The onslaught of greeting-card holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day can make you feel pressured to participate — even if you don't want to. But don't feel like you absolutely need to — here's why it's OK not to celebrate Father's Day, or Mother's Day, or any other day you don't feel like throwing a party for. Some of these holidays can be painful because they might highlight what you don't have, or what you do have but isn't worthy of celebration. If either of these things pertain to you, it's perfectly OK not to jump on the Father's Day love train.
I grew up with an absentee father who I reconciled with as an adult. But, shortly after we repaired our relationship, my father died. Because of these two things there are very few Father's Days that have made me want to get into the celebratory mood.
When I was a kid, my father forgot birthdays, holidays, and my general existence for years at a time. And, yes, it sucked. The scene in the TV show Parenthood when Amber's father gives her almost 20 years of birthday cards, in an attempt to apologize for not being around made be sob like a baby. And, you know what? It's OK to be sad on Father's Day, or any other day, about what you've missed out on.
"You do not have to force yourself to be happy," the blogger Live Well Worry Less noted. "It’s important to recognize the loss. It’s OK to grieve. To be raw, honest, and real."
Give Yourself Permission To Feel Sad Or Angry
Jonice Webb Ph.D. acknowledges that many people have complex, and even toxic, relationships with their fathers. While Father's Day might make you feel like you should get over it, resist the urge to minimize what happened to you.
"If your dad was abusive, toxic or mean during your childhood, has never taken responsibility for how he hurt you, and continues to harm you to this day, then you owe him nothing," Webb noted on Psych Central. "Focus on yourself and what you need. Father’s Day is your day to focus on yourself. No guilt allowed."
If your father has passed away, and you miss him dearly, Father's Day can be a painful reminder of this devastating loss.
"Losing your father is much more than a sudden emotional blow. It is the slow crumbling of any solid ground to stand on, a virus that dines on your confidence as you age," Mohamed Omar wrote on the Huffington Post.
For me, losing my father so soon after repairing our relationship was extremely difficult. While my father was not there during my much of my childhood, I eventually understood the circumstances that prevented him from being a present and engaged father.
Things like his own abusive childhood, and his severe PTSD from his time spent in Vietnam after being drafted in 1968, left him mentally unable to cope. And, after I was able to understand my father I was able to forgive him.
For me, Father's Day is when I mourn the loss of my father's life on every level. As a kid he and his sister spent six months in an orphanage while my grandmother was in the hospital. Since my grandfather grew up in an orphanage, dropping his kids off at one seemed like a normal thing to do.
When he was barely out of high school, my dad was drafted, and spent a year in Vietnam engaged in a war he could never forgive himself for. I mourn the chances he didn't have to live a happy and engaged life, or to receive proper mental health care for his PTSD, and I mourn the father he might have been to us if things had been different for him.
If you don't want to celebrate Father's Day, consider taking a day to practice self care instead. Get a massage, see a movie, go out for a nice meal, or just stay home and marathon your favorite show.
Share Memories With Family & Friends
If you have positive memories of you dad, this might be a good time to get together with family and friends and share stories.
You don't have to do an epic monologue about your dad like Lorelai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, but sharing old memories, and making new ones, can be a way to make the day less painful.
One thing I have started doing, not necessarily for Father's Day — but in general, is to take a piece of my dad with me when I travel. My brother and I each got a thimble of ashes after the funeral, and for years I simply kept mine on a shelf. Then, one day it occurred to me how much my dad loved to travel, but he never really went too many places after he came home from the war.
Since I happened to be traveling a lot, I started taking the thimble with me. And, I also gave it to friends to take with them. My roommate recently went on a trip to Vietnam, and I asked her to take the ashes because I felt that by a little piece of him going back to where he experienced so many wounds (emotional and physical) it might help heal a cosmic rift, and close the circle on that chapter in his life for my family.
Do What's Best For You
Whatever you choose to do for Father's Day, make sure it's your choice. It's easy to feel pressured to follow the herd when you feel like the black sheep, and it's important to listen to yourself and make the decision that's best for you.
I get it, and even if other people don't understand, I am behind your choice — whatever it is — 100 percent.