Our dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than ten years ago. The news was shocking to us, as he was an otherwise healthy and active 54-year-old man. Despite devoting significant time, research, and support to our dad throughout his illness, there was only so much we could do to help him as he battled his disease. And as much as we wanted to, we couldn’t save him. He lost his battle with prostate cancer only 14 months later. After his death we promised that we would live the life that he would have wanted for us and be thankful to have had such a wonderful dad.
This year will mark the 10th year that we’ve been without him, and each year we celebrate another Father’s Day with only our memories of him. We honor him in the best way we know how by remembering all that he was to us and by keeping our promise to do something about the awful disease that took his life.
Father’s Day has not always been an easy day for us since his death – for the first few years we dreaded the day, as it celebrated something we no longer had. In the years since, we’ve created new traditions that we know he would be proud of and now look forward to celebrating his life.
No matter how long it’s been, we hope to share some advice that got us through those years to help other daughters and sons:
Everyone mourns a loss in their own way – so don’t compare yourself to others. As sisters we both lost our dad, but as two separate individuals we dealt with that loss differently. Allow yourself to grieve the way that best works for you – take things at your own pace and don’t have expectations for your loved ones, or yourself, on how to deal with grief.
Don’t focus on the physical loss – your loved one is still with you. Our dad’s death hit us hard, but eventually we felt an overwhelming feeling that everything was going to be okay, that we didn’t lose him. Yes, he was physically gone, but he was still with us. He will never be lost – he’s always here, in both of us and in our mom.
Let others help you. In the initial days, weeks and months after our dad died, our world was shattered. Allowing our friends and family to support us was a great comfort. We are the support system for our mom as well – while we lost our dad, she lost her soul mate. And yet, she still supports us. We could not have made it through without each other.
Keep his memory alive by remembering all the good – and bad – times you had. Take time out each day to think of him or, if you can, talk to someone about him. We find ourselves often discussing our dad with others – sharing funny stories or things he loved to do. Don’t push away all the good memories – it may hurt to think about them at first – but eventually those memories will make you laugh or smile and sometimes cry.
Start new traditions and create memorials for your dad. Each year we do something special to remember and memorialize our dad. We have participated in ZERO’s Prostate Cancer Run/Walk and raised funds for ten years now, which has given us something to look forward to on Father’s Day as we participate in an event with family and friends to celebrate his life. We have turned what used to be a sad weekend into a way to remember him instead.
Father’s Day takes on a whole new meaning once you’ve lost your dad. Starting new traditions without him helped us to honor him as a family. His request to us was to help other families dealing with prostate cancer and to find a way to end prostate cancer – and so we do. Just last year, while vacationing in Italy, our Mom encouraged a man with a family history of the disease to go get his PSA checked, despite his fears of doing it.
These are our new traditions. This is how we honor our dad, on Father’s Day and every day of the year. Our advice? Live the life your dad would have wanted for you, no matter what life that is.