Father’s Day & Kids Who Have Lost Their Dad

I just got an email from a children’s ministry leader asking this question. I thought it was something worth talking about here on the blog. I will offer some advice, but I also want to hear what you would say. Just leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Here is the question:

With Father’s Day approaching, I have several kids who lost their father to cancer about 1 year ago. How do I talk about fathers without hurting them more . Please any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

How To Help Hurting Kids At Father’s Day

This is obviously a very painful and hard situation for those families. But this kind of loss is not something that can be ignored or avoided. The larger questions of grief counseling also comes into play. Here are my suggestions.

1. Talk With The Mother About Your Father’s Day Plans

Communication can help, especially in knowing where the child is emotionally about the situation. Some kids deal very well with the loss, at least until they hit middle school. So, it’s a good idea to talk with their mom. Just tell her what you have planned and ask if there is anything she would suggest.

If appropriate, take the pastor and make a visit to the family the week before Father’s Day. This can be a great chance to help them move forward.

2. Acknowledge The Family’s Loss

If your church is small, or if the loss was felt by the whole congregation, this might be something for the pastor to address before the whole congregation. Sharing the grief with the church family is biblical and a simple way to show love. Just make sure there are no surprises for the family.

3. Consider All The Options

One mark of a good teacher is knowing the life situation of the learners. This does not mean to ignore father’s day, but to consider all options for the day. Use your best judgment, God has placed you into this situation and chosen you as his minister of mercy. Here are a few possible options. Chose one that seems to your context best and definitely talk with your pastor first:

  • Ignore the holiday. This one is extreme, but it should be on the table.
  • Focus on the fatherhood of God, especially for kids who don’t have a father in their homes. Make allowance for kids who don’t have a father in the home. This might mean avoiding specific applications or expanding the lesson to include grandfathers.
  • Directly celebrate the father who passed away, especially if you knew the man and have the mother’s support. Point the kids to the hope of the resurrection, the Gospel shows us that death will not win forever.

For more help, read our article on comforting a bereaved child. We’ve also posted ideas for Mother’s Day and children who have lost their mom.

What Do You Suggest?

Please share your ideas below in the comment section. You can also share your story if you have this kind of situation in your church.


  1. Lisa Allison says

    Yes I know this song so well. Thank you for reminding me. My life has been broken from being Fatherless and my children have all been fatherless.. I am so thankful that God has adopted my through Jesus to be His daughter. Today I realize a new level of brokenness and when I see my seventeen year old son disrespecting me and God and refusing to come to Him so he can be healed and continue down the path he is choosing I feel so helpless and full of regret and remorse. I have made so many wrong choices by not turning to God my Father and to see my children making choices of rebellion and hate while harming themselves is more than I can take. I know in my mind that God loves them (more and perfectly) and that we are all in rebellion toward God until we repent and turn to Christ, and I know that God is able and willing and desiring to heal my children, but it does not mean that it doesn’t hurt to not be able to help, and it does hurt when my children do not honor God or me but continue down this willful wild path that leads only to destruction. I know that we are all without excuse but each day, each moment, each minute I am surrounded by violent hateful words, my son’s misery and striving after drugs, alcohol, sexual fulfillment to fill the void that only God is able to fill. Oh God help!

  2. Whaea says

    as a children’s leader, I love the message of God being th heavenly father for all of us, provider, comfortor and friend. I still feel uncomftable about fathers day as several of our families have fathers who have been harmful to their families and are serving time, or have been fled from and are an ongoing black cloud over the families. WE pray for thse fathers , that the may come to Jesus, I dont really make a big song and dance about creating gifts etc for Dads- because to be honest theres only a handful still on the scene. Its just painful. Even if it could be a blessing to the fathers to recieve a reminder that their children still consider them a father, for many as victims of abuse at an earthly fathers hands, its inappropriate i think to have them make some cutsey craft. So we concentrate on God the father,And we celebrate mothers that are doing the work of two parents on mother’s day. I find it really hard to be honest.

  3. Delia Peart says

    Celebrating Father’s Day with children who have lost their father can be very painful. One way to help these children is to have them talk about the things that they enjoy doing with DAD and even to write him a letter about how things have been since he left, encourage them to be strong and let them know that their dad is looking down from heaven. As some one mention before, before you plan for father’s day find out from mothers how the child behave when one talks about their dad and this will help you to plan for the children

  4. Deirdre Banda says


    For you on father’s day what ever you celebrate
    Fathers have been here in times and seasons
    For you on Father’s Day that’s really great
    To remember you not just on this day but every day
    It’s father Day today for all fathers who have been
    Here and gone Your memories live on
    Fathers enjoy your children, draw them near
    Closer to you inside the heart
    Because they may think of you today
    Pick up the phone, and dial and say!
    Write a letter. You may be surprised with the reply
    A very special love for you
    Joyful Father’s Day
    Just for you
    With all the grace of God’s life to us
    Can bring on your special day
    Father’s Day is the time for thoughts of quiet reflection
    Memories of the year have gone by
    A Welcome smile
    Father’s Day is the perfect time to receive God’s grace
    Ahead for the new day
    And may a wonderful beginning and joy God brings aloud
    Thank you God for all fathers
    Remember God our Father in Heaven and Earth

    Happy Father’s Day
    ┬ęBy Deirdre Banda

  5. mary davis says

    You know, the song, “He Knows My Name” by Tommy Walker would be the thing I would teach ALL kids on Father’s Day. Hm. Guess I’ll bring my guitar to Sunday School!
    “I have a Father; He calls me His own.
    He’ll never leave me, no matter where I go.
    He knows my name; He knows my every thought.
    He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call.”
    What more could you give any kid on Father’s Day?

  6. mary davis says

    Oh, Cathee, I think the letters would be a sweet balm to those boys. Boys don’t talk so much, I know that well!:) But for you to gently remind them of how much Dad loved them would be great for them and probably for you, too! My youngest lost his dad at 12, and now I’m thinking (11 years later) that this might be something good for me to do as well! :)

  7. Valerie says

    7 Days ago my Daddy die on the 15th now i am really sad now that i keoo that i love my daddy but he is in heven waching over me.

  8. Frances Matthews says

    whatever child’s name and pending age,” sweetheart or child’s name, I know daddy is not here with us, but guess what, you are loved so much that I took this time out to tell you that Jesus and I think that you are one of the greatest, (and even though daddy is not present, we know that daddy still loves you very much). also Jesus and I want to spend some time with you to show you that you are really loved. So would you please take this time with me and Jesus to share and have some good fun?

  9. Zonia says

    We have MANY single moms in our church too and it’s difficul to talk to kids -who love their “distant” dads- about Fathers’ Day. I’m a single mother myself and what I always say to my son is that God is his father. That God is his big brother who will defend him, his father who will always provide, his best friend who always listen. When my son gets sad about his dad, I always explain that the best dad in the world is Giod and that HE will always be there no matter what. For now my son is only 11 years old and hope that all my talks about his perfect dad will still be in his heart for when he’s a teenager. I have no trick talks with my son, I just sometimes have long talks when he’s already in bed, we pray together and I pray myself that God will guard his little heart. Blessings.

  10. says

    I agree with Jeri. This is a great issue to begin dialogue about. I fear that Father’s Day has received less attention (reference to Tony’s previous post) because often we just don’t know what to do with children without dads – whether they have lost them to death or abandonment. We fear approaching such a sensitive topic and we don’t want to cause more hurt in the child’s life.

    I love the suggestion of focusing on the fatherhead of God. This is always a good perspective to take. Even if the father is in the picture, children need to know what their heavenly Father is like. And most often, if a dad isn’t following after God, children will form a skewed view of God as their Father. Only Biblical teaching on this subject can help them right those inaccuracies.

    Lastly, loving that hurting child and encouraging them is key. “Knowing the life situation of the learner” is the mark of a good teacher, as Tony said. Try to figure out the love language of that child and support them along those lines. That may be a small gift for one child, time spent together at a baseball game for another, or a card of affirmation for yet another (or some of selahV’s suggestions). And of course, every child could use prayer.

    One thing to keep in mind is to remember that child, even years after the loss. As Wayne said, that holiday was painful for him every year. It is going to be tragic for that child, especially if they’re asked to make an art project for their Dad during Children’s Church. (If art projects are going to be made, suggest that the child make one for a special guy in his/her life to thank him for his support – a pastor, a grandfather, a family friend, etc.)

    Whenever this holiday rolls around, just do something to acknowledge the loss and celebrate a life lived. Children need to know that their hurts are not forgotten. If they can receive that kind of support from us as followers of Christ, they will be able to understand the love of Jesus (or their heavenly Father) more clearly.

    I will be praying for wisdom for everyone as they approach these sensitive issues. Thanks for bringing this subject up, Tony.

  11. Cathee says

    My children lost their dad 9 years ago. They are all adults now ranging in age from 18 yrs to 27 yrs. I really like the balloon idea and I would do that even with my grown kids. Of my four children, my oldest is my daughter and the other 3 are sons. My daughter and I have spoken many times about her dad, but the boys just do not open up. And I did a google search of what a parent could do on father’s day for children who’ve lost their dads and found this site. I have thought about writing them letters reminding them how much their dad loved them and reminding them to be there “on the other side” when they leave this life, because I know their dad is in heaven. I truly am not sure if this would be more painful than helpful. Lately, I have been praying and asking God to heal their hearts from such loss and to give me wisdom with this.

  12. says

    Tony, these are good thoughts about an important issue to consider. I will pass this on to our children’s pastor. Your suggestions are great ones. I appreciate Bill’s reminder that children from broken homes are in a sensitive situation as well.

  13. says

    The first year after my granddaughters lost their dad due to an ATV accident, they made cement stepping stones and took them to the cemetery. Throughout the year they made him cards and took them there, too. They made little crosses that they took there and put at the grave.

    I would say that a little personal one-on-one would be so appreciated with your child who has lost a daddy. Take them for a walk, to the park and just ask them what was the most special memory they have of their dad. Take a helium balloon with you and let them write their dad a message of love and tie it to the balloon and then watch it be carried away into the sky. Say a prayer with the child. You will build an unbreakable bond that will last a life-time. Talk to them about how Father’s Day is not just a day for giving presents to Daddy. But it’s also a time to remember the best of your daddy. And as my 11-year-old granddaughter who lost her dad at age 7 said in the recent post she wrote on my Kid’s blog, “it’s okay to cry.” selahV

  14. says

    My mother died when I was six. I would like to offer some insight into how my church handled it, but I didn’t grow up in church so I can’t be much help there. In fact, by the time we started to go to church, I was already married and had kids of my own so I could celebrate my wife as the mother of my kids.

    That said, here is what I can tell you. Mother’s Day was a painful day for me every year. I really dreaded it, but I tried to use the time to think about my Mom and reflect on her life (all this prior to ever knowing Christ). Even today, at almost 40 years old, I still feel the lose every mother’s day even in the midst of celebrating with my wife and kids.

    All that to say this, the loss for this family is still very recent and must be dealt with gingerly. That said, I wish when I was younger that I knew there was someone like a children’s pastor or volunteer who I could talk to. I can’t really help with what you should do about the planning, but from experience I would say just be there for those kids. If they want to talk, let them talk. If they want to reflect, let them reflect.

    Also, looking back, the hope of Jesus would have made a significant impact in my life as a kid. I didn’t find Christ (more precisely, he didn’t call me) until I was 30. In those rough times dealing with my Mother’s death, I would have loved to have known the love of Jesus to comfort and console me. Assuming the father was saved, the most glorious gift you can offer those children is the gift of the resurrection.

    Barring extreme circumstances, I would not ignore the situation altogether. They will need to deal with it at some point, and it seems better to do it in a loving environment rather than somewhere else. The truth of the Bible is that we have an eternal Father in heaven who loves us so much more than our earthly fathers ever could. I feel for these kids that they lost their Dad, but they need to understand that they have another father that they can never lose and the hope of Jesus promises reunion with their earthly father (again assuming that he was saved) at a later date. God will work through the grief in their lives hopefully to draw them to him as their shield and their support.

    My prayers are with them.

  15. says

    This is a very good topic to bring up. It is easy to get caught up planning special things for holidays like this and forget how some holidays can cause people great pain.

    One point to address as well is how to address Father’s day in light of children who come from/live in broken homes. I know of some kids who really struggle on father’s day because their father has abandoned them. In such situations, it is the gospel brings comfort to those who are afflicted, but there is still an issue how it should be addressed.

    I am interested to hear how people address the issue of broken homes on father’s day as well as dealing with kids with a father who might have passed. Thanks for bringing up the topic.

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