A GROUP of dads have opened up about their experiences of supporting one another to mark Father’s Day (Sunday, 18 June).
The dads all visit monthly support groups at Derian House Children’s Hospice in Chorley.
There, they meet with like-minded men to chat, listen, laugh and support each other.
Dad Roy Atherton, 51, of Wigan, visits Derian House’s monthly support group for dads who care for children with life-limiting conditions.
Roy’s daughter Jessica, 16, has very complex needs that require a lot of care. After suffering heart failure at just 15-months-old, Jessica’s ability to see, speak, and move was affected.
“Jessica is very dependent on other people for day-to-day things,” said Roy, who also has three other teenagers.
“We juggle a lot – Jessica’s care, our other children, work, everything. It’s difficult to find other parents who can relate to our situation. But that’s where Derian’s support group comes in. There we share stories over a takeaway – and sometimes we go bowling. Having the chance to meet other dads who are in a similar situation makes you feel less alone and really helps to put things into perspective.”
Dad Richard Cornes, 51, visits another Derian House support group for bereaved dads who have lost their child.
Richard and his family said goodbye to daughter Sally, aged 14, after a brave four-year fight against cancer.
“At the Derian Dads group, we talk about anything and everything,” said Richard.
“There are no boundaries. Whether its football, work, hobbies, family life. We can have a laugh, but we can also have a serious conversation. We order in food – curry, pizza, kebabs – whatever we fancy. Everyone sits and listens to each other. It’s up to you what you feel comfortable talking about.
“More recently, we have been talking about how we deal with celebration days – birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day. When it comes to signing cards – I created a special stamp for Sally that I can use to acknowledge that she is still part of our family. It is an ‘S’ with a heart, and in her favourite colour, purple. Since we started adding it when signing our names, family and friends have started adding it when addressing cards to us. Now other dads have started doing the same.”
Bereaved dad, Bradly Simpson, also visits the support group at Derian House for bereaved dads.
Bradly’s son Link passed after a brave two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. He was aged just four.
He said: “The group is an opportunity for us to express and explore how we feel and how to cope. Just having that opportunity to sit in a room with a bunch of guys who are all walking the same path has made the most difficult journey easier – and we are all still on that journey.
“There are a lot smaller details that we dads have explored in the group. For instance, when I get a Father’s Day card, I would be disappointed if it wasn’t signed with Link’s name, or even with his colour or stamp. Link is still part of my life and part of my every day routine. Just because he’s not here, it doesn’t mean he’s not here.
“It does feel like there’s a bit of a stigma around dads,” said Bradly, who came to the UK from his native New Zealand 15 years ago.
“I think we often feel that we are the rock of the family, that we cement the family together. That we can’t show emotion. However, in the group environment we can explore how we feel, whatever that is – good, bad, neutral, or something else. What Derian has done is opened up opportunities for me to grieve the way I feel that I need to grieve.”
Derian House cares for the whole family – providing parents, carers, siblings and grandparents with practical and emotional support throughout their journey.
John Pilling, Family Counsellor at Derian House, said: “Being the father of a child with a life-limiting condition can be an isolating experience. And for fathers that have lost a child, it can be difficult to find others who have experienced the same. Finding friends who understand what you are going through is often hard, which is why Derian House’s groups for dads are so vital.”
Based in Chorley, the hospice cares for more than 400 babies, children, young people and their families from across the North West and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It will cost £6million to run services at Derian House in 2023, and so the charity relies on the generosity of its supporters for 70p in every £1.
Find out more: https://www.derianhouse.co.uk