Celebrating Father’s Day without a father

Growing up, I always disliked Valentine’s Day. It always stood out to me as a day that highlighted those that were alone. Sure, when you had a valentine, it was great. But when you didn’t, there was an extra sting to the day.

While many consider Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day “Hallmark Holidays,” they are hard to avoid. Whether you are at the grocery store, on Amazon, or watching TV, there are constant reminders leading up to these holidays.

For many families, this is not an issue. But for others, it’s a day that causes uncomfortable feelings. For kids who have two moms or are raised by a grandmother, who do they celebrate today? For kids who have lost their dad, or have never met/known their dad, who do they celebrate? What about kids who are adopted? For some, the day is filled with loneliness, questions, sadness and rage.

Empathy first

As a teacher, I have always tried to be mindful about my words. Instead of saying, Take this home and show your mom, I try and say adult, caretaker, dad, grandmother, aunt, or mom — so no one feels left out. I don’t always remember, but awareness is always the first step to change.

Handling big emotions

I often expect my kids to handle their big emotions well. Currently feeling big emotions myself, I realize I have been asking a lot of them. Dishes, laundry, exercise, cleaning — all things I need to do. And what am I doing? Writing. Mack is sleeping, the big kids are watching shows and I am trying to process my emotions one of the most productive ways I know how.

A part of me wants to be throwing things and crying — essentially having a tantrum. I totally see the appeal and feel like it may actually be a good release (good reminder for when my kids need this release as well). While I’m all about feeling the feels, I also know that the same rules apply to me, You’re allowed to be upset, you are not allowed to hit. We have a punching bag in the basement for exactly this reason. You are not allowed to hit other people, but you are absolutely allowed to hit a punching bag. And I think that will be my very next move. Writing, naming feelings, and physical exercise. The only thing missing is fresh air.

So here goes: I am angry. I am sad. I am lonely. I am disappointed. And I am also grateful. While I feel absolutely robbed that my kids never met my dad, I am beyond thankful for the 29 years he was my dad. I would have liked 29 more, but no one asked me. Cancer doesn’t ask for permission.

Ironically, I was almost done with a post for this week about anticipating the unexpected after traveling last week for the first time in while. The first few years after losing my dad, I expected to be sad on Father’s Day. This year, I did not expect it. These tears felt sudden, strong, and sharp. They now have passed which reminds me that feelings come and go. In the moment, it’s hard to remember, but alas, I know I won’t feel this sad all day.

Taking Dr. Edith Eger’s advice, I choose not to spend the rest of the day feeling like a victim. I will get my physical exercise, time outside, and celebrate my husband. I will cherish the love for my dad. And if I am feeling sad to the point of tears again, I will cry. I will let my kids see that mommy is human and that it’s normal to cry when someone you love isn’t there.

~ To all of those who are also hurting today, you are not alone. ~


  1. Well said Jenny. It’s almost harder than a birthday, because it reminds us how amazing they were as fathers, and what we have lost. Thank God for His blessings and current realities, that push us back on track when the gloom overwhelms us. ❤️

  2. Loved and felt every word of this. Thank you for sharing your amazing self and amazing writing with us. ❤️

  3. Thank you for writing this. I feel the same way. You perfectly captured my feelings with your thoughtful words . Beautiful.

  4. Thinking about you Jenny and sending you a big hug my friend! Your vulnerability is inspiring ❤️❤️ Thank you for always being so real even when you are taking a deep dive into the most difficult feeling and emotions.

  5. So moving and thankful to have found this post. I went through a lot of similar feelings this past Father’s Day bc it was the first one since my dad passed from covid and it really hit home bc I’m also 29. Thank you.

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