You might be confused by this title, wondering why we’re talking about dead dads and living dads in the same breath. Life is complicated; many of you have lost a father in your life, and while you are mourning that enormous loss, you are simultaneously celebrating the life of a father still here. That’s hard, and the team behind Crying Out Loud understands that well.   

Shannon Culver, Sarah Keast, Alexie Landry, and Janice Tsao all became widows at a young age. Their shared experience brought them together. They bonded over their collective grief, which eventually inspired them to open Crying Out Loud.

Both a storefront (2005 Danforth Ave) and an online shop, Crying Out Loud is on a mission to redefine the journey of mental wellness, which they do through both their thoughtfully curated items and community events.

“Father’s Day is yet another holiday that can be both happy and sad,” says Keast, who lost her partner, and the father to her children, in 2016 to an accidental overdose. “Our kids are all part of the ‘Dead Dads Club’, and while it’s extraordinarily painful to celebrate this holiday with them, it’s also very beautiful.” 

She shares how the team at Crying Out Loud have created a cherished new tradition wherein on every Father’s Day, they gather in the park for a picnic. While the biological fathers of the children are no longer here, they make sure to celebrate all the other ‘dads’ in their lives, from step dads to grandparents to neighbours who have helped fill that role. “Our kids are the embodiment of what it means to celebrate ALL the caregivers in your life who are important to you!”

Grief is a subject that all of the women behind Crying Out Loud live with every day, and they know how difficult these types of annual events can be. “The first milestone holiday without your loved one is hard. And often the run up to the actual holiday is worse than the actual day,” says Keast, who offers advice on how to get through it.  “Be gentle with yourself in the days leading up to Father’s Day and know that it’s okay to feel all these feelings. Celebrate the day in whatever way feels right for you this year. It might be ignoring the day completely. It might be turning off your social media on Father’s Day so you don’t see everyone’s photos of their happy celebrations. It might be surrounding yourself with people who knew and loved your dad. It might mean creating new traditions that honour your feelings and help you feel close to your dad.”

Unlike the golf balls or jokey fishing gifts that line the Father’s Day shelves at most stores, the gifts that Crying Out Loud have a backstory and more depth. “We have a few guiding principles that help inform our product selection. We ask ourselves the following questions: Does this item help someone with their own journey of self care and community care (whether it be something that pampers, soothes, relaxes, inspires, educates or uplifts), does this item promote connection (to yourself, to your friends, to your family) and does this item (or event/workshop when we get back to those!) help build community?  We feel that self care, community care and connection are the cornerstones of mental wellness and using these as our guiding principles helps keep us laser focused when sourcing products.” You can tell by browsing the shop that it’s a real labour of love.  

Find a gift for a father in your life, or something to soothe yourself (or a loved one) currently going through the stages of grief. Life and death coexist.