Father’s Day can be difficult. Here’s how to handle the holidays.

Get plenty of sleep and exercise in the week leading up to the holidays, said grief expert and therapist Claire Bidwell Smith. “When we’re in good physical shape, we can regulate our emotions better,” she said. Research has shown that poor sleep can negatively affect your mind and body and that exercise can improve mental well-being.

Mr. James has noticed that he is unusually irritable on holidays that remind him of his daughter. “Set expectations in the people in your life about what these days mean to you and why you might not be yourself,” he advised.

Think carefully about how you want to spend the day, Mrs. Soffer said. “Do you want to be invited to something, or would that be too difficult?” If your friends are busy with their own family on Sundays, “ask if you can hang out on Saturdays so you still feel like you have a support system.”

There’s no reason you can’t still honor someone who has passed away, said Ms. Bidwell Smith, who still writes her father a Father’s Day card even though he died in 2003. Kristin Luna, 39, a writer in Tullahoma, Tennessee, lost her father unexpectedly in January. She has begun to set a table for him on special occasions, with an Auburn University balloon in honor of his alma mater.

Kacie Reed’s father was recently diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 cancer, and this Father’s Day “will likely be his last,” said Ms. Reed, 30, a stay-at-home mom in Greenville, SC. Because of their differing political opinions, “he will hardly talk to me anymore,” she said. In a day when idealized father-child relationships are being praised, Mrs. Reed doesn’t know how to navigate a difficult one.

She’s not alone. A 2020 Cornell University survey of more than 1,300 people found that 27 percent of respondents were estranged from a family member, with the most common rift (10 percent) being between parent and child. “If we expect a family to last forever, or for parents to love their children unconditionally and vice versa, it can be difficult if that’s not reflected in our real lives,” said Kristina M. Scharp, a university professor. from Washington who studies difficult family transitions.

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