Friday, March 5, 2021

One Year On After Losing My Dad - Grief Writing

It feels so strange to be sat here writing this post in the lead up to the one year anniversary of my Dad's passing. How did I get here? As the months went by in the start, I wondered and feared how this particular point would look. One year feels (and is) so long. Over the last twelve months, I made sure to write a little round-up of how that additional month in grief has been for me so I could not only use it as an outlet for my thoughts and feelings but so I could potentially reach out to anybody who has been through the same or is going through the same, to let them know they're not alone. I purposefully skipped out writing one last month so I could throw my entire energy into this one and hopefully not be too repetitive. 

How do the emotions differ between day one and day 365? The numbness is still there, almost like a little comfort blanket to help me get by day to day, function where I need to function and to keep me from falling into a constant state of complete and utter despair. The numbness comes and goes though, and when it goes, my God the pain is indescribable. It leaves me clawing at my chest as if the only way to relieve the pain is by ripping something out of it, it leaves me silently screaming 'Dad!' as if somehow, somewhere he will hear my calls and will sit by me and put his arms around me, it leaves me begging why this had to happen and can we just go back in time? Just once? And then I'm exhausted, and it's the numbness that comes to wrap it's arms around me instead to help me continue on. I see numbness as a curse and a blessing. It's helped me but also frustrated me at times. I don't think people quite believe me when I say I still don't believe it a lot of the time. I've never known a life without my Dad. Sometimes it feels like a really awful movie or a sick joke, and at some point, we'll get him back and these hard times will be over.

My 'first year in grief' is probably a lot different to those who lost loved ones prior to the pandemic. I definitely don't mean that in a 'one is worse than the other' kind of way at all, because in some ways the pandemic has been a blessing for the very early days of my grief. I didn't have to return to work for 6 months, and if there was no lockdown, I would've been back at work shortly after the funeral and I can't even imagine how awful that would have been for me. I needed that time to just feel what I felt and to not be too distracted from my reality. On the other hand, there was no 'in-person' support, I was completely isolated from all family and friends and because of that, I do feel I had less support than I would have had there been no restrictions, and I did feel forgotten about as everything was about the virus.

Coping Mechanisms

For around six months I found comfort in food. I was eating whatever the hell I wanted, whenever I wanted. I do think that's okay, but not for six months because the amount of damage I caused my mental health, (and my weight) as a result of it was awful. It's taken me almost a year to get myself in a place where I can take care of my body again and not rely on food as a coping mechanism and that's probably been my biggest achievement. 

I have lots of different coping mechanisms that have got me to this point. Like I said, the first six months was literally just food, but after that, I began to use nostalgia as a way of feeling closer to my Dad. I bought so many candles that reminded me of different times of my life and I would have them burning all day so I could simply inhale, and be transported to a happier time. I also went through a stage of watching Disney film after Disney film after Disney film. I would sob whilst watching them as I have such distinct memories of our Sunday dinners together, where I got to select a different Disney film for us all to watch, whilst Mum and Dad shared a bottle of wine. 

As Christmas came around, I did the opposite of what I thought I would do, and I bought as many Christmas decorations as possible and completely immersed myself in all things festive. Non-stop Christmas music and as many Christmas lights as possible. Again, this was to transport me to a happier time, so I did this for as long as possible. I don't think this will be the same for the year ahead as I already feel sad at the prospect of a second Christmas without my Dad, but I try not to guess ahead too much. I also found baking to be some kind of therapy for me and gradually got better and better to the point it's become one of my hobbies! I try not to do it too much as the line between eating it all and sharing it all gets blurred too easily, but whenever there's an occasion I absolutely love to bake. I even baked a cake for my Dad's birthday!

I wouldn't say exercising is a coping mechanism for my grief, I think it's just a coping mechanism for life in general, which in turn makes me stronger mentally to get through the days. I do like to exercise around 4-5 times a week as it keeps my mind a little clearer and makes me feel more balanced. 

I also like to be left alone sometimes so I can really feel what I'm feeling. I think it's important to allow yourself to actually feel that deep sadness and let the pain come in so you can process it as it comes. Some days I'll almost feel 'backed up' if I haven't let myself think properly, and I'll need to lie down or go and sit in the bathroom and cry, and usually, I feel a little bit of weight off my shoulders after it.

Everybody copes with grief and loss differently, what's helped me in the past year may not help me in the next year. Sometimes I don't want to think about it, sometimes I can only think about it. I just learned not to put pressure on myself with any part of my grieving as it's so unpredictable.


I really wanted to talk about this as I assumed that as soon as my Dad died, he'd appear as a figure to me or he'd do extremely obvious things to let me know he's here. I remember in the early days wondering where he'd gone as I thought there's no way he's just disappeared into thin air. I didn't have any signs or feelings for a long time really and I was quite upset about it. I would cry and ask him to do something to show he hasn't really left me, and then I'd quickly scan the room for something to move or for a reflection in the mirror. I guess it also depends on what people believe in too. I won't even go into that because people can get really offended and lose their minds if you don't believe the same things as them, so each to their own. For me, I feel that when I see a robin, that's my Dad. I've had countless experiences with robins now, and plenty of 'that was weird' ones for me to believe this. When I see one, it brings me so much comfort that I don't care if someone doesn't believe it too. It makes me feel warm inside and comforted by my Dad. There's also this one incredibly bright star that's outside my window almost every night and it twinkles away at me. It's the only star in the sky too! I always feel like it's my Dad letting me know that he can see me too.

In general, I do have this inner feeling that my Dad is with me. He even said in his final letter to us that I could never lose him as he will always be in my heart and as time has gone on, I do believe that too. I don't feel the need to look for these huge big signs anymore as when I do get them, they're exactly what I need as they are.

Mental Health After Loss

TW - Suicide

I've had some real ups and downs with my mental health in the past year. I'd always struggled with it anyways since my Dad's diagnosis 11 years ago, so naturally, this was going to be a real challenge for me. I think around four months after losing my Dad I was suicidal. Actually, I was suicidal just before he passed and for some time afterwards, but I remember around four months later I felt that way again. I just couldn't cope with the feelings of pain every single day, I craved life to go back to how it was and it was becoming too great of a burden to live with it as it now was. I didn't want to put my mum and brother through another loss, so I lingered on (pretty miserably actually) until eventually I returned to work which luckily became a massive distraction. I also developed severe anxiety, which I now take medication for. I did reach out for help via the GP but I'm on a million-year waiting list. I think apart from that, I take care of myself quite well. I'm quite a positive person and I'm always looking for ways to improve my mental health and general quality of life. 

I said to my Dad that I was frightened I'd never be happy again after losing him, and I do feel I'm able to experience happiness, it's just accompanied by grief and I'm beginning to accept that.

To Dad

To think one whole year has passed since I last saw you or heard your voice makes me feel ill. I wish you could see me now because you'd be so proud of the fact that I'm actually still here and fighting each day to live a good life. I know how worried you were about me and how I would cope. I so badly wanted to join you for quite some time, I so badly just wanted to be with you instead. It seemed like the better deal and on the really bad days, it still does. However, I am so incredibly grateful for the life that you gave me, how could I ever want to give that up? I live for you because I'm half of you. As long as I'm here, you'll always be here with me and I will never, ever let your memory die. I hope you know you're the first thought I have when I wake up, the last one before I go to sleep and every thought in between. I hope you know how much we all miss you and how we never stop talking about you. We keep your mannerisms alive and your jokes alive, we keep your voice alive (since we all nailed impressions of you over the years!). You're always, always with us. You said you just wanted to be with all of us and I promise you, you are. You always will be. You are the anchor of our family. You are the heart and soul of our family. You are in every single thing we do. One year later and death changes nothing. We love you more than words can say and we miss you endlessly, Dad.

This week has been tough. It's almost been a one year anniversary week as the last seven days up to losing my Dad were very traumatic. Losing somebody to cancer comes with more than just one day for death. Watching my Dad suffer so much is something I won't ever forget, and I guess it's an even more prominent thought during these days as I reflect on this time last year. 

I won't be writing monthly round-ups anymore, but I won't be stopping writing or talking about this either. Grief is massively brushed under the carpet and it's an isolating place to be because as a society, we let it be this way. We all go through it, yet it can be frightening to talk about. You get a hall pass for a few months and that's it, say no more. I don't know how to open the space for this conversation other than talking about it myself, so I will continue to do so as much as I can. Thank you if you'd read along with my posts over the past year and I hope I can be someone you can resonate with if you're going through the same. I'm always here to talk to absolutely anybody who wants to.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Grief Writing - 10 Months On

It's so crazy to think that we're already in a New Year. I type '10 months on', but it really still feels like yesterday.. or feels like it never happened (in the sense of 'can't believe it's real'). 

I've said this before but sometimes it's hard for me to gather my thoughts when I'm sat here writing. I usually can string together everything I'm thinking or feeling when I'm walking, or falling asleep (typical). I want to keep up with sharing this every month until it's been twelve, it's been important for me to try to document this first year since I started writing but today I just don't feel able to piece everything together in my mind in order to create an honest post, and I guess that's honest in itself. I have so so many thoughts in my mind all the time, but sometimes I think they're better staying in there.

I really do view the New Year as an opportunity to make myself and my Dad proud and that's what I will do. It's five days into the New Year and whilst I do have so much motivation and drive right now, it's so so hard when it's accompanied by my grief and sadness. I forget what it's like not to have a broken heart every day. I feel like this is my 'new normal', living with grief and trying to manage it whilst living whatever a normal life is. 

I would love to be able to talk to lots more people in similar situations to me but I completely understand that not everyone is able to talk about such painful things. That's something I've thought of a lot recently.

My 'grief writing' is pretty awful this month so I'm not even going to share this post anywhere, but if anyone is reading who's going through a similar thing I hope this helps you feel less alone and please reach out if you want to talk.


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Nine Months On & National Grief Awareness Week

I decided to start writing this post a little earlier than nine months to the day, it's the 29th November and it's been a really really tough month. To be honest I would say this has been the most painful month I've experienced so far in terms of grief. There is a chance that being in lockdown has made things harder to cope with in terms of finding 'coping mechanisms', but the bottom line is I just miss my Dad so, so much. 

Okay, we're back to 5th December now, today is nine months since losing my Dad. I really wanted to write something back when I started this post on the 29th but recently I find it hard to put 'pen to paper' if that makes sense. What I wrote 6 days ago is essentially what I want to write now anyway. It's been so much harder recently, almost like the shock is fading and it's hitting me right in the face that my Dad is gone. The fact that Christmas is around the corner also adds to the pain as I wander around the shops seeing gifts that I wish I could buy him, cards I want to write for him and the list goes on. I've been loving seeing the robins recently, I've seen quite a few big beautiful robins that always appear when I need them the most. I tell them not to move if they're my Dad and they stay still, just long enough for me to take a photo!

This week is National Grief Awareness week and I knew about this for months and really wanted to write something in detail about grief to raise awareness, in particular anticipatory grief, but I decided to leave that for another time as I have some photos I want to share alongside that piece that I'm not ready to talk about yet. I have written out some 'tips' and 'advice' which I'll add to this post too. I don't know everything and things are definitely different for everybody, but there are a lot of similarities too so I hope these are helpful.


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Eight Months On

I'm so grateful that this has been a very long month. As much as we all just want these rubbish covid times to pass, for me, I hate being further away from the last time I was with my Dad. Every single month has flown by and it's frightened me. October has been a month full of anticipation for the festivities ahead, (well, maybe not now!) and also a month full of sadness that I won't be sharing these moments with my Dad. A real 'joy and grief' co-existing month.

As the festive period begins I'm overwhelmed with the joy I feel for Christmas, the food, the lights, the decorations, the films, the music, I absolutely adore the music. I may have mentioned in my last post, maybe not, but straight away after losing Dad I said 'There's no way I can celebrate Christmas, no trees, no lights, no music, no NOTHING'. But over the last month or so I've fully changed my mind and I have gone full force into Christmas mode like NEVER before. I want it all, the lights, the music, the decorations, all of it. The reason is that it makes me feel SO close to Dad and my happiest memories, it makes me feel like I've gone back in time and that's the best gift I could give to myself. I see my Dad in the music, I see my Dad in the frosty winter air when the sky is blue and the sun is beaming. I see my Dad in the beautiful lights and the wacky decorations. I see my Dad in every childhood Christmas movie. I could never give up all of this because I'd be giving up my precious memories of him.

Everybody has their own ways of coping with grief and this is one I never expected for myself, but it's truly carrying me through one of the most painful times of the year. Yes, there are tears, my God there is tears whilst I'm singing, tears whilst I'm browsing the shops, but there is so much love and joy there too and I'm trying to choose the joy and hold it tight when I can, and cry when I need to.

Today, I sat in the same spot where I was when I found out my Dad had passed away and I looked down the corridor, imagining seeing him there like I usually would and said out loud 'Eight months, it's been eight months? Wow, that's too long to not have seen you'. I cried, my cat ran off and left me alone and I continued to plough through old photos of him. I guess there's nothing I can do about time passing by, but I will do everything to carry my Dad with me so he's never too far and time won't mean a thing.

I love you so much Dad, I sob every time I write these and secretly hope you're over my shoulder reading it with me and feeling it too. I miss you more and more and more and more and I'll never stop. ❤️️


Monday, October 5, 2020

Seven Months On..

Today is seven months since we lost my Dad and yesterday I wrote a whole post, emptying every thought and feeling as much as I possibly could. I felt vulnerable and it actually made me feel uncomfortable. I deleted everything I wrote because even though I fully stand behind being open with grief and find it therapeutic, it just felt too raw and messy to put out there this month.

I've written something a little shorter instead, (but actually more therapeutic 
for me).

This time last year Dad was recovering from sepsis. It was the first time he'd almost lost his life to the dangers of cancer and it really brought home the painful truth that he wouldn't be with us forever, and probably not for as long as I'd thought. His life became even more precious, the conversations I had with him made me feel like the luckiest daughter in the world. The warmth in his voice at the other end of the phone whilst I told him what I was buying in Morrisons, I only ever felt whole when I spoke to him. Of course, I really started to feel the deep sadness of anticipatory grief, but I only have fond memories of last autumn/winter. I can hear his voice in my head like he's still talking to me, his happy laugh, his silly voices, his Dad jokes, but not just any Dad jokes, my Dad's jokes. I'm trying hard to bring autumn alive in our home this year as it brings me the comforts of those memories. Doing things that remind me of Dad and memories with him brings me so much warmth inside, it's something that makes me realise that joy and grief can co-exist.


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Six Months On

It feels like a very long month between now and my last post. So much has happened since then, it’s been my birthday, my first one without my Dad, I’ve returned to work (although in a completely new place and with a lot of new people) and I’ve also gone on my first holiday, (which I’m currently on when I’m writing this). It’s been six months since losing my Dad and I was very much dreading this time frame as it feels so long yet it’s still so fresh, it just happened. Six months feels like a long time to be doing life without my Dad. 

I’ve gone from being able to openly respond to ‘how are you?’ to no longer being able to. Besides my very open blog posts, I just can’t answer generic questions with deep answers anymore. I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall and it makes me feel worse than if I kept things to myself. But, I will be open in this post with how I feel about everything and maybe other people going through the same thing can relate and feel less alone when it can feel (and usually does feel) extremely lonely. 

I feel like I’ve gone back quite a few paces recently. I wouldn’t say I’m in ‘denial’ as such but I do feel like I don’t believe that it’s happened, and I do feel this big pang of shock in my chest if something really brings it home and makes it real. I’ve also being getting so many big grief waves and they literally rip the ground from beneath me. I could be just sat watching a video, icing a cupcake or stirring some chicken and suddenly ill burst into tears and it’ll feel like they’ll never stop. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if my Dad knocked on the door and said sorry he had to go away for so long but he’s back and would give us a big hug.. I don’t know why I do it to myself but I have such a good imagination I can make it feel real for a moment, (of course then I feel incredibly upset after). Sometimes I see people who look like him or dress like him or walk like him and I just imagine it’s him for a second and that he’s walking by me.

I only really get to talk about him to my mum, brother and partner now as I think my timeframe for sharing with others has expired and nobody really asks me anyway. The good thing is that me and my mum talk about him a lot, every single day, and we talk about everything. We share memories, we talk about his cancer, we talk about when he passed, we talk about things he’s told both of us, I’m very lucky in that respect because I’ve read so much about people not being able to talk to their surviving parent about their parent who’s passed away and I would find that very challenging. 

I do get why people close off though, I had a conversation recently that included talking about my Dads passing and it was so frank that it actually made me feel ill. It was as if it was somebody’s hamster that had died, not my Dad. I feel really uncomfortable that there’s a chance that could happen again and that’s made me question being as open as I am because I feel like I let that happen by being willing to let his passing be talked about on anything other than my terms. 

I realise (and I’m sure every single person who I’ve seen in the last month would agree), I come across like I’m doing really really well. I resent that a lot, I’m not saying I want to look like I’m completely miserable but some balance wouldn’t go a miss!! I feel like it does my love for my Dad and longing for him a massive injustice by hiding it but I can’t help it, I can only cry and be upset alone which I find odd. I found this recently which I’ll post below as it sums up a part of how I feel/a possible misconception very well. I had my birthday in August and all I’d asked for for this year was to celebrate it with my Dad. This was before I even knew he may pass away in 2020, I simply just wanted to spend it with him. Of course, that didn’t happen and very kindly the majorly of my family came together to spend it with me. Even though I ‘celebrated’, nobody saw me spend the morning crying, the night before crying and going home and crying. I posted the photo at the top of this post because I can’t add it properly whilst posting this from my phone, but I’m sure many of you in a similar position can relate. 

I’ve actually wrote this whilst on a train in Italy, it’s probably very long and all over the place as I’ve kind of written it point by point as it comes into my head, but it’s helpful for me to offload. I’m a weird space with things at the moment, I wish I could understand and have some kind of rhythm with my feelings but it’s just not like that, all I can do is somehow keep going and not expect the world from myself, or let others expect much from me whilst going through the most difficult time of my life. 


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Five Months On

This past month has been full of firsts. First after first after first and for someone who really doesn't like change, I've been thrust into a hell of a lot of it. My last post 'four months on' had me sharing the depths of my grief and how it's seemed to manifest as depression. I worried where I would be 'five months on' and how I would get through this past month. 

In the last month, I have left the country for three weeks, I've attended my first wedding since losing my Dad (personally a big deal for me as I'm grieving those memories I will never share with him), I've gone back to the gym for the first time, I've visited my home for the first time along with all the firsts that come with lockdown easing too.

Being away from the UK brought me a lot of anxiety, not because of coronavirus but because I still don't feel ready to 'enjoy myself' or integrate with people as normal, so I did feel isolated in my grief for a period of time. On the positive side, it was actually nice to be mildly distracted from my reality as whilst I was away as I had no reason to believe my Dad wasn't still here. It probably doesn't sound great but it really helped me manage for that period of time. 

It's strange to only visit my home for the first time in five months after losing my Dad, and I have done so very quietly. I've really needed some time to just be in my house and be with my family. Five months later and I'm encountering a lot of 'firsts' that come with being home. The night I got home, I went to the fridge and noticed my Dad's slippers by the back door where they've always been, as if he'd never gone away. I noticed his glasses on his bedside table and I noticed his favourite mustards in our fridge, right where they belong. I sat down to get my pyjamas out of my drawer and was hit with the gut-wrenching memory of finding out that my Dad had died, as that's exactly where I was. I've found myself with my head in his wardrobe trying to smell 'Dad', although I think everything is clean now but seeing his shirts just took me back to each and every memory of him. Seeing his coat on the coat rack sends me right back into his arms. He'd get out of the car when he'd come to see me and would give me a big Dad hug and I'd be swallowed by his arms and by the huge huge coat.

There's been a few difficulties that I really need my Dad's help/advice with, and trying to deal with all of it predominantly by myself is challenging but I'm trying my best, and asking myself 'what would Dad do?' has become the new norm. 

As for me right now, I'm not feeling quite as hopeless as I did in the month before (although I probably have every reason to feel like that!). I think I was extremely anxious about leaving the country and that anxiety coupled with everything else put me in a really dark place. My head is slightly clearer now in the sense that I'm not beating myself up over small things. I'm actually feeling quite numb, but when my emotions are triggered I really have a lot to let out. I'll be honest, other than this blog once a month, I'm starting to feel I shouldn't be bringing my Dad or my grief up because I feel it's forgotten about.

When you lose someone you love with every ounce of your soul, the person you've never lived a moment without, you never forget. I can never be 'reminded' because I never stop thinking about him. I look for him in every feather, every butterfly, every robin and every shining sun. I even look for him when I hear the slightest creak in the floorboard or feel a gust of wind through the window. 

Five months on and I don't know how I got here but I did, and it's with your love and spirit that I'll keep trying Dad ❤️

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