Coping With Father’s Day. ~ Erica Cohen

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While Father’s Day may be a joyful and celebratory day for many, it can also be a time of grieving, anger and pain for others.

Individuals who have experienced a strained or painful relationship with their father may find this “holiday” as a difficult reminder of previous years or current struggles. While these feelings may be true for you, there are many things that you can do on Father’s day (and the days leading up to it) to provide you with the healing and wholeness that you deserve.

Here are a few things to take into consideration as Father’s Day approaches:

Take time to reflect.

Allow time to contemplate what you needed to be different in your relationship with your father.

What main needs of yours were not adequately met?

Did you need safety, nurturing, love, unconditional acceptance?

Acknowledge these needs while allowing any emotion to arise. Attend to your heart—allow yourself to name, feel and breathe into these emotions. Attending compassionately to your experience with kindness and gentleness is a primary part of the healing process.

“Recognizing that we are suffering is freeing—self judgment falls away and we can regard ourselves with kindness.”

– Tara Brach, PH.D

Providing compassion towards your unmet needs and painful emotions is you nurturing yourself.

Drop the control.

Are you holding out hope that things can be different with your father?

While it’s true that relationships can heal, it is important to acknowledge your intentions. Are you trying to fix your relationship to receive acceptance or love that you feel you did not receive as a child? Remember, you cannot control your father’s decisions, make him more available or change the past.

You can, however, accept and acknowledge who you are and the lifestyle you want to lead. Acknowledging unrealistic expectations is a sobering task, but it frees your energy to attend to yourself and your needs—while ultimately leading towards healing.

Remember that fathers are real people, too!

Fathers make mistakes and they struggle as well.

While this doesn’t justify any hurtful or abusive behaviors, acknowledging that your father is not superhuman is humbling. It provides a realistic lens to view your relationship with your father through.

Set boundaries.

If you are spending time with your father on Father’s Day, set realistic boundaries to provide you with structure and preparation. Making a time limit, meeting at a neutral location, or bringing a supportive friend or family member are all viable choices to make.

Please note—if your relationship is emotionally or physically abusive it is okay to say “no” to spending time with Dad. Do what is best for you! Look inward and acknowledge if this relationship is safe and healthy for you.

Forgive, for your own sake.

Are you allowing anger over your relationship with your father to control you?

Does it preoccupy your thoughts and bleed into your friendships and intimate relationships?

Do you wonder if you are turning out just like your father or seek out relationships with people similar to your father?

If so, it may be time to do some therapeutic work around forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not for the faint of heart—it is for those who are courageously seeking their life back. Forgiveness is in no way saying what the wrongdoer did is okay. Forgiveness frees your heart to let go of grudges and pain. Forgiveness allows you to move on to trusting, intimate and healthy relationships with others and yourself!

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

Do something soul nurturing.

If you are spending limited or no time with your father on Father’s Day, why not do something that you love? Go for a hike, eat at your favorite restaurant or get a massage. Intentionally allow yourself to be present and engaged in taking care of you. Painful emotions may arise during this time and that’s okay! Offer yourself compassion and tend to what needs attention.

Gentleness is key today.

Connect with others.

Allow yourself to be nurtured by others. Perhaps your father was not around physically or mentally to take care of you or connect, but that doesn’t mean that you are alone. Allow your heart to be open and receive. Love comes in many shapes and forms.

You are hurting yourself if you close your heart to everyone.

Remember, you are in control of your adult life! There are good and beautiful things that come out of hurtful relationships. Accept and be thankful that you are more resilient, compassionate and that you love deeper because of what you have experienced.

“The most terrible and beautiful things happen in life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”

– Cheryl Strayed

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The Elephant Ecosystem

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Erica Cohen

Erica Cohen is a therapist in Denver, Colorado. She believes that turning towards your wounds with compassion and gentleness is some of the most vulnerable and courageous work you can do!  You can learn more about Erica by visiting her website or by emailing her.

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