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.


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