When Father’s Day Hurts


For most people Father’s Day is made of sugary sweetness; of crayon-adorned cards and handmade gifts, of close embraces and tender words, ugly ties and lazy lunches and unapologetic kisses.

For most people it is celebration and affection and gratitude overflowing.

For most people it is their heart’s warmly-welcomed house guest.

But you are not most people.

For you Father’s Day is a fresh bleeding; the reopening of a persistent wound. It is an unwanted, uninvited rude yearly reminder of something beautiful you had and lost, or of a long-kindled dream that finally died for good.

It is a cruel calendar intrusion of regret and grieving and anguish—and it’s hard as hell.

I want you to know that someone understands.

I want you to know that I see your deeply buried hurt, the nagging pain you keep so well hidden, the steady stream of tears you wipe way in secret.

And I want to give you permission to feel it all today; every bit of scalding anger, every fist-slamming moment of heavy sadness; the full, crushing weight of all the loss—and I don’t want you to apologize for any of it.

There is nothing to be sorry for. You have earned the right to let the furious flood of emotion come without holding it back.

Let all of it out until there is nothing turbulent left, until the heavy sobbing ceases and you can finally breathe again.

And then, in that place where you feel too spent to move, let me give you something else; a gift that you freely receive without any shame or hesitation.

Let me give you whatever it is that you need this Father’s Day, that thing your soul most seeks.

May these words be for you, the call that hasn’t come yet or that one last hug you can’t have or the kind words you never received or the returning prodigal that remains out of sight.

For one brief second, feel lightness and rest and hope again.

But know too, that even your suffering is cause for gratitude. There is something to celebrate even in the sadness itself.

Your tears are a beautiful tribute to the ones you’ve lost; this pain, the measure of a heart that works as it is designed to; your grief, a heavy tax on loving so very well.

Even in the great difficulty of this day, let these things be stable ground beneath your feet as you begin walking again.

I realize that Father’s Day is not for you what it is for most people, but perhaps these words will make this one a little easier, a little less painful.

In some small way, may it recover and redeem this space in the calendar for you.

Today as any day, be greatly encouraged.


24 thoughts on “When Father’s Day Hurts

  1. Very touching and good for those who need affirmation that it is ok to feel. I imagine this is especially difficult for men sometimes.

      • that’s either very dry sarcasm or sick religion.
        Bringing these feelings to God and reconciling them in His Presence is what has healed many..
        if any one of us tries to make ourselves right in order to ‘please’ or be good enough;
        it is never enough.
        For this reason Christ came to restore us; He’s the healer, the mender of hearts & the broken hearted. You cannot nail yourself to your own cross; rather, realize it’s been done for you, and accept/receive that finished work. < This allows us to bring our imperfect selves, fully, completely, mess and all, into His presence, to be restored & made whole, to be 'heard' and allow our hearts to be healed.
        It is about finding that despite & aside from all other things that have happened,that God is Love and that Love is for / towards / available to us.
        I do hope that others here do receive or allow that to heal their/our/ my heart(s) for the sake of life, and the sake of other love in our lives being made more fully realized.

      • Feeling is not sinful. God FEELS. And He grieves. The shortest yet most revealing verse in the Bible is ” Jesus wept”

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  3. Thank you John.

    That part about the tribute… Yes.

    I am no longer allowed to be even a parent, but am instead called “engenderer” and “other” by children I… Well how to talk about how the smell of their sleeping hair sustained me, and stayed my hand. Sorry, cannot articulate that.

    I honestly thought your post would be the usual “chin up, Chum” post. I was truly blessed and edified by new thoughts.

    Thank you for that balm in Gilead ❤

    • My father died by suicide 3 years ago. Our relationship was a difficult one anyway, but to add the additional trauma of suicide makes times like Father’s Day even harder to endure. I am so sorry for your pain. I understand it all too well. You are not alone. ~Peace

  4. Tears flowing. “The one last hug you can’t have.” Father’s Day, Dad’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and the anniversary of the day he died are all tough for all six of us kids, especially the five who didn’t live close to him. It had been over a year since most of us saw him, and almost a year since I talked to him on the phone (his voice mail was too full to even leave a message, although I am certain the caller ID told him I had tried).
    Sometimes I am furious at him for choosing to not take care of himself, for choosing to live so far away and alone. Most of the time, I just miss him.

  5. I remember once standing at the card rack, scanning through the cards, trying to find something that didn’t use the word love, or thank him for being an awesome dad, or that was obviously too frivolous. In frustration, I blurted out, “where’s the card that says ‘gee dad, thanks for regularly beating the crap out of me'” only to have my wife haul me away because I was freaking out the other customers.

    I accept that my dad was unwell. I cherish that in his later years he has become a great dad and an awesome granddad. But I grieve the years wasted and the dreams unreached because he instilled in me a complete lack of confidence in my abilities, not to mention debilitating panic attacks. I still have troubles picking a card.

    • I feel your struggle. Mother’s Day is easier, because although my mother was negligent, as an adult I’ve accepted her. She has interests so I can pick out a gift that’s relevant but not mushy. Father’s day though…it kills me.

      My father made so many poor choices, as a man and a parent. He doesn’t like golf, he doesn’t have a “man cave”, or any other hobby. He likes drugs and young women, two things I can’t give him, naturally. So while everyone is picking out cool gifts, I struggle for weeks to find a card that isn’t too heartfelt…and some nice beef jerky.

  6. I’ve got 4 beautiful children and are blessed that they are still around and we have a good relationship. I love them wholeheartedly and are aware that there are also sadness, regret and pain out there. My prays and thoughts goes out to you. God bless

  7. My daughters are adopted. Their biological mother and I share a bittersweet history and unique bond. I always think of her on the “important” days; namely their birthdays and Mother’s Day. It is rare that I think of their biological father, perhaps because I don’t share a bond with him. This post speaks to me; it reminds me of his pain, which is no less real, and he needs prayers for peace on these days also. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words.

  8. Hello again, John. This is the other John, the missionary in Honduras. This post is especially poignant to me. I have a son who fathered four children by four different women.  He denies all but one, saying God told him audibly that the DNA tests are mistaken. Because I accept all my grandchildren, and intend to be a grandfather to them, it is now 13 years since I have been allowed contact with my son and his family (which now consists of his present wife and their two children, one of which is his fifth child). It was on father’s day all those years ago that I got an email from my son, saying never to contact them again. Thank God for the story of the Prodigal son, which gives me hope.  Your message both reinforces that hope and gives me some comfort for today. God bless, brother.John

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  10. Thank you so much for this post. It rests so kindly on my heart. I was in a marriage where my husband told me that I needed to get over it after it hadn’t been a year and that my grieving needed to end. There is no time limit on it. No one should steal that feeling from you. My father was my best friend and I talked to him like three times a day and when something exciting happened with my girls or with my day, he would be the first person I would call. People sometimes don’t understand that when one day you wake up and look at your phone or even dial the number and it isn’t answered ever again that it leaves a void in your heart. It is a deep dark hole for some and it should be allowed to be felt and recognized. We were only married almost two years but I am finally dealing with the loss and able to go through his things and remember all of the good times and am able to share it with people who love and care about me.

    Thanks again for your post. This made my day! 😉

  11. The father of my two daughters left when they were six years old. They are teenagers now and Father’s Day is not an easy day. They pick out cards for their grandfather and uncle, who have pitched in. But there is still the giant, gaping wound left by a father who should be there but isn’t. The mood is noticeably uncomfortable and painful when looking at cards from daughters to dads who stayed. My heart breaks for them.

  12. If you are referring to a parent taking their life, my condolences. As a child I was abused emotionally by my mother. The best ‘revenge’ was becoming a good one myself. Be the Great Dad you lost. All blessings to you.

  13. My father passed away in 1999. Just the other day I realized that all of the ads for “Father’s Day” weren’t hurting this year. My grief at this loss has finally moved to a place where it is mostly bearable. I don’t regret my grief. It just represents how lucky I was to have the father who raised me. I say that because I was adopted by this wonderful man and never for a moment considered him to be anything other then my father. I think I will finally be able to spend Father’s Day in gratitude for the gift I was given and not for the loss I suffered.

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