gratitude. Speak gratitude to God for what he has given. Think gratitude. Think of whom you could spend time with who would also like to remember your dad. Who could you thank who made his last days more comfortable?
  2. Focus on others. Rather than turning into yourself to nurture your pain, think through how you can be a blessing to others out of this broken place in your life, and then pour yourself into that. Father's Day may be very hard and it may be appropriate that you don't go to church that day. I suggest you don't ask not to go but that you ask for flexibility. Don't determine that you can't face the crowd that day. You may wake up and feel grateful for your dad and want to figure out how you can honor him uniquely on that day as you reach out and love others who are hurting on that day. Make a list of everyone in your church who has lost their dad this year and send them a card or plan to speak to them letting them know that you remember this is their first father's day without their dad. Think through the men in your church who have never been able to become dads and let them know that you recognize it may be a hard day for them. Send a note or speak to the dads who have lost a child. In these ways, and whatever other ways you can think of, focus on others and you will find yourself comforted in the process.

I hope that helps. It certainly doesn't fix the pain. But these are the things that have helped me on these hard days.