Every year, it always starts with one ad. The simple words of, “this Father’s Day, give your dad the gift of…” instantly transport me back to a time before my dad’s death.
It was near the end of June. I was laying in bed, half asleep, when I got the weird feeling that I was forgetting something. I grabbed my phone and checked the date, not sure what it was. After a moment of staring at my bright screen, I was jolted awake with realization: It was Father’s Day!
I jumped out of bed and quietly rushed into the other room, grabbing two or three pieces of paper to make a card out of (I usually messed up once or twice before I got it right). I went back into my bedroom, grabbed some colored pencils, and sat down at my desk.
“Funny cards for Father’s Day” was my first search on Pinterest. Then, after not finding something I liked, I started frantically searching: “Funny cards for dad” “Funny cards” “Cards for parents.”
After a few minutes, I’d find a good idea, and transfer it onto my paper. After messing up at least once and having to start over, I’d draw a picture and write a sweet note, with inspiration from my Pinterest search. About 20 minutes after this, I would be all prepared for Father’s Day.
I’d then go back to bed until I heard movement downstairs, which would then prompt me to go and give Dad my card. He would always laugh (at the jokes in the card, not at my terrible artistic attempt), give me a hug, and then open a present from all of us that I got partial credit for but had never seen before. After all of that, we’d go to do our own separate things.
That’s what Father’s Day was in the past. A fun day that I always forgot about until the morning of. Now, though, I can never seem to forget about Father’s Day until the day-of, and it’s all because of one word: ads.
Last week, I was halfway through a YouTube video when an ad popped up. Normally I try to ignore ads, but this one instantly caught my attention. “What are you getting Dad this Father’s Day?” I closed out of my YouTube app and got onto Google.
“When is Father’s Day?” I searched this quickly, and stared at the result when I got it. I’ve never been great at remembering dates like that, and I hadn’t realized how close Father’s Day was. Another Father’s Day without Dad, I thought. This sucks.
It was upsetting, to say the least. Another year of not waking up on Father’s Day, making a card, taking partial credit for a present, and seeing my dad.
This realization was hard, but after a few minutes I managed to get back on YouTube and distract myself with my video. Except… a few hours later, I got another Father’s Day ad. And another. The next morning when I got on the news I was suggested an article of things to get my dad for Father’s Day. I got on a website and got a popup about a Father’s Day sale. Everywhere I went suddenly was talking about Father’s Day, which was a painful reminder to me that I couldn’t celebrate with mine this year.
There are tons of painful reminders like these ads everywhere. There used to be a big billboard where I live for the funeral home my dad went to, which would make me sad every time I passed it. But, unlike many of those reminders, those ads pop up everywhere, even when you’re least expecting it. What I’ve realized is that the actual day of Father’s Day isn’t the worst part for me - it’s the days leading up to it.
While there is nothing I can do to completely stop seeing Father’s Day related things, as they become more relevant each year the closer we get to Father’s Day, there are a few things I’ve done to make this experience a bit better.
Whenever I get an ad on YouTube I make sure to ask not to see it again, listing that it is irrelevant. After doing this a few times, I’ve drastically dropped the number of father related ads I’ve seen. While I haven’t tried this on other services, I’m guessing this would work with most websites that have ads.
I also try to avoid all news related to Father’s Day. As soon as I see a headline that involves the word “father” I stop reading it, and scroll further down on my news so I can read something else. I also try not to view these articles so they won’t be suggested to me in the future.
You can’t avoid everything Father’s Day related, though, and I found that just sitting down and processing the fact that I won’t be with my dad on Father’s Day did make me feel a lot better. By thinking through this, feeling my pain, and just acknowledging how hard it’ll be, I haven’t felt as sad lately when seeing these ads.
Days like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Grandparent’s Day are just a few of the extra hard days during grief. While there is no perfect solution for grief, taking a step back for a moment and spending time with yourself can really help you, especially when things like Father’s Day are coming up. Sometimes you have to take time to not be okay so you can become okay.
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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Pawel Czerwiński.