When Father’s Day Isn’t Happy

Sad Boy

Father’s Day is a day where people all over the world take a day to celebrate the fathers in their lives, wishing them all a “Happy Father’s Day” while social media is flooded with pictures and posts of all that fathers do for their kids and their families. It really is a happy day for so many people. But I’d be lying if I told you that I was super happy today. To be completely honest, I’m really a little bummed out today. Not because I didn’t have a great dad. It was actually the opposite. He wasn’t perfect (no dad ever really is), but he was there, and he was a good dad. My dad was always there for my brothers and me. He always wanted to be at every game, every event, every band concert, you name it. He was there. When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate it too much—I was a little embarrassed if I was completely honest. But looking back, I appreciate it so much. Dad, if you’re reading this. Thanks for that.

But still, I’m a little bummed today. I’m bummed because I think about all the people in this world whose Father’s Day isn’t a happy day, and I know plenty personally. For many people, their fathers aren’t there or were never there. Maybe he just recently passed. Maybe he died early on. Maybe he left. Maybe the mom never knew who the dad was. Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that he’s not there. For people who fall into this category, feelings of grief, regret, confusion, and bitterness can come creeping in and can create a day that is anything but happy. It may be a weight on their chest that they carry throughout the day as they hear “Happy Father’s Day” at every turn. A weight that they may carry all year, but it becomes almost unbearably heavy on this day.

For some, their fathers may have been in the picture physically, but maybe they were absent emotionally or were abusive. This can sometimes be harder than having a father who wasn’t there at all. I would imagine that, for people that fall into this category, childhood was filled with a longing for their father’s love that was so close to being possible but never materialized. They may have seen their dad every day, but they never felt that he loved them. Instead of love, they may have felt fear. They may have felt insecure. For them, Father’s Day could bring up feelings of anger, sadness, or low self-worth—anything but Happy.

Then there are some guys out there that may have had great fathers, but have yet to find themselves in the position of being a father themselves, even if they’ve been trying. Father’s Day can be tough for men who haven’t been able to have kids of his own. Maybe he and his wife have walked through miscarriages in hopes of having their first baby. Maybe they found out that they wouldn’t be able to conceive at all. I think about them when I see “Dads eat free” signs at restaurants. I think about them at church when the pastor asks for all the fathers to stand. I think about them when I hear people wishing them a “Happy Father’s Day” and they have to constantly respond with, “Oh, I’m not a father” as a constant reminder throughout the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we stop giving free meals to dads, or stop wishing dads Happy Father’s Day, or stop having them stand to be acknowledged and praised in church. I think dads deserve all the praise they’re given on this day. However, I think we need to be aware of the fact that this day isn’t always happy for some people. For some, it might be the hardest day of the year. With changed awareness comes changed perspective. And with changed perspective, oftentimes comes changed actions. If you have people in your life whose Father’s Day isn’t happy, reach out to them. Be with them. Acknowledge them. Their story matters too.