I lost my home when my dad died

When Dan* lost his father to cancer, he thought things couldn't get any worse. But then he found they couldn't afford to stay in his family home...

True Stories

Boy sad in winter

First I lost dad, then I lost my family home...

I couldn’t believe I was packing. I’d just lost my dad. And now, less than two months later, I was losing my home too. It all seemed so unfair. As I folded up my clothes, in the bedroom I’m had since I was a child, all the grief got too much. I punched the wall so hard I almost broke my knuckles. I burst into tears, clutching my throbbing hand, and thought about the happier times we’d had here, in the home we were about to lose forever.

Happy memories

I remember moving-in day so well. I was five, and my dad’s recent promotion meant he’d bought us a bigger family home. I can still picture the tall red brick and the giant oak tree in the garden – and the bonus of it being right next to the park. It was the best house to grow up in. We used to have big Sunday family roasts and invite friends round for parties. I remember one birthday where my dad hired us a bouncy castle. We were so happy.

Dad’s diagnosis

I grew up, but stayed living at home. I worked as a builder and couldn’t afford to move out. When I turned 22, everything fell apart. Dad started getting sick. At first it was just pain whenever he ate or lay down. Then he started to lose weight. Then he got more and more tired. He was taken to hospital with jaundice and was quickly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He didn’t respond to chemotherapy and deteriorated fast. One day we took him to the park next to our house and he collapsed. He died less than two weeks later.

Dealing with the grief

Although our friends and family rallied around us, I felt utterly alone. I knew my mum and sister felt the same. Most nights I would come home to find my mum crying in the kitchen. It was heart breaking.

There was an overwhelming amount to sort out after my dad’s death. It was when I tried to help with dad’s life insurance claim that I realised it hadn’t been updated, so we couldn’t claim for as much as we needed. Mum sat us down one night and announced we had no choice but to move house. We simply couldn’t afford to stay. I was so angry. Moving house? On top of everything we’d been through? That night I lay in my bed, so scared. What if all those memories of Sunday roasts and birthday parties just faded away when we left?

Packing up the home

The following weeks were just as tough. My sister was angry, lashing out at my mum and they’d have huge rows – I could hear them shouting wherever I was. Mum held herself together by packing our away our things and hunting for a smaller house for us to move into.

One night, as I was packing away my clothes, a dizzying feeling came over me; it had all just got too much. That’s the night I punched the wall. My sister ran into my room and found me crying. For the first time in years she just hugged me. I sobbed that I didn’t want to leave our family home. Surprisingly, she completely opened up. She admitted she’d been picking fights with our mum, just because she needed someone to blame. That night we reminisced about times past, especially about our first dog who used to steal our food and tread mud on to the carpet. It was a lovely moment, but for both of us the anxiety still remained. Where were we going to live?

The new house

The new place was smaller and in major need of redecorating. For the first few months my sister and I stayed bitter about having to move.

However, as time passed, my mum and sister got really into re-decorating the rooms. We moved all of our old furniture in and, after a while, it actually looked good. In fact, it almost felt like a cleansing ritual. One night my mum said that maybe it was all a blessing in disguise; staying in our old house would have been too painful.

Settling in

I still miss our old family home, but I’ve come to realise moving out has actually been a fresh start for my family. Going through such a harrowing experience brought us closer together. My sister has gone to university now, and I’m confident that my mum will move on and find someone else to love one day. By moving out, we’ve begun to move on.

Next Steps

  • Cruse offers grief and bereavement support via phone, email, and face-to-face. You can call their free helpline on 0808 808 1677 (Monday - Friday, 9.30 - 5pm, extended to 8pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) or visit their website for more support.
  • Find your local Citizens Advice here, for free and independent legal advice. Or call their helpline. 03454 04 05 06
  • Shelter offers advice on all housing issues. Get advice here or by calling their housing helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/
  • Marie Curie offers emotional support and practical information for anyone affected by terminal illness, and their friends and families. Call Marie Curie's helpline on 0800 090 2309 from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 5pm Saturday.

  • Moving out for the first time? Get the real Home Truths.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

grief

By Daisy Phillipson

Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Image courtesy of Shutterstock