When You Lose Your Father to Addiction, There's No Perfect Way to Grieve

Maggie Jones
A family photo of the author as a toddler, walking on the beach with her dad

Five years ago, I found myself experiencing my first Father’s Day without my dad. I lost him to a substance use disorder just a few months before.

Today, I still avoid the card aisle at the store at this time of year, dreading the moment that all the “FOR DAD” cards are stocked. I still change the channel when a Hallmark Father’s Day advertisement comes on. I still occasionally sit on the bathroom floor on a random Tuesday morning and cry, just because.

Whether this is your first Father’s Day without your dad, your fifth, or your 20th, I promise you are not the only one avoiding the card aisle this time of year.

Maggie jones today, a blonde 23 year old white woman, smiling with her dad, a white man with grey hair

I always thought that someone was going to hand me a grieving rule book. That someone would just appear one day and tell me, “Here’s everything you need to know about being 23 and losing your dad to a substance use disorder.”

I remember thinking that if I had a good day, I was doing something wrong. But if I had a bad day, I still felt ashamed. Why couldn’t I figure out the “right way to grieve? How did everyone before me figure out how to grieve their own losses, and why wasn’t I clued in on the secret solution?

Young Maggie in a dancing costume, smiling on her father's lap

A close friend of mine lost her dad unexpectedly. She called me and said, “How do you do this? How did you manage to put the pieces back together so seamlessly? How do I do this like you did?” This entire time, she had thought that I had the secret to grieving, just like I had thought everyone before I did.

Here’s what it looked like for me: I woke up every day and did my best. That was the secret. I did my best—whatever that meant on that day—and the rest fell into place.


Maggie Jones is a Shatterproof Ambassador.