Do you ever stand in the card aisle around Father’s Day, endlessly searching for a card that doesn’t exist because none of the cards on the shelf accurately describe your relationship with your father?

This used to be me.

Growing up, all the cards I saw said, You’re the most amazing father ever! You were always there for me! You did everything right!

None of these messages felt right. They didn’t capture my feelings toward or my reality with my father.

If Father’s Day is painful for you, you’re not alone. There are ways you can grieve, mourn, and honor the complex emotions this day evokes, which I share in this episode.

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

How Was Your Father Capable of Love?

I remember talking to my therapist, Bev, when I was a senior in college, lamenting all the ways my father wasn’t the father I wanted.

He had four daughters and wasn’t anywhere near #girldad status like we see on social media today. Yet, I longed for a warm and fuzzy relationship with him.

Bev said, “If you need your father to come in a certain package, you’ll be frustrated forever. He isn’t going to change. Is it possible we can shift your perspective about him instead?”

Curious, I asked her what she meant, and she gave me an assignment: to list all of the ways he was able to love me (his way).

The following week, I came in with this list of things my father did that made me feel loved:

  • He paid for my undergraduate tuition
  • He bought me a used car
  • He fixed my teeth
  • He always yelled, “Strap in!” when I drove away from his house

If your father was emotionally unavailable, can you think of how you felt loved by your father? Or the ways he was capable of showing love?

If you can’t (or you didn’t know your father), I invite you to try this next exercise.

Mourning the Dream of the Father You Wish You Had

The first step to healing is acknowledging your childhood experiences and honoring how you feel.

To mourn the dream of the father you wish you had, you first need to identify childhood disappointments with your father.

(By the way, when I say “father,” I mean whoever raised you. Maybe it was a grandfather, an uncle, or a foster father. Any father figure counts.)

After listing your disappointments, journal about what actually happened in your childhood, and then write about what you wish had happened.

Writing about our childhood experiences and wishes helps us honor our feelings.

Have compassion for the child you were and the adult you are because it is painful and disappointing when you don’t receive what you want from a parent.

It can also help to share what you wrote with a compassionate, trusted friend- someone who will simply witness you and listen without judgment and without giving advice (because you don’t need it).

Afterward, tear the pages out of your journal, light them on fire, and burn them safely. (If you can’t, just rip the pages up.)

This ritualistic burning is a powerful way to energetically release your past disappointments.

For all the details on how to mourn the dream of the father you didn’t have, download the guide here.

Understanding Your Downloaded Father Blueprint

Your unique father blueprint is the beliefs, values, ideas, and behaviors you learned growing up.

Societal norms influence us but the biggest influence is by our family of origin, and every family system has its own norms.

In my family, my sisters, mother, and I were all afraid of my father. We respected him in some ways, but there was a general lack of respect for men in my family of origin.

Several women in my family would say, “Well, that’s just how men are,” meaning, not great.

I grew up with this belief and later rejected it in therapy, but I had to honor my blueprint first to figure out what I needed to do to heal.

Download the guide for questions to deepen your understanding of your father blueprint. You may uncover some beliefs you weren’t aware you had!

4 Alternative Ways to Honor + Celebrate Father’s Day

These two exercises may help you navigate Father’s Day, but I have a few additional ways you can honor the day. See what feels good to you as you read them.

#1: Celebrate the Father Figures Who Showed Up For You

Instead of forcing yourself to be in a situation you don’t want to be in or trying to force yourself to be happy, celebrate an adult who was a positive influence in your childhood.

Who were the adults who showed up for you when you were younger? Maybe there was a teacher, neighbor, team coach, uncle, or grandfather.

Do something special to thank them for who they were to you, because the people who step into the vacuum an absent or not-great parent leaves for a kid are truly incredible.

Take them out for a special meal, join them in doing something they enjoy, or send them a note of appreciation. If they’ve passed, write a letter of gratitude to remember all the kind things they did for you.

The point is to focus on the love and care you did receive as a kid.

#2: Celebrate Your Partner

Are you a parent with a partner who is an amazing father or father figure to your children?

Then celebrate! Do something special with your children for your partner. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished together.

Choosing a partner who shows up for your kids is amazing, especially if you didn’t have this behavior modeled for you. Against the odds, you figured it out, and it is deeply healing not to pass a father wound onto the next generation.

#3: Practice Self-Compassion

Show yourself compassion on Father’s Day. This might look like staying away from the internet to protect yourself from Father’s Day social media posts and newsletters.

Instead, dial into your needs. What would feel soothing to you?

Do you want to be alone? With friends? With a pet? Plan the kind of day you desire, not the one anyone else says you ‘should’ have.

Self-compassion may also look like setting boundaries or asking for support from loved ones. Let people know this day makes you feel low. Say no to invitations you’ll regret agreeing to later.

#4: Journal to Honor and Remember

Maybe you’re feeling grief on Father’s Day because you had an amazing father who passed, and you miss him.

Journal through the grief. Write about your favorite memories. Gather friends and family and share stories to honor them.

Remember to download the guide for a list of all of these celebratory ideas and the exercises mentioned earlier.

I’ll end with this thought: if Father’s Day is difficult for you because you have a father wound, you can heal it.

You do not need a father or father figure to be present or involved to heal from it, either.

Want to learn more? Check out my Father Wound course, because in my experience, healing a father wound is one of the most profoundly liberating things you can do.

Father wounds crush our self-esteem and mess with our deeply held sense of self. I would be honored to guide you through the process of healing. ❤️

I hope some of these ideas resonate with you. Let me know which ones you might do in the comments or on Instagram (@terricole), and feel free to share how you spend Father’s Day if it’s painful for you.

I hope you have the most amazing week and as always, take care of you.

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    1. This would likely reinjure any old wounds and represent some kind of reenactment for you. Meaning, the father of your children might be bringing out an injured child within you that will represent any times your biological father was not present or caused you emotional harm. This is called transference, and I talk more about it here:

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