Suncoast Hospice Bereavement Counselor Dwight Douglass

Sometimes, it’s the little things we remember about our loved ones that have the greatest meaning.

Remembering Dad

One dad persistently saved everyday items he thought might someday be useful. He stored bread ties, paper clips and batteries in drawers in the house, remembered his wife and mom of their six children.

After the dad died, those items remained and became sacred to the family. The children grew anxious as the first Father’s Day without him approached. So their mom found a new purpose for the items as gifts to the children in honor of his memory.

“They were missing him and really hurting. It was such an honored time to remember their father. It was a wonderful way for them to take hold of their grief,” explained Dwight Douglass, LCSW.

Douglass is a longtime Suncoast Hospice bereavement counselor who heard the wife’s story in a spouse loss support group she attended. Participants in support groups join together to find comfort and healing by sharing stories, traditions and memories, he explained. For Father’s Day, he suggests that families may wish to participate in recreational or memory-making activities.

“One of the ways women can help their loved ones is to do something. On Father’s Day, typically the guys are the ones barbecuing and being more active. Families may honor fathers by going fishing, watching a ball game or some activity that they typically were involved in. Some people have made memory loss pillows out of the neckties that were traditionally given to the fathers,” Douglass said.

Losing a Father

Family members have unique relationships with their dads and will grieve in different ways. Many children tend to grieve the physical loss and loss of the future.

He shared, “Sometimes we not only grieve our dad or father figure but we grieve the loss of a lifetime. We grieve the loss of them physically and miss a part of them that we didn’t get. Sometimes, they were absent emotionally in our lives. We may miss that we never had the opportunity to have those deep and meaningful conversations, including their fatherly advice or how to fix something.”

Women may need to take the role of recognizing grief with their families.

“It might be moms who see if their kids are having a tough time with the loss of their fathers. They will need to focus on things that their kids may feel or experience and help normalize it. Men tend to bury their heads and not be proactive in dealing with a loss, so women may have to help their guys deal with it,” he added.

Signs of Grief

Everybody experiences grief differently, but here are some common signs to watch for:

• Increased aches and pain
• Loss of sleep or desire to sleep more
• Increased fatigue
• Increased or decreased desire to eat
• Overwhelmed
• Numbness
• Anger
• Irritation
• Situational (not clinical) depression
• Increased sensitivity to other people’s actions or words
• Decreased clarity or ability for decision making
• Inability to focus or concentrate for long
• Forgetfulness

Additionally, Douglass says, “The spirit or essence of someone who is grieving is exhausted, as it is responsible for pushing the body, mind and emotions to keep regulated.”

Support is Here

If your family is suffering from the death of a loved one, you are not alone. We are here for support.

We offer free grief counseling, support groups and workshops for many kinds of loss at our three service centers and other Pinellas County locations. Spanish-speaking and kids groups are also offered. Visit our calendar for dates and registration.