A bit of a different post today. Not one that fits in with my blog but one I felt I needed to get out there. Today marks five years since I lost my wonderful, courageous Dad. As every single year passes by, it still doesn’t seem like he’s gone. I still expect him knocking at the door, shouting through the letter box in a silly high pitched voice and winding us up to the point of being chased around the house like a naughty child. There’s not a day goes by where he’s not thought about, we always make sure we remember and reminisce the good times and even the bad. He’s always in our hearts and minds and we miss him more every minute, especially when an anniversary or a birthday comes around; that ache in my chest returns, moments occur when I think ‘if only my Dad was here to see this’ and the signs he’s still around watching over us are brought back to the surface.
However, that’s not all I wanted to say on a day like today. I wanted to talk about grief and the impact is has on an individual. Everybody is different and deals with it in a number of ways; whether this be sadness, anger, guilt, or even the inability to show your emotions. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with it but finding healthy coping mechanisms is extremely beneficial to your well being. I thought briefly sharing my experience and giving out my advice based on how I dealt with it, may help others who are feeling the same way or who are dealing with some of the same issues.
Never did I think 5 years ago I’d be in the position I am now. The pain, loss, anxiety and depression (which is another story I may talk about in the future when I am comfortable doing so) took over my life and I never thought I’d be able to let these emotions go. Realistically, it’s possible to get better and move on to a more positive state of mind. The heart wrenching feeling of knowing your loved one is gone never really goes away and can strike you hard again at any time throughout your time on earth but it does get easier and changing your mindset into something new is a strategy which is important to develop as soon as those first few weeks, even months of overwhelming sorrow seem to be slowing down.
As I said, each personal situation is different. The general stages of grief seem to be the initial shock and numbness, which then leads on to realisation and acceptance, the heightened sadness and then the other emotions that follow. Some people may not necessarily go through this, some may last longer. You need to remember it’s okay to feel this way as a huge change/loss has just happened and it’s your body’s way of reacting. It is new to you and the healing process is bound to take time, it takes patience and you need to allow yourself time to face your grief and let yourself unravel. For me, my Dad’s death never really hit me until the funeral. The day after that was the start of a drastic suffering when I experienced my worst panic attack to date. I don’t feel like I need to go into detail about how this then lead on to greater troubles but in general it did prevent me from living a robust life. My anxiety and depression grew stronger, I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t go to school and had to be more or less dragged there. It was my final year of school and at the time when my GCSE’s were taking part which had a negatively marked impression on the end result. It affected my relationships and my self confidence. I began obsessively thinking that everybody was judging me, my behaviour became aggressive towards my close friends and family due to my thoughts on their lack of understanding. I was unable to partake in any ordinary routine, I felt numb and disconnected and I blamed others, comparing people’s illnesses with my Dad’s thinking ‘how are they still here, why did it have to happen to my Dad’. Looking back, it felt as though I was in a never ending maze but with the support and guidance I needed, I managed to pick myself up and start coming to terms with reality.
It is highly important to know the difference between normal and abnormal. I think it was so easy for me to put my entire feelings down to grief instead of looking at the bigger picture which therefore didn’t help at all. If in the long run, your feelings are having an effect on your everyday life, they don’t seem to be becoming less intense and it becomes serious, it’s important to consider seeking help. I was eventually persuaded to see a bereavement counsellor and a cognitive behavioural therapist for my anxiety and I definitely think it was the correct decision to make. It doesn’t just give you that chance to express and discuss your emotions, you are taught ways and means of dealing with grief and ways of looking back on memories and smiling instead of sinking into the darkness. I learnt that being around your current loved ones is a must, together your strength will benefit each other. Don’t be afraid about talking about your lost one, don’t think you have to keep your thoughts to yourself, open up your heart and surround yourself with the ones you need the most. Having a good cry can help enormous amounts, showing your true feelings and crying together can help your friends and family in overcoming their grief too. Whatever you do, don’t hide away. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak and not crying doesn’t mean you don’t care; it just simply means everyone has their own ways of airing their feelings.
Another thing I was frightened of doing was making the light of the situation. I didn’t feel as though I should look back on a memory, laugh and feel enlightened. This isn’t wrong, it’s important to go along with every feeling whether that be positive or negative and let go of each one when you’re ready. I found out that it’s nice to celebrate your loved one’s life and all the treasured keepsake moments, although it’s normal to feel guilty, it’s going to have a gloomy impact on your mind if you don’t allow yourself to turn the situation around and think about the worthy characteristics. Something I found kept cropping up in my time of grief was the regrets and ‘what ifs’, what if we’d done more to prevent my Dad’s death? We should have been there more than we should etc etc. The truth is, nobody can change what’s happened. If you are dwelling on the changes you wish had occurred, you won’t be able to step into the future and you will be tormenting yourself further. Think of it this way, your loved one would not want to see you that way and would never ever put the blame on you.
Expressing your feelings in a tangible way is something I took advice from on a day to day basis. Being creative can not only take your mind off things but it also feels like you are giving something back to your loved one. My shrine I could take myself to everyday was a small memorial garden we planted in the back garden with monumental ornaments and objects that summed up my Dad’s personality. You can add a personal touch to it too for e.g. we placed plants in a pair of his trainers and placed his favourite football team’s scarf around the tree. It doesn’t always have to be something as big as this, it could be a simple diary or journal to mark down how you feel about your loss and how important your loss was to you. It could be a photo scrapbook of all the memories you have shared throughout the years, or it could even be a letter you write to your loved one saying everything you wished you had said and what you could say (which may also be a huge help with your anger and self blame). Just because they’re not here anymore does not mean they’re not there with you, it’s always lovely to still carry them along on this journey.
As anniversaries, milestones, holidays, events or birthdays approach it can and most probably will reawaken your grief. Be aware of this, and once again do not think you are immoral or are having to cope all over again. You may be taken through another emotional rollercoaster but where there’s one step back, there’s always another step forward. Taking it back to sharing your feelings with family and friends, this is the main solution. You may notice that you want to talk about your loved one more around this time than any usual day so go ahead and do it. Agree on plans to honour your loved one, you could go out together to partake in something they loved or even go out for a meal to celebrate your loved ones life. You could visit their place of rest together to pay your tributes and enjoy the special time spent there. A walk in the fresh air is extremely advantageous when you feel as though you’re taking on the world and want to let go. Something my family always do is take a picture of our lost loved ones out whenever we go and keep pictures of them in the car, in our purse, on our keys and so on. This is a gesture that gives you back that connection to your loved one. If you feel comfortable and able to bear the images and reminders of your loved one around you, you may find this is helpful in the healing process.
It is extremely important to look after and not neglect yourself when going through grief. It’s so easy to let yourself slip which is why having a healthy lifestyle will keep you at bay. Keeping active, getting enough sleep, eating correctly and exercising will not only release your emotion but keep a steady balance of control. Blocking out the pain using other methods isn’t the way to go and I do think if you are feeling this way, it’s important to contact your GP or any other professional help you may need. However, this is the last resort. In time, you will hopefully find communicating and symbolizing how you feel to the closest support around you will ease your pain. Don’t let anybody tell you how you should feel but give out clear details on what you are enduring and in return, listen to each other, give out advice to each other and be there for each other. Like me, sometimes you may feel that being alone is what you prefer to do. This is fine, as long as you don’t bottle up your emotions until the point of exploding. Taking a break and escaping through the power of others or even your own suitable decisions is something you must focus on throughout your period of grief and years on into the future.
I hope what I’ve discussed here is or will be helpful to someone who is faced with grief and has no idea what will occur after the passing of their loved one. The mixed emotions can often seem overwhelming but by taking it a step at a time, continuing to involve your lost loved one in your life, and seeking the love and guidance of others, you will find improvement and will therefore help you find settlement.