Go in with a plan.
In the week leading up to the holidays, be sure to get plenty of sleep and exercise, says therapist and grief expert Claire Bidwell Smith. “When we’re in good physical shape, we can better regulate our emotions,” she said. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can take a toll on your mind and body, and that exercise can improve mental well-being.
Mr. James has noticed that he is unusually irritable on vacations that remind him of his daughter. “Set expectations with the people in your life about what these days mean to you and why you can’t be yourself,” he advised.
Think carefully about how you want to spend your day, Ms. Soffer said. “Do you want to be invited to something, or would it be too difficult?” If your friends will be busy with their own families on Sunday, “ask them if you can hang out on Saturday so you feel like you still have a support system.”
There’s no reason you can’t honor someone who’s passed away, said Ms. Bidwell Smith, who still writes her dad a Father’s Day card, even though he died in 2003. Kristin Luna, 39, writer in Tullahoma, Tennessee, lost her father unexpectedly in January. She has begun to carve a place for him at the table on special occasions, with an Auburn University balloon in honor of her alma mater.
Celebrate however you want, or don’t celebrate at all.
Kacie Reed’s father was recently diagnosed with inoperable Stage 4 cancer and this Father’s Day “will probably be his last,” said Ms. Reed, 30, a stay-at-home mom in Greenville, South Carolina. However, due to her differing political views, “She hardly talks to me anymore,” she said. On a day that celebrates idealized father-son relationships, Mrs. Reed isn’t sure how to navigate a problem.
She is not alone. a 2020 Cornell University Survey of more than 1,300 people revealed that 27 percent of those surveyed were separated from a family member, with the most common fracture (10 percent) being between parent and child. “When we expect a family to be forever, or for parents to love their children unconditionally and vice versa, it can be difficult when that doesn’t play out in our real lives,” said Kristina M. Scharp, a professor at the University of Washington. that she studies difficult family transitions.