Father's Day without a father?
June 16, 2011 6:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I help my wife cope with the death of her father during this Father's Day?

My wife's father died over a decade ago but it is still an extremely sore subject with her. He is buried in another country so we cannot visit the grave (note that her family is also in this other country). I feel at a loss as to how I can do anything for her but it's difficult to sit idly by.
posted by mcarthey to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to her about it? I would sit down and have a good discussion with her about how she wants the 2 of you to deal with it.
posted by TheBones at 6:58 AM on June 16, 2011

Mention it, but don't make her talk about it. Buy her some flowers. Just a "I know you're feeling bad today" sort of thing to show you care.
posted by three blind mice at 7:05 AM on June 16, 2011

I would say that it depends on the communication style of your wife: does she like to 'talk things out' or is she pretty direct and laconic? If it's the latter then I wouldn't try so hard when Father's Day rolls around. She may just want to not bring a lot of attention to the purpose of that day. You can confirm to her once that you're there for her if she'd like to talk, but I wouldn't press her on the subject again. If she's a talker then well, tell her soon (before the day) that you recognize Father's Day might be a tough day for her and that you'd like to support her by listening or doing whatever she'd like to do that day to make it easier. Saying the 'right' words to someone who's still grieving is always difficult, but just expressing that you're willing to just be there can be enough--it certainly helped me before when I lost a good friend recently. You seem like a very caring husband so I'm sure if you communicate your willingness to help she'd appreciate it and feel comforted. All the best...
posted by arizona80 at 7:11 AM on June 16, 2011

If you talk to her and she wants to "do" something, maybe fix a dish he liked, or do an activity he enjoyed.

My dad died nearly 20 years ago, and I still miss him at unexpected times. But I like remembering the things I loved about him, and the things we did together.
posted by emjaybee at 7:19 AM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, and I look forward to more. My wife is, in fact, not a big talker when it comes to this subject and often tries to hide her feelings and gets upset over little things when she's feeling this way. I try to be considerate but talking about it seems to only push her away. The problem is that (perhaps) being a guy I want to solve things and I like to talk these things out. She is quite the opposite. I may try to simply mention it and see where it goes. If I sense it going poorly I will let it drop.
posted by mcarthey at 7:25 AM on June 16, 2011

Everyone is so different it's hard to come up with the right thing to do without knowing your wife. The hard thing is I know some people say they don't like being asked how they want to be supported because sometimes people don't know how they want to be supported.

Which is confusing but understandable! I do think showing some small gestures that you are sensitive to how she is feeling is a good idea. And as much as you know your wife, letting her know you are there if she needs to talk about it, or if she has a certain kind of support she would like would probably be good. I'm sorry this father's day will be hard for both of you.
posted by xarnop at 7:33 AM on June 16, 2011

It's not something you can fix for her. She's still grieving the loss of her father. Be there for her silently and don't force the issue.
posted by inturnaround at 7:39 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My Father died two years ago. It is still quite fresh and painful. Like your wife, I am also not the type that likes to talk it out. It means a lot to me when my husband just gives me an extra long hug or a quick quiet shoulder rub and a kiss on the cheek, no words, just showing that he is there for me. He will also ask if there is anything he can do for me, in exactly those words. "is there anything I can do for you?" without bringing up painful subjects. Just his support and love really help me to get through the difficult days.
posted by citizngkar at 8:58 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My father died 24 years ago and Father's day is still hard for me. To complicate matters, my Dad died on June 19th, which means that every so often (like this year) Father's day and the day he died sync up.

Like your wife, I don't really like to talk about my feelings regarding the issue. It still hurts almost as much as the day it happened, and talking about it can be emotionally and physically draining. Even after 20 years, I cannot talk about him with others without crying - Actually I can barely type this without crying.

Depending on my current emotional state and everything else going on in my life, I have done different things on the day. Some years I've needed to stay home to cry and greive. Other years I have wanted to be distracted with fun and lighthearted things. Some years I want to be alone, others around people. What I have always needed from my husband on these hard days is his unconditional love and support. He does a good job with this. He is there to hold me when I am crying, to listen if I feel I do want to talk and when we are out doing distracting things, he's there for me if the sadness seeps in anyways. He is doesn't pressure me to feel a certain way and gives me a free pass on any not so stellar behavior. Now that we have a kid and he is a father, we do celebrate the day for him, but he understands that the celebration can be somewhat bittersweet for me.

So really, just be the supportive husband that you sound like you already are. If she wants to talk, listen. If she wants to cry, let her. If she wants to ignore the day completely - that is also okay. Extra hugs, kisses and shoulder rubs are always appreciated. The flowers suggested above may be a good idea. I would be touched at flowers from my husband on this day, but I am not your wife so you probably know a bit better if this is something she would appreciate.

I am sorry your wife is hurting, but I am glad she has a husband who wants to support her in the best possible way.
posted by Lapin at 10:38 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My father died four years ago. Still hard for me to talk about him sometimes. Definitely hard to talk about his death, and to talk about him at emotional times. What I appreciate most is just someone reaching out to let me know that they remember.

My family is spread out all around the world; one of the things my siblings and I do is make sure we contact each other in some way around my father's death anniversary. The one thing I hate most is when my husband tries to suggest any of the traditional death remembrance customs; my father hated them, so it makes no sense to do them in his memory. Be aware of those kinds of things.

I tend to agree with the folks who are saying just do what you know she considers supportive.
posted by bardophile at 1:25 PM on June 16, 2011

It sounds like maybe the big thing would be to be extra-considerate around the "little things." Whatever general affection you can provide is probably a good idea.

One random thought: I wouldn't go out to dinner on Sunday, might be a lot of people out with dads. I know that could make me melancholy, at least.

(Dad died 28 years ago, when I was a little girl, and his grave is out of state. I have my moments about it.)
posted by epersonae at 4:38 PM on June 16, 2011

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