A year ago today, I lost my dad.
It was sudden and unexpected and threw our family into a very strange and difficult time. You can read about my initial experience of grief in a previous post but I thought I’d do a little update concerning how things are after a year.
Firstly, things definitely aren’t as raw as they were in the early days. Many people told me that the pain becomes more of a dull ache, always present but a little easier to bare, and they were right. It might not seem like it initially but it does get easier to breathe again. I felt guilty about that at first. As if it meant that I was a bad daughter or I didn’t really care about my dad. But I know that’s not true. The more I think about it, I feel that for a lot of us, we see grief (if we haven’t experienced it before) through media – characters sobbing continuously, driven to extreme depression or pushing away all those who want to help. In reality, grief is a lot more complicated than all that. It’s hiding tears because you want to be strong for someone else, it’s reaching out but people don’t know what to say to help, it’s feeling guilty for carrying on with life. Grief throws everything at you, all you can do is take it one moment at a time, be kind to yourself and trust in your love for those you lose. Only you can pass judgement on how you feel.
We’ve been through a year of firsts, without all of the excitement that they would usually bring. Father’s Day fell a few days after the funeral, our first Christmas was particularly hard, and it was followed by a very quiet New Year, a confusing wedding anniversary for my mom and a whole host of birthdays that were missing something crucial. Dad. Although he is never far from my mind, being smacked in the face with the knowledge that we’ll never get to wish him a happy birthday in person again, or that for the rest of my life there will be no cards signed with his name, makes those days difficult. Not really surprising but compared to the days in between, where we can laugh over fond memories of his awful cooking and his need not only to watch Formula 1 but to record it as well (just in case!), it can hit hard. There are still the odd nights when it gets too much and I have a cry and some days where I have a moment of regressing to not seeing the point in getting out of bed. Through it all I remind myself that a life half lived is not something that my dad would want for me and, after taking the time I need to feel more myself, we start putting one foot in front of the other again.
There is no expiry date on grief. It will impact you in a variety of ways for who knows how long, whether that’s having a panic when you can’t get hold of someone or second guessing whether you are making your loved one proud, but know never to push yourself to move faster than your own pace.
She was no longer wrestling with grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.George Eliot
But it’s not all doom and gloom, I suppose. The pain is no longer all consuming and, although I know that I’ve forever changed as a person, it allows us to look towards a future – one that would make him proud. I’ve found some incredible support amongst my friends and have taken the time to really figure out what I want from life. Most days pass without tears or break downs and I no longer expect him to be waiting round the corner. So many things remind me of my dad that he’s often on my mind, but in a much more comforting way than it was a year ago. Of course, there are days when I think of all of the milestones that he’ll miss – weddings, grandchildren, big birthdays, new jobs and houses – it will always bring a tear to my eye but I know that whatever milestones my brother and I reach, Dad will be smiling down on us anyway.
A year passing has given me a lot of time to reflect on my life so far and the impact my dad had on me and it only serves to make me more determined to make the best of it all.
To Dad, I say thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support and advice, for your selflessness and generosity. Thank you for being the life of the party and making things fun but still imparting your knowledge of the more serious things. A year without you is the longest I’ve ever been without talking to you and I miss you everyday. Here’s to you – if I can live up to just a fraction of what you brought to us all, I’ll be happy. I love you.
A year ago, I posted some advice to anyone going through a period of grief, so I’ll do the same here.
Anniversaries of important days will be the worst. Birthdays, Christmas’s, Mother’s or Father’s Day maybe, wedding anniversaries – they’ll bring back memories and it becomes more apparent that these days will never be spent the same again. But using those days to honour them and their influence on your life can ease the pain. Take a trip to their favourite place, eat their favourite food, watch something that you both loved. Make the most of those days by creating new memories that you know would make your loved one smile. It’s bittersweet but so are so many things at this point in your journey. Take all the time you need and do whatever feels right for you and your family. Everyone faces things differently so if, even after a year, you’re struggling or have more bad days than good, don’t be afraid to reach out. Whether it’s setting some time aside for therapy or just finding a friend who’s willing to lend you an ear, it can really help. Be kind to yourself, life is unpredictable and putting your wellbeing first at difficult times is so important. I send my love and support to you at this time – know that whatever your experience, you are not alone.
If you’re after some more reassurance or want to read another person’s experience of grief, Alex has a series of posts that might be of interest to you ❤️
I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces.Billie Holiday