Luke’s story: Father’s Day without my dad

In his story, Luke, a 33 year old road worker from Leeds, opens up about his first experience of Father’s Day without his dad, James, who died after receiving care at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice for his prostate cancer diagnosis. 

This year, he is supporting our Father's Day Appeal. By donating today, you could help more dads and their families receive the specialist end-of-life support they need in their toughest hours.

From left to right, Mark, James and Luke Sollitt - three generations of the family

Coming to terms with dad’s diagnosis

My dad knew his diagnosis was coming for a long time. In fact, he had already spoken to Wheatfields before he went into hospital. He hid it from us for quite a while, but we started noticing little things that he was struggling with, and eventually it came out. I broke down crying in front of my wife… it was very emotional.

Me and my dad always had a good relationship, but he’s always been very protective of me. He had this ideology that he’s going to try and beat it. That’s our family philosophy. I had to stick by him with that, even though I knew what was going to happen.

During this time, Sue Ryder were just absolutely phenomenal. My dad was so appreciative of the care he received. He was so fond of the carers and nurses. They were constantly in contact and popping in to say hello. They gave me advice on the phone about our financial affairs and put me in touch with the right people.

That period of our lives was an emotional rollercoaster. Dad had good days and bad days, and when he had the bad days, I had to be there for him and my mum. It took until the last days of his life for him to really accept what was happening. 

A Father’s Day filled with firsts

Father’s Day for me and my dad was always a little boisterous. We did the typical cards, but I’d always buy him an obscure present as well.  He never really left his childhood behind, and loved Thomas the Tank Engine, so one year I bought him a Thomas bath and shower set and he was absolutely over the moon with it.

“This is going to be the first Father’s Day where I can’t spend that special moment with my dad, and with my newborn son, Mark, now here, that’s quite heartbreaking.”

Mark’s an absolute little devil… he’s definitely got some of my dad’s traits! My dad was absolutely besotted with him. As soon as he found out we were expecting he was so overjoyed, and that was one of the things that kept him going, wanting to see the birth of his grandson. I’m so glad we were able to spend some invaluable time together and make some treasured memories before it was too late. 

Looking forward, hopefully I can make similar Father’s Day memories with my son. As he gets older, I’ll be sure to tell him what a wonderful grandad he had, and explain the silly things he would do to put a smile on our faces.

Coping with my grief 

At first, I tried to bottle things up, but I always encountered breaking points. I found a connection with the carers, nurses and the fundraising team at Sue Ryder, and it helped so much that they had a bit of time to talk to me. 

I’ve always been someone who would never open up, but Sue Ryder really helped me. It’s something I treasure now. I’ve never really been a talker, I suffer in silence. It’s only since this journey I’ve had with my dad that the shell has slowly cracked. If I see a friend who looks like they're struggling, I’ll ask if they’re okay and be their shoulder to cry on. 

Men shouldn’t have that stigma that they have to keep schtum. It’s a generational thing that needs to be broken. It’s really important that people feel able to open up about their grief.

Make a donation to support our work

This Father’s Day will be the last that some of our patients and their families spend together. Your support could help them receive the end of life care they need.

I’ve been so focused on getting out there to get the donations in for my Leeds Half Marathon and Great North Run later this year, so I’d say that fundraising for Sue Ryder has also really helped me during my grief. The love and attention they give to people in their final moments goes above and beyond, and that’s what I’m trying to raise awareness of.

I’ll keep doing it every year until my body gives up. Those last conversations with my dad are something I’ll always treasure, and I have Sue Ryder to thank for that.

An older man holding flowers as his daughter holds his hand

Coping with grief on Father’s Day

Whether you’re missing your dad, or you’re dealing with complicated feelings after his death, Bianca Neumman, Head of Bereavement, shares her advice to help you cope with grief during this time.