At the end of last year we were joined on The Bridge Retreat by the respected Jewellery Designer, Dominic Jones. Below he shares his heartfelt experience of losing his father when he was only a young child and the rippling impact of his unprocessed grief, prior to attending the retreat.
“It’s been 30 years since my dad passed away, so crazy, such a crazy amount of time. I was 4 and a half when he died, I have friends with kids that age and they seem so so young, barely children. It’s wild that I have memories of him still from such a young age. I remember holding onto his back as he swam in a pool on holiday in France.
I remember the doctor coming over to our house when he started to get ill and the dark colour of his urine sample, I remember having to share my petits filous with him as he was finding eating hard, I remember visiting him in hospital and drinking Lucozade, I remember watching The Land Before Time on the end of his bed in the hospital at Christmas.
I remember them moving him to a hospice on Willen Lake, a lake he had designed, (he was a landscape architect and the lake had formally been an old mine). I remember he could see the birds on feeders outside his room in the hospice. I remember this day 30 years ago going to visit his body at the hospice, I remember playing under the table at the wake. I remember putting soil on a tree planted to remember him and a wild flower garden that was designed next to the lake and hospice that was opened in his memory. I have all of these memories but I don’t think I was old enough to really truly understand. Grief is a strange thing for us as adults and at that age I don’t think there’s any way you can understand and process the significance of a loss that big or understand the change in dynamics around you, now having a young grieving mother, a home half empty.
The other thing about losing a parent young is you have to learn to talk about it, it comes up a lot. Young kids don’t know how to be sensitive and you don’t understand how often mummy and daddy come up at school at that age until you’ve lost one. I had to learn how to explain my daddy had died when I was aged 5… normally followed by, how did he die? From a young age I learnt to put my emotions into another place, as I got older this skill got more valuable, ‘don’t react, stay small and swallow those feelings’ was my survival technique from aged 10-14. Then came the freedom of booze at 15; what a relief that was, being able to change my feelings. To minimise, avoid, deny and change my feelings, to just keep my chin up and keep going was my way of dealing with everything. So I wallpapered over the cracks until it was the Grand Canyon with a loo roll teepee’d across it.
In the end my life was burning rubble and I was hanging on by a single thread but if I saw you in the street and you asked me how I was doing, I would have smiled at you and said I’m great thanks, I’ve this brilliant thread! How are you? That technique ended in a rock bottom, that I gratefully survived and I’m now over 4 years sober. The thing about sobriety is it forces you to face your feelings, to sit with them and the 12 Steps gave me the structure to start the process of working through a lifetime of swallowing those painful feelings. This year on my second time working the 12 steps, I broke into the safe that I kept my childhood stuff in, grief started saturating through my flesh into my bones. It was too much, I felt really scared and I clenched hard to keep it together in my daily life.
Luckily for me 5 years earlier I had met the amazing Donna Lancaster by chance and I had always known since that meeting that when this day came I trusted her to be a safe pair of hands to help me. Without really understanding what I was signing up for I contacted her and asked if she had space for me on The Bridge Retreat and she found me a spot just in time. I had tried to do trauma therapy in the past but I was so locked down. I almost started thawing out as the time was up and I was back to normal life again for a week. It would have taken me 200 million years that way. I can’t really do any real justice to what The Bridge Retreat did for me… These words will be so far off the mark of the justice it deserves but I’m going to try.
It gave me a space to really, truly face that confused, heartbroken child at eye level. The program they’ve created is so beautiful and intricate, it exceeded my expectations so vastly and I was actually able to process and grieve in a way I had theoretically dreamed of but never really thought I would be able to. I cried so deeply I didn’t know I could, I articulated my feelings whilst feeling them in ways I don’t think I will ever be able to do again and don’t feel I need to again. I was held metaphorically and literally. It gave the space, time and attention it deserved to process what I couldn’t as a child. I’m so deeply grateful to Donna and Gabi for what they have created. And I’m grateful to myself for doing it. My soul today feels lighter for it, which is why I feel comfortable in sharing these maybe brutally honest details with you and encourage anyone who went through things in their childhood they swallowed instead of processing, (it doesn’t have to be death) to think about investing in doing work to heal your soul and your heart and if you need a recommendation on where to go I couldn’t be more confident in recommending The Bridge Retreat.
There have been times in my life I honestly forgot I even had a dad, even the idea of a dad felt so abstract, a concept so far removed from me but today I couldn’t feel more connected to him. I’m so proud to be Ken Jones’s son and he’s such a big part of who I am. He was an amazing artist, illustrator, passionate about nature, a blagger and hustler who got out of a small working class town outside Manchester and ended up achieving, amazing things and collecting friends such as LS Lowery, whom he met in the pub and end up designing his garden. With his huge love of music, he went to tons of gigs, making friends with bands, he even wound up one of the backing vocals on ‘I’m Not In Love’ by 10cc after being dragged to the studio with them from the pub. I’m my father’s son without ever trying to be.
At times it has been so painful not having that parental voice to tell me they’re proud of me or to tell me I’m not perfect and that I’m not my mistakes. The lack of a father to lend me money or give me advice has felt overwhelming. But today I’m held and I know in my heart he’s proud of me, of my successes and my failures.
I love you Ken Jones – Rest in Peace xx.”