“When I found out Dad had cancer, I worried about my graduation – and about my future beyond it. I thought of every single day ahead when he wouldn’t be there,” writes Jess Bacon, whose dad died at our Thorpe Hall Hospice five years ago. Here, she recalls all the (dreaded) milestones that have come and gone since then.
One of my Dad’s favourite songs was Five Years Time by Noah and the Whale, and I always wondered how I’d feel once he'd been gone for five years and where I'd be (probably not in a zoo!)… Somehow, that time has arrived.
I often wonder where that time has gone, but it equally feels like a lifetime ago since our last hug.
In those five years, I’ve hit some of the milestones I was so terrified of when I was 16. I turned 18 and opened the bottle of champagne Mum and Dad had bought me when I was 12 in France. I completed my GCSEs and A-levels and had all my results days. I moved away from home and went to university two hours away, and then graduated last year.
"It was overwhelming to know that every day would have someone missing"
When I found out Dad had cancer, I worried about my graduation – and about my future beyond it.
I thought of every single day ahead when he wouldn’t be there: to see me finish school; celebrate birthdays and Christmases; graduate from university; move out; get married; have kids; grow older…
It was overwhelming at 15 to know that each of those days – and every day from the day we lost him – would have someone missing; someone who took up a colossal space in my life.
In order to get up and continue, rather than face this new future, I just focused on the day at hand as opposed to the days that I was afraid of.
"I focused on what I still had, and it all became more bearable"
So was it as scary or sad as I imagined it would be?
Not really – thankfully. It was different.
But, with each day – and, in turn, each mini milestone – I got more used to the new family dynamic: just my Mum, my brother and I. After more than our fair share of family adventures, I became very grateful to have them with me as opposed to focusing on the one person who couldn’t be there too.
I focused on what I still had, and it all became more bearable.
I also still feel that he watches and guides me, even if he isn’t physically here to do so. Sometimes I just know exactly what he would say.
"Even though Dad wasn't there, I knew he was watching"
When I was 15 and overwhelmed by my future without Dad, I didn’t or couldn’t imagine all the remarkable new people I’d know too.
I spent graduation dinner with my family and one of my best friends and her family. It wasn’t what I’d thought graduation would be or what I’d planned originally – it came together at the last minute – but it was still amazing.
Even though my Dad wasn’t there to celebrate or embarrass me, I knew he was watching somewhere, amazed of how far we’d all come in five years.
So it all became less scary as the days I feared came and passed, and I still enjoyed them – just as he’d have wanted me to.
I still have many more milestones ahead; days I’m still heartbroken to face without him – but I’ll face them when they arrive, and they most likely won’t be as bad as I envisioned.
How do you cope with passing milestones or big occasions?
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Jess's dad was cared for at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough. Since he died, she has found solace in blogging.