Five Father's Day Grief Stories

Jun 16, 2024
Five Father's Day Grief Stories

Father's Day looks very different when you're grieving. For some, it's an agonizing reminder of an unthinkable loss - a dad who is forever gone or a child who won't get to experience parenthood. For others, it's the malaise of an estranged relationship or a fractured family bond. And for many, it's confronting the relentless heartbreak of dashed dreams around ever becoming a father.

We are honored to share a few of the Grieve Leave community's stories below. 

“Letter about Grief and Father’s Day to Grieve Leave. Sunday, June, 2024

Father’s Day is approaching and it would be common for this to be a “grief trigger” for many.

Regardless of age, how do we not think about our Dads, and our relationships to our Dads on such a historic and valued holiday? My guess is that members of the Grieve Leave community are so sensitive and supportive of each other around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because of the importance of those fundamental relationships. May Good Memories help all of us!

And there is one more aspect of Father’s Day that I wish to highlight: the Dads amongst us whose daughter or son died, and they are not here next Sunday. Like Christmas, birthdays and any other anniversary, Father’s Day without all of your kids is a bit empty. A pediatrician told me once, that when a child dies, regardless of age, you mourn their loss for sure. But you also mourn what would have been in the future: being best Man at the wedding, for example, or having a Grandchild. I was so overcome and broken by the tsunami of grief that happened when my Nick died at age 34 of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in 2018, that I did not start mourning the future events until much more recently. Oh, I miss him sitting next to me in Cameron Indoor Stadium , and I miss the T Bone steak he would make for me every Father’s Day.and I really miss what might have been.

My daughter, Rachel, missed him when she graduated from PA school, and no doubt, will miss Nick even more as life events happen. Selfishly, I am so so grateful that I had Rachel and her Mom to lean on in those early days of acute grief, and even more grateful that I get to watch Rachel grow and move along the life course. That bit of normalcy has been invaluable to me over the past 5+ years.

And I want to acknowledge my fellow Dads who have lost a son or a daughter, because I have an idea, just an idea, of what you might be feeling or thinking on this coming Sunday morning. For me, knowing that I am still Nick’s Dad, and still Rachel’s Dad is my largest source of comfort. I will continue to grieve, as we all do, because we never stop loving our Children. And I will hold onto that I am still Nick’s Dad. You are still your child’s Dad, too.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Tony Galanos

Nick and Rachel’s Dad“

“This will be my first father's day without my dad, Robert Collins. Last father's day he went into the hospital and stayed for a few weeks. He came home for just a couple days, went to a 4th of July party, and then went back in and died on July 6th, just a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday.  He was surrounded in love by family and friends. I will miss wishing him a happy father's day, and joking with him that if it wasn't for me (and my brothers), he wouldn't get to celebrate. 

My birthday is this week so a few times we shared the day. As a teenager, I was grumpy about it, but would gladly share father's day with him now, if it meant he was still here. I wish I had kept a recording of him singing happy birthday to me. I wish I just had more footage of him and his voice. We shared countless jokes, ones we made in the moment-usually puns- and ones we had together over time. They are gone now, those one liners that served as shorthand for our connection. 

One of the hardest parts of grief for me is just that, losing this point of reference unique to me and the other person. I was lucky to have a dad who liked to talk about his inner world and the way he made meaning of things. This is no disrespect to dads that play catch or teach their kids to change the oil. It's just that this was the dad I needed, and the one I got. He called it "exchanging vain philosophies" and wanted us to share with each other the way we think about life, and people.  If you understand someone, he said, you can't help but love them. 

I am glad for my father's sake that he is out of the bodily pain he experienced in this world. He was at peace with his beliefs and ready to go. But I am very tender for my own self, and trying to get used to the fact that I can never again try to make him laugh, or share what's going on in my life, or try between us to understand each other.  It feels quite a lot like floating around in space-no tether, no solid place to fix my eyes. I am trying to get used to something that doesn't get better. I am trying to imagine it can. I suppose that writing about it helps.”
- Mara Collins

This will be my first Father's Day without my dad, he died when I was 40 on a day that was special to us, I was born on October 7th but July 10th is my backwards birthday which will forever be known as the day my dad passed. He was my best friend and my favorite cheerleader. We had a connection like no other and I'd like to think that he's in his favorite rocking chair blasting George Jones hits waving to the new occupants in heaven”

- RuthElise Munoz

A Letter to Dad" by Debbi Dickinson (written July 25, 1994) 

This is a poem I wrote in memory of my dad (Henry Lundin) the day after he died. He died 7-24-94). I read it at his funeral service. He came to live with my husband (now ex)  and me shortly after my mom died in 1987.


"A Letter to Dad" by Debbi Dickinson (c) 1987

 Dear Dad,


Smiling through my tears

I remember the good times

we've shared throughout the years...

funny moments together

as "the three Musketeers.'


Telling you that the "D"

painted on our garage door was for "Dad;"

Buying us shirts to match;

filling up your bathroom with balloons

for no reason but to listen

to your colorful expressions

when you opened the door

Going back to your room, you'd run into more!


It didn't get any better than this -

dressing up at Halloween as a pair of pumpkins,

a trip West and the Florida vacations,

the Native American Pow Wow

where you danced in a circle

with the other vets;

going to the movies, Cubs games, the zoo,

reading the Sunday comics.


With me around, you always wondered "What next?"

I have to admit, I wondered that with you...

remembering the time we flew to Boston

and you launched paper airplanes at the "stews."


I remember the Senior trips -

to restaurants, shopping malls, museums,

country fairs and more...

books sales, antique stores,

the Ghost trip with Richard Crowe,

the Sr. Prom, and Jenny Jones Show.

I'll never forget the look on your face

when I took you to your first tea party!

You were such a good sport and took it with grace.

We laughed about if for days!


You smiled when Summer ate your new Florsheim shoes;

when the dogs woke you up by licking your toes

or grazing on your beard...

And the time when you tried so hard to make a sandwich.

You put your bread on the counter

and made the mistake of turning to get something else.

Natasha stood up and swallowed it in one gulp.

It took you a couple of more attempts

to figure out where the bread went.


You didn't get mad when you wanted to nap

and all 3 "grandpups" charged past

and sprawled out on your bed

and you had to sleep somewhere else instead.


Your presence is all around me.

I'll think of you whenever I see

eclairs, Chinese food, apple pie, oatmeal,

fruitcake, squirrels, geese, and the number 13...

"It follows me everywhere," you used to say.

Yes, even to your last day.

I wonder if you planned it that way.

Add up 7/24, the year '94,

or the hour you died -9:40 p.m...

and there's your 13.

Again and again,

there's a trend.


Purple was a joke with us -

your favorite color - NOT!

With love, we chose that color

for flowers at your Wake

and lit purple candles

to celebrate your life...

we still had memories to make!


Thank you for always being there

when I needed you,

for the love that you gave,

for all that you were

and continue to be,

for all that I am.

Help me to believe

that this darkness will fade

and tomorrow will dawn.


Though you have gone to be with God,

we can never really be apart.

You are forever in our hearts.

Your love is alive.

Beyond our "goodbyes"

memories survive.”

- Debbi Dickinson

On the Grieve Leave Instagram, we asked: “What are you grieving this Father's Day?” Here's what our community shared:

“My dad just passed in May. Going to my parents’ house will never be the same.”

“I'm grieving the loss of my father who died of Brain Cancer August 5th, 2023.”

“My dad. Celebrating him, with him.”

“This is the first father's day without my dad and it's a hard one because I miss him dearly.”

We also asked: “How do you feel in your grief this Father's Day?” And you really opened up:

“Empty. Suffocating. Breathless. But grateful for all of the Father's Day before this one”


“Bittersweet and lonely”

There's no one-size-fits-all for how Father's Day grief hits. The common thread? None of it is easy. Grief doesn't follow any logical schedule or checklist. It has its own rhythm that demands to be felt, whether you're "ready" or not.

So if this Father's Day opens up all those huge, hard-to-put-into-words emotions, be generous with yourself. Don't fight the feelings or try to neatly contain it. Give yourself room to feel it all, without judgment or an agenda to "move on."

Just know that the Grieve Leave community sees you and we're holding space for you today and every day. 

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