An Empty Seat at the Table During Father’s Day – Houston Hospice’s Guide to Grief Support on Special Occasions

Father’s Day is a time for families to celebrate traditions and make memories, but for those mourning the loss of their patriarch or loved one, Father’s Day can be difficult.

Volunteer Sylvia Valverde June 2022

Volunteer Sylvia Valverde pictured in Houston Hospice’s Garden in the Texas Medical Center.

For Sylvia Valverde, a retired Houston Independent School District administrator and Houston Hospice volunteer (pictured right), honoring her father’s legacy has helped her through her grief journey.

Valverde’s father, Eradio, passed away on June 6, 2016, three days after his 85th birthday. He had suffered multiple strokes since 1993 and was confined to a wheelchair after the death of his wife in 2003. In March 2016, after experiencing another stroke and a major seizure, he was admitted to the Inpatient Unit at Houston Hospice. He remained there until he died peacefully in his sleep.

“My father was a quiet man and read his Bible every day,” Valverde reminisces. In the years before her father’s death, Valverde recalled family traditions throughout the holidays. “We would prepare an annual Christmas feast,” Valverde said. “Part of our tradition was to make my mother’s fruit cocktail cake and macaroni salad.” There was a void in Valverde’s heart, and she needed to grieve.

After all, Valverde and her husband had looked after her father every single day for 13 years, feeding him, clothing him, taking him to church and doctor’s appointments. She had grown so attached to him as his caregiver that, after his death, she didn’t feel like she was losing a father, but rather that she was losing a child.

“That year my father passed was difficult. My husband’s family invited us over for Christmas. I went, but I didn’t stay the whole time. I just couldn’t. It just didn’t feel right,” Valverde said. “I just came home, laid on my bed and cried. I missed my dad and wished her was here.”

Earlier that year, Valverde attended Houston Hospice’s grief support group, “An Empty Seat at the Table,” that helps hospice families acknowledge the increased grief that can arrive with the holiday season and beyond. The seminar provides an open forum for people to share their personal stories and converse with others experiencing the loss of a loved one during special holidays and all year long. In addition, Houston Hospice offers a 13-month grief and loss, support group and one-on one counseling to help family members cope and move forward in life.

Grief is the natural and expected reaction to the loss of a loved one, and feelings of sadness, yearning, guilt, regret, and anger are normal. Grieving with the support of others is a healthy way to honor those feelings so that family members can begin to heal.

Grieving family members often wish that special occasions such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and other holidays would disappear. Whether or not families choose to honor these special days, attend gatherings, host a family event, or spend time alone, it’s important to give themselves permission to grieve, according to Houston Hospice’s Bereavement Team.

During special occasions and the holidays, it is important to make a plan for the day. If the plan involves other people, also add a back-up plan. Should grieving family members accept their invitation and attend the event, it is important to know that they can always change their mind and go home.

To acknowledge the increased grief that can arrive with special occasions and the holiday season, Houston Hospice offers a special seminar where you will learn tips to help you cope during this stressful time. For more information about Houston Hospice’s Bereavement Support, click here.

On Going Grief Support Groups – Evenings

On Going Grief Support Groups – Afternoons


Life After Loss is a six-week, bereavement support group are designed to help people understand the process of grief, assess where they are in the process, and plan for how they will continue to heal. Space is limited and registration is required. We ask that you commit to all six group sessions.

Life After Loss Support Group in Wharton, Texas

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