Seven Ways to Support a Bereaved Dad on Father’s Day

Holidays are hard on bereaved parents’ hearts.

Even though our children are always on our minds, holidays act as megaphones, amplifying the missing, sorrow, grief and lost opportunity to build more memories.

So it’s particularly helpful when friends and family step up and step in, showing extra support on and around those extra hard days.

Here are seven ways you can bless a bereaved dad this Father’s Day:

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE IN THEIR GRIEF

Sometimes friends and family let their expectations of how parents should grieve and for how long influence the quantity and quality of the help they’re willing to give. I can’t emphasize enough that no one outside the child loss community really understands how very, very difficult and how very, very much time it takes for a parent to even wrap his or her mind around the fact their child is truly gone. Instead of pushing or pulling a grieving dad forward, simply accept where he is, meet him there and let him take the lead in conversation, activity and whether or not he can join in a Father’s Day celebration.

LET YOUR FRIEND KNOW YOU’RE THINKING OF THEM

This is probably the most important and the simplest way to make a difference in a bereaved dad’s life! I know we all get busy and let days and dates slip by. But set an alarm on your phone if you have to as a reminder. Send a text or make a call. Tell him you haven’t forgotten he will be missing his child and wishing his family was complete this Sunday, especially.

SAY THEIR CHILD’S NAME

As the years go by it is often more and more unlikely for a parent to hear their missing child’s name spoken aloud. Yet it’s something we all long to hear. Sometimes friends and family are afraid that mentioning the child will make a dad “sad” or “remind him” the child is gone. Trust me, “sad” is something he feels often and he never forgets. Knowing someone else is willing to remember too is a great blessing.

SHARE MEMORIES OR DO SOMETHING TO HONOR THEIR CHILD-IF YOUR FRIEND IS READY

Not every grieving parent wants to talk about their child though many do. And even if they are ready, they may not want to talk about him or her right now. Pay attention and let them lead. If a bereaved dad is receptive, share a memory or photograph you might have of his child. Write a card and include details of how his child influenced your life. There are many ways to honor a child’s memory on important dates: make a meaningful donation, place a book in his honor, add to a foundation or scholarship that bears her name or send a small token that speaks of a child’s interests or personality.

SUPPORT SURVIVING SIBLINGS

Surviving siblings can be forgotten mourners. Grieving parents are frequently caught between their own needs and the needs of the children still with them. Child loss changes everything-for the whole family. So when friends come alongside and encourage and care for surviving siblings it helps everyone. Our family’s first Mother’s and Father’s Days were spent in company of friends of our children. It took a huge load off me and my husband to know the day was still special without all the focus being on us.

ENCOURAGE SELF-CARE

Grief from child loss is so overwhelming that often parents find themselves in a downward spiral where self-care is practically impossible. Even parents years into this journey sometimes say holidays and milestone days bring back the intense feelings of those first days. When that happens we need friends and family outside our immediate grief circle to help us find a path out of the darkness. Father’s Day is a great opportunity to offer a dad a healthy meal, take him on a hike or fishing expedition, or just sit and watch a ball game.

STAY IN THE PICTURE

Everyone gets busy and it’s completely natural that over time people forget days and dates. But Father’s Day doesn’t necessarily become easier for bereaved dads over time. So don’t assume because it’s been years that a dad isn’t still in need of extra support. Commit to checking in and helping keep his child’s memory alive.

Sometimes we just don’t know what to do for a grieving friend and often they aren’t able to express what might be helpful.

I hope these seven suggestions encourage you to try.

Father’s Day 2021: Bereaved Dads Need Support Too!

I’ve written often about how important friends are to our grief journey. They can encourage, provide practical help and simply by their presence remind a heart that darkness and despair is not all there is.

Men need friends who will step up and step in. They need masculine examples of sharing and caring.

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How : NPR

They need grace and space to unlock the chest of emotions that they sometimes keep tucked away and hidden from their family because they think it’s their job to “be strong”.

So if you know a dad whose child has left for Heaven, reach out in the next couple of days before Father’s Day.

Read the rest here: Don’t Forget Dads!

Be Brave. Ask A Hurting Heart What It Needs.

I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place:  I say things I might not have said before.  I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before.  I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.

I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.

So I ask and don’t assume.  

If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.

But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.  

Read the rest here: Ask Me, Please.

Don’t Forget Dads!

Like it or not the stereotype often rings true: women emote and men clam up.

I see it play out every day in the online support groups to which I belong. If you check the member list there are quite a number of dads in the mix but it’s exceedingly rare that one of them posts or comments.

I get it. I’m a wife and mother to three boys (now men). All of them are better at compartmentalizing difficult situations and pushing down emotions than I am.

When I have something heavy on my heart it almost always spills out and splashes across everything else.

They, on the other hand, will sit on sadness or anxiety or the never-ending missing that makes up child loss/sibling loss until it finally becomes more than even their iron-clad emotional chests can hold.

Even then they often weep in private, mourn in secret.

That’s unfortunate because it means they are frequently forgotten in society’s rush to comfort parents whose children make it first to Heaven.

Much is made over bereaved moms and Mother’s Day. There is even an International Bereaved Mother’s Day on the Sunday before Mother’s Day (U.S.). I (and others) take that opportunity to have a separate day to think about, mourn and celebrate the life of my child gone too soon.

But dads kind of get short shrift.

While there IS an International Bereaved Father’s Day ( August 29, 2021), it’s nowhere near as well-recognized as that for moms.

I’ve written often about how important friends are to our grief journey. They can encourage, provide practical help and simply by their presence remind a heart that darkness and despair is not all there is.

Men need friends who will step up and step in. They need masculine examples of sharing and caring.

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How : NPR

They need grace and space to unlock the chest of emotions that they sometimes keep tucked away and hidden from their family because they think it’s their job to “be strong”.

So if you know a dad whose child has left for Heaven, reach out in the next couple of weeks before Father’s Day.

Take him fishing. Go for a ride. Tackle a project together.

Be a safe place for them to let their guard down, to open up, to release pent up emotions and (possibly) frustration.

Dads grieve too.

Don’t forget them.

We All Need Sheltering Trees

If you’ve never been caught short in the midst of an unexpected downpour you might not know how important refuge under the boughs of a cedar or oak tree can be.

Living in the middle of woods, punctuated by open pastures, I’ve retreated more than once to the safety of thick boughs which limit the rain’s ability to soak me through.

I have memorized every safe haven between the road and the middle of my 34 acres.

Faithful friends are like those sheltering trees-offering respite to a weary heart, providing a safe space to take a breath, granting protection when we are pursued by the enemy of our souls.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was a mess.

Most folks that brushed shoulders with me in public might not have guessed but those who knew me well saw me devolve from “got it together” to “don’t even know what I should be getting together”.

I was utterly devastated.

Some people were repulsed. They either couldn’t handle my ongoing neediness (a week or a month on the prayer list ought to be enough according to them) or they simply found my presence too uncomfortable a reminder that bad things happen regardless of how “good” you are.

But there were a few…a precious, precious few who refused to go away. They showed up and stayed.

It didn’t matter if they had any remarkable insight or help or “solutions” to my heartache.

What mattered is that they bent over my broken heart and provided shelter.

We all need sheltering trees in the storms of life.

And I am beyond thankful for every single person who is brave enough to bear the brunt of evil winds to provide that shelter.

It’s YOUR Story-Don’t Hold It In

We all have a story.

So often we try to hold it in lest someone think less of us for sharing. But that’s not helpful-for us or for them.

Everyone needs validation. Everyone needs to know they are not the only person on the planet that hurts in this particular way or thinks this specific thought.

Whenever I choose openness I nearly always find that another heart comes alongside to say, “me too”.

And isn’t that really what we all hope for? Compassionate companionship?

We CAN hold some of it in.

For awhile.

In certain circumstances.

Read the rest here: You Can’t Hold It In, So Let It Out

So What Can I DO? Show Up.

I absolutely understand how it feels to be frozen between “I want to DO something” and “I have no idea WHAT to do”.

It’s where most of us find ourselves when we hear of a loved one compelled to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It seems pushy to force help on a fragile heart and yet it feels cowardly to stand by while that same heart struggles to complete all the tasks necessary surrounding death.

So what can a caring friend or family member do? Start by showing up.

I remember the morning I got the news and as the sun was coming up, a truck pulled down our lane.  It was Robbie-our “adopted” son.  As soon as my oldest son (who was in WV at the time) got the call, he called Robbie.  Because he knew I would be able to bear Robbie’s presence and accept Robbie’s help.  

I cannot describe the relief I felt when he came to the door-another shoulder to help carry this burden until we could gather all our family together to lift it in unison.

And after him came a couple we had known since the kids were little. 

Both rushed to our doorstep to offer companionship, practical aid, listening ears and simple reassurance that though this was NOT a dream-oh, how I wanted it to be a dream!I was not going to walk this Valley alone. 

They stayed until my husband, son and parents had made it here.  I will never, ever, ever forget that gift of unconditional love and time offered just when I needed it most.

Read the rest here: What Can I DO? Start by Showing Up.

Befriending A Grieving Heart Is Hard Work-But We Need You


I’ve thought a great deal about friendship since losing Dominic.  I’ve been blessed by those who have chosen to walk with me and dismayed by some who have walked away.

It takes great courage to sit in silence with those who suffer. We must fight the urge to ward off their pain with chatter.

Quiet companionship requires that we allow our hearts to suffer too.

For fifty years I was on the “other side”-the one where I looked on, sad and sometimes horror-stricken- at the pain and sorrow friends or family had to bear.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: Being a Friend

It’s A Family Thing: Helpful Tips For Interacting With Bereaved Families


I firmly believe that our friends and extended family want to reach out, want to help, want to walk alongside as we grieve the death of our child

 I am also convinced that many of them don’t because they don’t know how.  

It may seem unfair that in addition to experiencing our loss, we also have to educate others on how to help us as we experience it, but that’s just how it is.

The alternative is to feel frustrated and abandoned or worse.  

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Helpful Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families

A Few Brave Souls


I was absolutely overwhelmed in those first days.

Cars, cars, cars filled my long driveway and front yard.

People spilling out like ants scrambling after the hill is disturbed.

Oh, our hill was disturbed-knocked wide open by that deputy’s visit.  Phone calls to let others know.  Phone calls from people who couldn’t get in touch with him and were just checking “in case something had happened”.

It had happened.

Read the rest here: Who Steps In? Who Walks Out?

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