How to cope with estrangement on Father's Day

How to cope with estrangement on Father's Day

Father’s Day brings with it a crush of ads reminding us to treat one of the most important men in our lives to something special.

Commercials for cheese hampers and beer-of-the-month subscriptions skyrocket thanks to the assumption that everyone must, surely, have a dad worthy of such delights.

But what if you don’t?

Counselling Directory member Debbie Fletcher tells us: ‘We all have our own unique relationship with our fathers, based on a shared or sometimes an unshared history, so Father’s Day is not always a joy-filled occasion.

‘For some of us, it can bring up difficult and painful emotions, which are hard to ignore when everywhere you look you see the “perfect” father and child relationship.’

First, let’s break down some of those feelings before we get to tips on how to cope with them.

‘Feelings around estrangement can be complex, or surprising – sadness, anger, guilt, or even relief – can all come into play,’ Debbie explains. ‘Anger at the way you have been treated, guilt over cutting off someone who is struggling with something that makes them someone you cannot safely have in your life, or maybe sadness for the relationship you have slowly drifted away from.

‘For LGBTQ+ people, an estrangement that is tied up with a rejection of the sexuality or gender can feel particularly hurtful from someone who is meant to love you unconditionally.

‘It is important to remember that estrangement from unsupportive or even hostile parents because of who you are is not your fault – it is about their reactions and behaviour.’

Surrounded as we are by reminders that Father’s Day is coming up, these feelings can be particularly hard to handle for people estranged from their dads at this time of year, but try to remind yourself as often as possible that you’re not alone.

‘There are many other people who will be feeling a sense of loss, anger or grief,’ says Debbie, ‘and there may be support groups and communities you can join.

‘Don’t be afraid of sharing your thoughts and feelings about the day – whether in person or online.

‘If possible, share the day with friends; your “found family” can be a source of love, validation, strength and support. They are the people who you have chosen to share your life with, and that is just as valid and important as the relationships you were born into.’

It’s also a good idea to try to limit social media, where posts about dads will be rife.

‘Maybe consider using the tools available like muting words or opting out of Father’s Day emails to make this easier,’ suggests Debbie.

If you’re finding it all particularly hard to deal with, you might find therapy also helps.

Debbie says: ‘Therapy offers a confidential and non-judgemental space to help you understand and come to terms with the reasons behind the estrangement, enabling you to work through the difficult feelings that maybe holding you in a painful space and allowing you to move forward.’

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