In my counseling practice, women and men often express that even though their dad was physically present he was emotionally unavailable. And they’re missing him to this very day. Some people might dismiss Father’s Day as a mere Hallmark card event. But the reality is that it’s an American cultural holiday that affects you if you’re dad’s missing or you’re missing your dad.
Secondly, rituals can be very helpful. The very first definition of the word “celebrate” in Webster’s New World Dictionary is “to perform (a ritual, ceremony, etc.) publically and formally; solemnize.” It doesn’t speak to joy until definition #4! Creating your own ritual honoring your missing dad and you missing your dad can be a meaningful healing step. People like you are so creative, so I know you’ll come up with just the right ritual for you. And here are some possibilities to get your creativity flowing.
If your dad died and he’s buried nearby, you can go to his grave. If he was cremated, you can go where the ashes were spread. Wherever you are you can talk to him and update him on your life and the lives of your family members. I’m sure he’d want to know. At your evening meal you can make a toast to his memory. You can tell your favorite story about him to family or friends. You can make a luminaria (a paper lunch sized bag filled half way with sand with a votive candle placed inside). Why a luminaria? Because it’s a symbol of hope. If children are missing their dad—a luminaria is a perfect expression of their love and loss. They can write their dad’s name on the bag and draw pictures. They can really personalize it. When the design process is complete, place the luminaria in front of your house (outside) or place it in your fireplace. To explore luminarias in more depth and to help children heal from loss read Angelina’s Prayer together as a family. It’s a story I wrote about a young girl who makes luminarias in the hopes that her MIA dad will come back home.
Another helpful ritual is letter writing. If your dad is alive, you’re not going to actually send the letter to him, so you are free to write whatever you want. This method is especially helpful if you feel anger or betrayal or other intense emotions that feel difficult to express safely out loud. But through the perfect privacy of letter writing you can express your emotions in complete safety on the receptive page. When you’re done writing, if you have a place where you can safely burn the letter (such as in a working fireplace or a barbecue pit) the act of burning the letter can be very healing. You are literally transforming the emotions and releasing the pain and suffering you feel into the loving hands of the universe.
If you cannot safely burn the letter, there’s a wonderful alternative. Get an empty plant pot and potting soil. Make a cutting from your favorite house plant, or if you prefer, buy a new plant. Put some soil in the pot. Then tear up your letter into as tiny pieces as possible. Put the shredded shards of letter into the pot. Add more soil. Add the plant cutting or plant. Add more soil. Water the newly potted plant. Put your plant in a place where it gets the sunlight (or shade) it needs. Tend to this plant. The letter has now become compost for the plant. It will over time become nutrients for the soil and vitamins for the plant. So what you thought was “bad” or “difficult” is transforming into sustenance for life. It is nourishing the plant and healing you.
Whatever approach you choose, please act on the one(s) that will help you make it a genuinely “Happy Father’s Day.”
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