Keene, New Hampshire – The experience of losing a father is a personal one, shaped by relationships and cultural influences, and as Father’s Day approaches, psychologist Dr. Lorraine Mangione offers ways for daughters to remember their fathers in meaningful and unique ways. Shaped by her own experience and the research she conducted with co-author and Antioch University alumna, Dr. Donna DiCello for their 2014 book Daughters, Dads, and the Path Through Grief: Tales from Italian America, she discovered many ways women incorporate their fathers into their lives long after they have passed.
“Acknowledging the love, care and support from our parents, in whatever way fits for us, at whatever our ages and their ages, sustains our relationships and can offer all of us a moment to reflect upon its meaning and value,” said Mangione, who is also a professor at Antioch University New England’s department of clinical psychology and director of practica. “However, there are many situations where memorial-focused holidays like Father’s Day do just the opposite, leaving people to feel more isolated and grieved.”
Results were compiled through conversations with 51 Italian American women about both the lifelong relationships with their fathers and the loss of them. They helped guide suggestions Mangione and DiCello offer for dealing with the loss and are applicable to any family or individual with a strong sense of culture, tradition, religion or spirituality:
- Integrate the memory of your father into your daily life. This doesn’t mean you’re living in the past, but rather you’re finding a way to maintain the internal relationship you’ve shared since you were born.
- Talk about your dad, even if he’s been gone for many years, and even if it’s emotional. This doesn’t mean you have to go to therapy. It’s simply comforting to have someone to share feelings with.
- Memorialize in large and small ways. One woman Mangione spoke to founded an academic scholarship in their father’s name; and another woman continues to prepare pasta and Swiss chard, a classic Italian dish, with unwavering adherence to her father’s recipe in homage to his memory.
- Speak with people who knew your dad. Old friends, colleagues and family members can provide a wealth of new perspectives and stories, strengthening bonds while adding new dimension to your father’s legacy.
- Remember the gifts your father gave you. Father’s Day can be an opportunity to toast your father and say, “this is a personality trait he gave me, and this is why my children are the way they are,” Mangione said. Find a way to meaningfully sit with the sadness, but also find and celebrate the gifts.
Perhaps most important, Mangione said, is accepting Father’s Day as an opportunity to spend time with your dad’s memory and reflect on the image of fathers in general, what they mean to you, and what your father means – and will mean – to your life as time goes on.
To learn more about ways to celebrate a life during Father’s Day and about Daughters, Dads, and the Path Through Grief: Tales from Italian America contact Lorraine Mangione at [email protected].