Like many people across the world, 2020 gave me the business. For much of the year, I kept myself grounded in the fact that nothing significant had harmed my family. We were OK. Until we weren't. Just one month after celebrating my dad's 80th birthday, a small portion of masked-up family members gathered in a cemetery to bid him our final goodbyes. Then I was hit with a montage of all the things my dad wouldn't be around for — no more birthdays, Christmas, phone calls, trips to the hardware store, or special moments, but most of all he wouldn't be here for Father's Day.

I learned everything I need to know about "Hallmark holidays" on my first Mother's Day without my mother. It was 2002 and I acted as if the day didn't exist. Even hearing the word "mom" cracked me open emotionally. I had to avoid being out in the world that day, because someone would undoubtedly, yet unintentionally remind me that I was motherless. That following month I sought to honor my dad on Father's Day, but it felt so complex. Through the pain of my mother's death, I had become hyperaware of parental loss and worried how celebrating my living father might re-break the hearts of those who no longer had dads in their lives. I ran from these emotions for 18 years until finally deciding to see a therapist.  

Having a therapist is so stigmatized in the Black community, so I kept my healing at arm's length as I challenged myself to just grow through the pain. I took the counseling route, a form of therapy that works you through certain issues and provides you with the tools needed to cope on your own before releasing you on your ongoing healing journey. After three years of counseling, I set out to conquer the world armed with my new emotional toolkit. One month later, my dad died. There I was finally healing from my mother's death and boom, now I feel like a grown orphan.

But this time around my grieving is so different. I am allowing myself to feel, I acknowledge my loss, I practice self-care, I have rituals and I am so here for more therapy if I found myself needing it. Am I healed? Well, that's complicated — I am in the art of healing. I understand my wholeness is being restored on a daily basis. This restoration includes public healing by way of story sharing with others who may not be ready to walk their own paths; it's a process I very much favor. 

Yet, now I face my ultimate challenge on this journey — my first Father's Day without my dad. I am not alone in this experience as I know many of you may also be embarking on your first full year without your father.

We asked three therapists how someone could navigate their first Father's Day without a dad: