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Father’s Day Without a Father


What happens when you’re a new parent but missing your own father? Within four days, Eric became a proud new father — and a grieving son. If you’re struggling with grief and loss on Father’s Day, we have suggestions for making the day a little easier.

Eric (not his real name) and his wife were expecting their first baby, a son. Eric’s father had a massive heart attack two days before the baby was born. He could no longer breathe independently and remained unconscious, but Eric could still show him his first grandson and namesake. Two days later, Eric, acting as his dad’s power of attorney, made the tough decision to remove him from life support. 

Eric’s experience of his father’s passing is more dramatic than most, but many of us have stories of pain and loss surrounding our fathers. Whether your dad passed years ago or recently, was absent for most of your formative years, or you have a strained relationship, Father’s Day can be an emotional hurricane.

Invite Father Figures to Spend the Day

Stepfathers, foster dads, uncles, grandfathers, and close family friends can make Father's Day meaningful in various ways. The idea isn’t that you replace memories of happy celebrations in the past or pretend that grief isn’t valid. Instead, consider it a unique and loving way to help those coping with grief or separation.  

Father figures and other positive role models can make a big difference in making Father’s Day less painful. Here are some ideas.

Express Appreciation from Afar

If you live too far away from the special kids in your life, you can still impact them on Father’s Day. Call, text, or video chat with your nephews, nieces, foster kids, stepkids, or grandchildren (or honorary ones). Let them know how much they mean to you. (Sending a heartfelt letter is lovely, too.) Share memories and stories that highlight their importance in your life.

Celebrate Family Bonds

Organize a family gathering or outing to celebrate Father's Day. Plan a picnic, a barbecue, or a day at the park where everyone can come together and enjoy each other's company. Use this opportunity to strengthen family ties and create lasting memories.

Offer Mentorship

Take on a mentorship role by spending time with your younger family members. Share your knowledge and skills, whether it's teaching them a new hobby, offering career advice, or simply being a listening ear. Your guidance can have a positive impact on their lives.

Share Family History 

Use Father's Day to share stories, photographs, and mementos from the family's past. Sit down with your younger relatives and recount tales of their fathers or grandfathers, providing a deeper understanding of your family's heritage and values.

Activity: Download and share “Remembering Dad” 

Create Personalized Gifts

Consider creating or purchasing personalized gifts for your nephews, nieces, or grandchildren. This could include photo albums, customized artwork, or handwritten letters expressing your love and admiration for them. These thoughtful gestures can be cherished for years to come.

Engage in Activities They Enjoy 

Plan an activity or outing you know family members or friends would enjoy. It could be a fishing trip, a round of golf, a movie night, or any other activity that aligns with their interests. Organizing and participating in these activities shows your support and creates meaningful experiences.

Offer Assistance

If the families or friends in your sphere could benefit from help, it could be as simple as helping with household tasks, running errands, completing home repairs, or providing babysitting services. Showing your willingness to lend a hand demonstrates your care and support.

Volunteer Together

Participate in community service or volunteer activity, perhaps for an organization or charity that their late dad supported. Spend part of Father’s Day helping others. This shared experience can foster a sense of togetherness and instill the value of giving back.

Father's Day is a time to celebrate and honor the important male figures in our lives. Whether you are an uncle, stepdad, grandfather, or someone who cares, your love, guidance, and presence can make a significant difference and contribute to a meaningful Father's Day celebration.

For more suggestions on Father’s Day grief, read “Remembering Dad on Father’s Day.” 

Grief Support from Tulip

Tulip has an entire section of expert advice guides to help you cope with grief, including:

Anticipatory Grief: When a Loved One is Dying

Can Music and Art Help with Grief and Loss?

What Funeral Directors Know About Grief (And You Should, Too)

Can You Actually Die From a Broken Heart?

How Gratitude Helps Us Heal

Tulip’s 12-Month Grief Support Calendar

You’ll also find grief support resources at Cake, our partner for online end-of-life planning.  

Additional Online Resources

  • – one of the most established online grief support groups for parents, children, teens, spouses, partners, and friends who have lost a loved one.
  • The Dinner Party – a worldwide community of people in their 20s and 30s who support each other at virtual dinner parties and online forums.
  • Other’s Day – an Instagram community for people who feel left out of traditional parent celebration days, like Father’s Day. 
  • Camp Erin – offers in-person weekend camps for children and teens ages 6-17 who are grieving the loss of a significant person.