Celebrating Father’s Day when You’ve Lost a Child or Father

Recently I did a webinar with the Open to Hope foundation about celebrating Father's Day when you've lost a child or father. You can watch the webinar below below.

About the webinar: Father’s Day honors fathers and celebrates fatherhood. Yet for fathers who have lost a child or father, the day can be difficult or painful. Join author Abel Keogh, Dr. Heidi Horsley and Dr. Gloria Horsley who will discuss how you can manage this holiday. If you are a father who has lost a child or someone who has lost their father, this webinar is a perfect way to start the journey toward hope and healing.

Widower Wednesday: Father’s Day

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the Dating a Widower concept covers. I’m talking comments through the end of the week so chime in if you have an opinion.


Sunday is Father’s Day. Though most recognize it as a day to honor the fathers in their lives, what many don’t know is that the mother of Father’s Day was one Sornora Smart Dodd, who organized the celebration in 1910 to honor her widower father.

Dodd's mother died in 1898 while giving birth, leaving her father, William Jackson Smart, to raise Dodd and her five younger brothers (including the newborn baby) on a remote farm near Spokane, Wash. While attending a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, Dodd decided that fathers deserve the same recognition.

That’s right, the modern Father’s Day movement was started to honor a widower who did his best to raise six children on his own.

Despite its’ roots in widowerhood, Father’s Day can be one of those days that many women are unsure what, if anything, should be done to recognize those widowed fathers that they’re dating.

Recently, I exchanged emails with a woman who wanted to recognize the herculean effort of a recent widower who was now raising a young child by himself but worried about overstepping her bounds. She tossed a few ideas my way and wanted to know if I thought any of them would work. I didn’t know what to tell her because I didn’t know the widower. Instead I advised her that she knew the widower better and me and to think of something that he would appreciate.

The key to successfully celebrating Father’s Day and just about any other special occasion is knowing that person. Every widower is different and each has his own things that he likes or doesn’t like to do. For some Father's Day might have been a big deal. For others little, if anything, might have been done to celebrate it. So some widowers might appreciate a small gift or a letter expressing your appreciation. Others may like to go out and catch a movie. Still others (like me) may want to spend a day at home with their kids and putting steaks on the grill. Some may not want to do anything.

If you don’t feel you know the widower well enough to guess, talk to him about it and ask what he’d like to do. See if he has any plans and, if he doesn’t, suggest some possible activities. Go with the flow and make sure you’re doing your best to make the day special for him the best you can. If you do that, odds are it will be a good day for both of you.

However you decide to recognize Father’s Day, at the very least be sure to let him know how much you appreciate how he’s handling everything on his plate. And you may also want to let him know that Father’s Day was started by someone who appreciated everything her widowed father did to raise her. That fact alone might make the day a little more special.


Note: Grace Golden Clayton is sometimes credited with organizing the first Father’s Day celebration a few years before Dodd. However, Dodd’s celebration was more modern and she also worked tirelessly to make it an officially recognized day. To the victor go the spoils.