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Because family life matters

Different dads, different struggles

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How different dads cope with their child’s death.

Something which caught one dad out shortly after his son’s death was having to apply for car tax. Previously, he had not paid this because his son received a mobility allowance. He also told us that he processed his son’s death quite quickly and was soon able to start thinking about what happens next. He realised that this was partly because he’d done most of his ‘thinking’ prior to his son’s death when considering the possibility that he would not have a normal life span.

Another dad told us of his frustration. He was known in the family as the person who sorted things out. In fact, on the door leading to his cellar workshop is a sign that reads: “Dad’s Mr Fix-It Workshop – specialising in hurt feelings, broken toys, two-wheeler lessons and broken hearts.” One of the last things he did with his son was to show him how to make a proper tool. When James died in a car crash he had done everything his dad has taught him about driving cars – put his seat belt on, put the windows down to let in fresh air, made sure there was plenty of fuel – but he was too tired to reach the services. There was no more James’ dad could have done to save him, but he still feels he was not there when his son needed him most – and there is nowhere down in his cellar to fix his heart.

Father’s Day comes along every year in June – a Sunday that can be incredibly difficult for dads whose son or daughter is missing. Some of our befrienders – bereaved dads themselves – told us how they cope with the day and how they’ve been able to make it easier over the years.

Harry: “I think the hardest thing for me about Father’s Day is that, being a bloke, I didn’t keep any of the Father’s Day cards Mark gave me – unlike Angela who, like most mums, kept her Mother’s Day cards. So when Mark died I was really upset on that first Father’s Day because I didn’t have a card from him which I could have looked at and read again. I struggled with this for quite a while until I decided to take on board what we say to each other at the end of every Bereaved Parent Support event: “Be kind to yourself.” I resolved to stop beating myself up and decided to celebrate Father’s Day as a happy reminder of all the cards Mark sent me over the years, as well as remembering to be grateful for those I received from my daughter and granddaughter.”

Maurice: “Our youngest daughter Emma died on 17 June 2007, which fell on Father’s Day that year. The day therefore has significant meaning for not only myself, but for the whole family. In fact, we tend to remember Father’s Day as the day Emma died, rather than the actual date. We treat it as a normal Father’s Day. My wife Margaret’s father is still alive and we also have another daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters to think about. But for me it’s a time of remembrance rather than celebration.”

Howard: “Father’s Day in 2011 was on Sunday 11 June, exactly 40 years since I first became a father when Jonathan was born in Uganda. I was able to go back there that year and be thankful for the brief few years we had with him.”

Steve: “We were never great at celebrating special days in our family. Our daughter Elizabeth, however, was the exception! Birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day had not only to be celebrated but made into memorable days. Because of her illness, every day was especially precious and milestones were important. Now that she has gone, Father’s Day has dwindled in significance – except to me. As she always remembered it, I now remember that special father-daughter relationship and make it my secret Daughter’s Day.”

So, dads, take heart – you are not alone. If you’d like to talk to another father who has lost a son or daughter, then one of our team of befrienders would be really happy to give you a call for a chat. To put this in motion please call Care for the Family on 029 2081 0800.