Sunday, April 26, 2020

Thoughts & Feelings - Missing Dad & Adjusting to Quarantine

Normally when I'm writing, I like to know the general idea of what I'm going to write about and have a title in mind, but I honestly don't know where this one is going, I just wanted to write. (I figured out a title, as there is probably going to be a series of posts like this!).

Life is just hard right now. I'm not expecting it to be easy, but it doesn't make the difficulties any more bearable. I just miss my Dad so much. So much that it physically hurts every part of me and even writing this brings on another bout of tears and pain. I picture his face and I just want him back. I just want to hear his voice and I want a big Dad hug. He had the most positive voice and attitude and its times like this that I need him the most. 

Despite my emotions crumbling more and more every day, I've actually taken some really positive steps for myself in the last week. I've been writing down a list of things that I want to do each day, first thing in the morning! Then I go about my day ticking them off, mostly! It's given me some structure and has also given me a chance of coping. Whilst downtime is good for me, I also cope a lot better when I'm occupied with something, and lockdown is making it much harder to occupy myself. There's only so much baking that you can do before you can't bear to look at another cupcake for a while! I have been working out again which I've been enjoying so much! It feels good to do something positive for my body after a few months of neglecting it!

I miss my mum and brother a lot. I didn't live at home anyway so of course, I didn't see them every day, but it's been so long since I saw them and we should be able to be together and comfort each other. I do have so much support, but the three of us know exactly the pain we're going through and it would probably make things that little bit easier if we could see each other. 

I know I shouldn't, but I have been wondering what people may or may not think about what I'm writing. It's natural I suppose and it wouldn't stop me, but I am curious! I generally assume that people roll their eyes every time I post something like this, or post anything about Dad or grieving. Of course, that isn't going to stop me writing. It's funny because my boyfriend just saw me typing away and asks me what I'm doing, so I said 'I'm writing' and he said he's so happy to see me writing because he knows I always feel much better after it! He's seen me in floods of tears every single day throughout the day, so he knows how much I need some kind of relief! We all grieve and cope in our own ways, I have lots of different coping mechanisms and writing is definitely one of them. 

I'm not kidding when I say every single time I think of Dad at the moment, I burst into tears. It's only really been like that in the last week because before that I could think about him and be quite peaceful, but now I just erupt in tears! I think before, I was still in a state of processing the shock of losing him and also adjusting to quarantine life which was definitely at the forefront of my mind, but now I've settled more into this new lockdown life, I'm facing the reality of Dad not being here anymore. It's times like this where I'd want to go to the beach we used to go to as kids and various other things that would help me feel closer to Dad. God forbid when life actually returns to 'normal' and then I'm really thrown in at the deep end. Lockdown has just added another layer to grief that was totally unnecessary. 

This post has been a bit all over the place, but it's got various things off my chest! I just want a few days of respite. Writing usually gives me some relief, so maybe I can have a few days of stillness in my heart now. My eyes are constantly stinging from crying all the time and my anxiety has gotten so high, I don't even know why. I can hear my heart beating so loud when I try to relax. It's reminding me of a fraction of how I felt at the time leading up to my Dads passing. (Side note, I actually want to write about that at some point, it was a harrowing experience and it hurts when I think about it but I definitely want to share that experience at some point. Ahh, my incessant need to share.).

To sum up this long-winded post, I miss my Dad incredible amounts. Sometimes to the point where I think my heart will stop if I feel any more pain. It's just not enough for me at the moment to know 'he's always with me'. It's not the same when I'm longing for his physical presence. Anyway, I say this probably every day but 'there will be better days'. There has been, and there will be more again. I am hopeful, I'll keep trying.


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Six Weeks, Six Lessons - Grief & Loss

A beautiful quote from an amazing author I recently discovered, and something I feel so strongly about.

In the last week, I've begun to understand very clearly that the greatest loss of my life has triggered a strong desire for me to share every one of my experiences in regards to that lifelong grief journey. This is something I want to do now, and maybe something I will continue forever. Either way, I want to start by saying this desire to share is not my weakness. This is a strength I have found amongst the gut-wrenching pain of losing my Dad. The ability to share these thoughts and feelings is what guides me through them, so I hope whether you're here because you can relate, or you're here because it's a good read, I hope that you find something useful from it.

It's been six weeks since I lost my Dad to cancer. Six weeks of a whole host of emotions and six weeks of lessons. You see, grief is the greatest teacher I desperately feared lessons from. The 'grief club' is a club I didn't want a membership to, same with the 'lost a parent' club. Sometimes I look at myself and question why I think I'm qualified to talk about grief when I'm only six weeks deep and have a lifetime of twists and turns with it ahead of me. So with that, I'm not offering advice or suggestions, I just want to share some experiences and primarily lessons that I have learnt this far.

I really thought I knew it all. I've been working so hard on my mental health for the last year (prior to losing my Dad), and I really thought I had the answers that would help myself and everybody. The truth is, everybody grieves differently, even if it's for the same person. What works for me may not work for the next person, and the sad truth is, grieving is an emotion that simply cannot be fixed by eating well and working out. Sure, those are positive actions that will provide better foundations for your mind and body, but they're not the 'answer'. Lesson number one, there is no answer. I've said it before and will say it forever, grief is a journey and typically an endless one. 

Going back to what I just said, you can be grieving the same person but an entirely different loss. In the beginning, my mum, brother and I stood by the fact that we were all experiencing the same pain and the same loss. This was to bring a sense of comfort that we were not alone. The truth is, yes we're not alone, but no, we're not experiencing the same loss or pain, in many ways. I have lost my guidance, my light to turn to in the dark, my voice of reason, my daily caring and loving joy. My brother has lost his best friend, his coffee date, his navigator through life and his greatest teacher. My mum has lost her husband, everything she has ever known. I won't write anymore on that as it truly breaks my heart into a trillion pieces to imagine the magnitude of her loss. But that is something I have opened my eyes to recently. It is different, and the support needs to match that. I reflect on the conversations I have had with my mum in the last six weeks and I wish I had that understanding from the beginning so I could process it in my head accordingly. Lesson number two, grieving the same person does not mean the same grief.

Following on from that, everybody's loss is different. That goes for losing the same relationship eg. two different people losing a parent, or two different people losing two different relationships eg. one a parent and the other a different relationship. The latter is the most sensitive to compare. I just think it's a risky game to try to relate to someone's loss with an entirely different loss. In my opinion and experience, it doesn't always receive well. Not because I don't believe anyone could experience those same traumatic feelings, I just think sometimes we like to try very hard to relate, when it's okay not to. Lesson number three, grief is not up for comparison, but it's precious to share personal experiences.

Somehow these paragraphs are linking well one after the other, it wasn't my intention but I'll roll with it! Grieving and loss are taboo subjects, purely because they're highly emotional topics and it's a highly vulnerable state to be in. People often don't know what to say in fear of saying the wrong thing, so they'd rather say nothing at all. I've also noticed that people can actively avoid talking to you about what you're going through to avoid those uncomfortable moments for themselves. If you didn't already know, I could talk about my Dad and my experience until the end of time, and the fact that sometimes that's brushed past, it hurts and makes me feel alone. As of now, that's rarely happened to me and I've had the chance to express my feelings to people many times, but the occasions it did happen truly hurt and left me feeling like I had all of this love for my Dad, all of this pain and nowhere to express it. Understandably, some people don't like to talk about their loss, but usually, you will receive clear signs and even words from them that that's how they'd feel comfortable going forward. Lesson number four, be selfless and don't be afraid of one of the most human emotions there is.

If you do have the courage to ask somebody how they're doing or you want to find a way to help, that's a wonderful gift in itself and I can't tell you how appreciated it is, I am so touched with the support I've received, and I don't think I've had anyone believe that can fix things, but for anybody who can feel discouraged, please don't be discouraged by the fact that you simply cannot fix things. It's very kind and compassionate to want to make things right, and of course, the sentiment is appreciated, but you can't fix what's happened, no words will fix what's happened and it will never be fixed. Once you can accept that, you can find peace in giving the person who needs the support the best support you can. It's very important to understand how the person grieving needs to be supported, rather than how you feel that person needs to be supported. My current experience of this is very minimal as there isn't much people can do given that we're in lockdown, but for me, I know I need a healthy mixture of time to myself and time communicating with other people. Lesson number five, don't be discouraged about your ability to support somebody just because you can't take away their pain. 

I've found myself immersed in reading material on grief, loss, loss from cancer, loss of a parent and even loss of a husband, just so I can try to understand even a fraction of what my mum is going through so I can give her better support. I actually will make one suggestion that regardless of how new I am to this kind of grief will be helpful, if you're closely supporting somebody grieving, do some research on what they're going through as specifically as you can. I know I don't understand my mums exact pain from experience, but I want to be a better support and a better daughter, so reading things that can open my mind is slowly giving me a better understanding and more patience. Anyway, from reading endless material, I often got lost in peoples stories of hopelessness and became fearful for a bleak future but then also clung onto every other persons words who shone a light on the future and gave me hope. Neither of these are correct as the truth is, grief is your own personal journey. To an extent, and this is only what I believe right now, I'm aware things will develop and change but for now, I think your grief journey has a lot to do with what you make it. I'll hold that thought for now. Lesson number six, listen to other peoples accounts of grief, but remember, your journey is personal to you. 

Okay, on reflection, my six lessons are a little bit of advice too even though I said I wouldn't give any. The point is, it's been a tumultuous six weeks since we lost my wonderful Dad. For the love of God it's been all over the show. Weeks of numbness, weeks of pain and hopelessness, weeks of overwhelming sadness and all in all, six weeks of lessons I never wanted but got anyway. There is a future to be had, a future of uncertainty, but I believe as long as I can keep writing, my dads legacy continues with me. I hope this has been a helpful insight and I hope I'm opening up the topic of grief for discussion. 


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dealing with loss whilst in quarantine

I found it very therapeutic for a little while after writing and sharing my last post about losing my Dad. I also mentioned that I wanted to use this blog almost like a diary for me, not necessarily because I have something structured to say. 

It's mid-way through week two in quarantine or self-isolation and life has changed for everybody, not just me. I'm at a bit of a loss for what to do really because just under four weeks ago, my world fell apart. My life changed forever and the way to try to move forward with that was with the support of family and friends, being around the people I love and having them hold me up in a time where I desperately need it. Fast forward to now and everybody is dealing with their own personal struggles that have come as a consequence of coronavirus. It's a very lonely time. 

I went to visit my Dad today in the chapel of rest. Since he passed away I had decided against going to see him there, I just felt I didn't want to revisit those emotions again as the road ahead is difficult enough. Over the past four weeks, I've been dreaming about him every night and that he'd come back so I could have one last conversation with him. I thought again about visiting him there as I felt it could be a very important part of the grieving process and to have that chance to be with him one last time. Things have been so much harder for a while, his absence is becoming more and more prominent each day and has become so much more real since my last post. I'm actually feeling very depressed. I've suffered from depression greatly over the last ten years and it was actually my Dad that sought help for me all those years ago. It's been my Dad that I've turned to when I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel. On my way to visit him today, I felt such emotion for the fact that this was the final time I'd be going to him in my helpless moments. I'm glad I got to be with him and share some final moments in his physical presence, however thanks to lockdown I couldn't be with my family afterwards or have much time to process it.

Lockdown is having such a strong effect on my mental health on top of losing my Dad. It's making the most difficult time of my life so much harder. I can't be with my family, I can't do the majority of things that would typically help me, or at least distract me. I honestly thought the numbness of grief would last for a couple of months or so but with the amount of time I'm spending by myself, I can't help but feel the pain and the longing. It kills me every day. I know how painful it is for those who have loved ones in end of life care/have passed away during this time. 

I'm re-reading this post many times whilst I'm writing it and I'm quite conscious of what people might say as it's very negative, but I want to express my emotions. (Honestly, I'm still holding back so much of what I truly want to say.. and have typed out about twenty times).

The bottom line is, I'm not okay. I might not cry when I talk to people, but I am absolutely less than okay. I am less than coping. I hope and pray that as a nation we pull together and do what is required of us (stay home) so we can get out of this mess sooner. I just want to be able to take care of myself and my family and try to process the loss of my Dad, the person we love more than anything on this Earth. 

I'm sure there will be better days just like there are bad days. I'm having a lot of consecutive bad days which is what brought me back here again, but I hope to share something more positive in the near future. I do have hope for better days, for example, tomorrow I have some rhinestones arriving and I'm going to bedazzle the hell out of all of my make-up brushes. Lord knows there's good in that. 

I hope everyone who is reading this during the coronavirus period is keeping well, safe, and finding things to keep yourself occupied. I would love to learn some new skills. Tomorrow, I bedazzle. Some people go to therapy, I turn to bedazzling. My Dad would not be surprised after me filling my room with glitter and sparkly things my whole childhood. 

I will post again, possibly when I have done something positive and can share some hope but at the end of the day, what's the good in 'it's okay to talk' or 'speak up' if I just sprinkle sunshine everywhere when I feel like a massive grey cloud. I have put a really happy photo below though as it very much makes me smile no matter what :)

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