Palliative Care Queensland

Father’s Day – Jason’s Story of Family Connection Over Loss


On Father’s Day, we naturally think about our dad. Often a pillar of strength, a cornerstone of our existence, a role model, a champion, a superhero. They are the person who is always there for us when we need them, ready to take on any challenge, teach us how to kick a footy or be our wingman on a rite of passage. And as Dad opens the gift-wrapped socks or jocks and the handmade card, we smile and celebrate all of the things that he means to us. Today we salute the dads who are present.

For many Father’s Day is a time of reflection, a time when we would give anything to spend one minute with dad, to hear his voice, to groan at a dad joke or to see him standing tall at the barbie, tongs in hand and steak on the sizzle. Today we salute the dads who are gone but always remembered and treasured.

Today, however, Palliative Care Queensland would like to pay tribute to the dads out there who are leading from the front because they have lost their world, their partner, and their soul mate. Palliative Care Queensland’s Jason is one such Dad, and he shared his story with us for Father’s Day, a day in which we celebrate dad, but also reflect on what they bring to the lives of their children.

In 2001, Jason met Ange in a crowded café, and over the next two years, their love blossomed into a marriage that would lead to a loving family of two boys. Jason’s job had taken them to Papua New Guinea where the family lived before heading to Brisbane as the boys approached school age, with Jason working FIFO on a 28-day roster.

“Times were great, I loved work, the family were settled, and as a parent, I guess I had it all. I could work hard when I was away and then be the cool dad when I came back, armed with gifts, a million and one things for us to do and lots of energy and enthusiasm for the treasured time I would spend with Ange and the boys.”

However, in 2013 Jason and Ange’s world changed forever as Ange was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jason returned to Brisbane and gave up his job to care for Ange and the boys who were 2 and 6.

“I’d gone from being in the blokey FIFO environment to being a full-time carer. I had no idea what I was doing; I was immediately the carer and nurturer for the whole family. I was no longer cool dad – I was dad – and I had to reconnect, create new relationships and be the best that I could be for Ange and the boys.”

“And it was tough; I was watching the centre of my life going through a journey that I couldn’t control. I had no idea at the time, but I was already starting to grieve.”

After three years of living with cancer, Ange passed away in August 2015 and Jason reacted as any good Aussie bloke would; he bottled everything up.

“I look back now, and it was easy to see what I was doing. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. The reality is that I had no idea how to grieve, how to express my feelings, how to deal with the pain and sadness that was in danger of consuming me.”

“I was trying to be strong, to be the pillar of strength to deal with everything with a stiff upper lip and to get on with the job. I thought I was ok, but I wasn’t, and it didn’t hit me until I saw my oldest boy, who was 8 at the time, mirroring my behaviour.”

“He was 8, and he had got it into his head that he needed to be strong for his little brother and for me. He did not; he needed to grieve and to deal with the loss of his mum and the pain that he was feeling. And that’s when I knew I had to change, and I had to be honest with myself and open with my kids.”

At that time, Jason also learned that his son was being bullied at school.

“It was the usual stuff; ‘Glad your mum’s dead’ or ‘you’ve got no mum’ they typical comments kids make when they want to be mean, but perhaps don’t realise they are cruel. Oddly it was the bullying that enabled me to do what so many dads find it tough to do; have a conversation with our kids about feelings.”

“I was able to talk to my son about his feelings and for us to form a whole new relationship with an emotional connection that I will always have and will always cherish. We now talk about everything and whenever my son is sad, or upset, or happy or excited, he talks to me. We communicate and given he is 13; it is something I am truly proud of. It’s a bit of a stereotype to say that from most teenage boys you usually get a grunt and a bad smell, I couldn’t be happier that for me the stereotype is far from true.”

For Jason’s younger son, the grieving process did not happen when Ange died, but when Jason returned to work.

“He didn’t really understand what happened when Ange died; he was just that little bit too young. He is now 8, and for him, it seems like I have always been there. So, when I started to work full time, was when he grieved. He became anxious about being separated and couldn’t understand this new place called work that was taking up so much of my time.”

“Thanks to what I had learned through my own grieving process, I was able to nurture him through his grief, to be open and honest with him and to talk about what mattered to him.”

Part of that process involved Jason’s son writing a letter to Mum, which they took to the cemetery so that Ange could read it in heaven.

“Anyone who reads the letter will understand just what a parent means to a child because, for me, it covers every aspect of the love that exists in a parent-child relationship. And it was important for my son because he will always think about his mum and he will always know that she is part of his life, no matter where he is or what he is doing.”

For this Father’s Day, Jason, his boys and new wife, Lisa, are heading up to Hervey Bay to make new memories in a place that has special meaning to them.

“Hervey Bay is where we had our last family holiday before Ange died. I was nervous at first, as were the boys; we were worried that our holiday would be a sad time, but it needn’t be.”

“It will be a time for reflection, we will think about Ange, we will remember her and everything she meant to us, but we will also make new memories, spend time together and see this as another step in healing, grief and loss.”

At Palliative Care Queensland, we know that there are many Queenslanders out there today who are grieving the loss of a loved one. We know that many people will also be grieving their father’s today and will have an empty chair at their house where dad used to sit, and that is never easy.

We know that there are many Queenslanders out there today who are not able to spend fathers day with their dad’s because of COVID.

And we also know that there are amazing fathers out there like Jason, who continue to take care of their families when a loved one is gone. Jason is an example of how care, love and conversation can help heal through the most challenging of times.

From everyone at Palliative Care Queensland, we send big love to Jason and every dad out there whether they are with you or not.


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