Fact: Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and really any other family-oriented celebration can be really challenging for those of us with less-than-idyllic family dynamics. The reality is, plenty of us have parents who were/are absent, abusive, or anywhere else on the spectrum of estrangement.

But with Father’s Day upon us, if your usual inclination is to go negative on the day as a whole, or simply ignore its existence, there may be other, more fulfilling approaches to try — ones that do not involve feeling guilt or shame about not having a Hallmark relationship with your dad. After all, we all have our own path to travel and unique lessons to learn along the way.

Here are 4 ways to mark Father’s Day when your dad isn’t around:

Photo Credit: Noah Silliman on Unsplash

1. Honor thyself

In the era of ceaseless social media, few of us manage to escape the seemingly inevitable barrage of tweets and posts about loving, devoted fathers — and photos of them, too. While it’s comforting to know that wonderful fathers who maintain a meaningful presence in their children’s lives do indeed exist, it just may be that coopting the day to celebrate and honor yourself is the way to go.

Sometimes a solo cocktail or some much needed humor is all you need for a reminder of the deep self-love you’ve worked to develop over time!

2. The power of positive thought

It may sound cheesy, but even if your relationship with your father is on the devastating end of the spectrum and you’re not on speaking terms, you can always choose to send him love and kindness—from afar.

In the long term, this’ll actually help you more than him, because holding onto anger or resentment past the point when it might serve any constructive purpose can be very toxic—and you deserve better.

Neat and tidy “closure” may not exist for you and your father, but you can forge your own way forward by tapping into your sense of self-love and compassion for others—even those who have wronged you.

3. Learn from his mistakes

It’s no secret that in spite of ourselves, we often inherit the qualities—both good and bad—of our parents. While men may worry they will end up like their fathers, women stereotypically end up with their fathers. Regardless of what your particular set of hand-me-downs looks like at this point in your life (daddy issues be damned), why not treat Father’s Day as a time to acknowledge and appreciate all the positive qualities you possess—both in spite of and because of your difficult or nonexistent relationship with your father. Take a moment and think about all the ways your father may have failed you, if he did, and let them go by resolving to do better in your life, or with your children. There is beauty to learning from the mistakes of others!

4. Celebrate all the positive parental figures in your life

Ultimately, Father’s Day should be a reminder to honor all the real dads out there who did/do so much more than help bring children into the world. Maybe you were raised by your mother, who played many roles in your life. Maybe your partner has a parent who has stood in for yours. Or maybe it’s a friend’s dad, or a mentor who has brought patience, humor, and wisdom into your life.

Maybe there are great dads in your friend circle, working hard to raise young children with love, presence, and the resolve to do better than the generation before them. Whatever role good parents may play in your life, why not find little ways to celebrate them this Father’s Day?

Bottom line: Some of us have bad dads with few redeeming qualities. Sad, but true. And yet life isn’t so much about what happens to you as how you choose to react, now is it?

Happy Father’s Day to all.