When it comes to grief no feeling or emotion is invalid. Anger, sadness, frustration, avoidance, contentment and everything else will hit you at some point or maybe they won’t. The process of grief is different for everyone and every situation, there is no right or wrong way of dealing with it.
The reason I wanted to include the topic of grievance in my C Word series was because even if the person affected by Cancer recovers, feelings of grief can still arise which will bring confusion to many as it may not be obvious it is grief that is being felt.
My experience with grief started around one year after my father was given his terminal prognosis and his health was starting to deteriorate right in front of my eyes. I too didn’t realise I had begun the process off grieving until my psychologist at Maggie’s helped me understand it. The way she described it was that even though my father was still there he wasn’t the same person who had raised me. He was no longer the humorous, care-free, fully functioning man anymore but instead a man who could no longer communicate with his loved ones and relied on others to do simple day-to-day tasks.
My father was always a very proud man, he was the one who took care of his family and I swear he could’ve independently taken on the world. As I stated in my previous post, my father was the rock of the family always being our shoulder to lean on. This can be a difficult role for people to have as it can have the tendency to weigh you down as you are constantly having to take on the worries for others, however this was not the case for my Dad, he rarely worried.
Even though this trait was embedded within him, when his health began to deteriorate it completely changed and this ‘killed him’. He no longer had the freedom or capability to do as he pleased or to provide for us in the way he wanted. This led him to become sad and frustrated with life. Although technically my Dad was still with us, which I was so grateful for, he was no where near the same person.
I remember when I was little and the summers we spent at our family chalet in Norfolk, where he would run around after us, joining in with the many water fights we would have over the course of our holidays. In the evenings he would be the BBQ king, cooking up hot dogs and burgers for everyone, before settling down with us all for games like Uno or a quiz. Back then I didn’t even look to the next day let alone years in the future, it never even occurred to me that these summers would end let alone what our lives would become. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be sitting across from my Dad in the living room and seeing him struggling to lift his mug and then being unable to communicate to us what he was wanting to watch on TV. I remember thinking in that moment that even though he was sat merely two metres away, the father I knew had already gone, and I missed him more than ever.
When my Dad died a few months later it didn’t hit me right away like I thought it would. Looking back on it now, it was probably because I had already been mourning him for a while already. I was sitting in my Christmas assembly at school when my guidance teacher came and got me. I had a good relationship with her by this time so I innocently assumed she just wanted a catch up before we broke off for the holidays, however, as soon as we started walking to the front of the school – which was the opposite direction to her office – I already knew what I was really about to be told. When we reached the Headteacher’s office I was met with my tearful mother, clutching to a tissue box she had been given. At this point no one had to say a word to me, I already knew that Dad had died. Before going home I had to go back in to the assembly hall to get my bag where I was met with a worried face from one of my best friends. He simply asked ‘everything okay?’ and all I responded with is ‘he’s gone’. My best friend went into more of a panic than I did but I asked him not to tell anyone.
When I arrived home I walked into the kitchen where my grandmother was crying. My brother and grandad were in the lounge in silence whilst my mother was asking if I wanted to go and say goodbye to my father. He had passed away at home in is sleep which is exactly how he would have wanted it to be. I still think my father decided it was his time to go as he had always said he didn’t want to be in a hospice or have carers coming in and out of the house. He died 1 day after Marie Curie nurses began coming into the house twice a day to care for him. As well as this, the night before he had asked to talk to me before I went to bed. It was the night before my school dance so he sat me down and told me how proud of he was of me and how beautiful I was going to look the next day. At the time I didn’t see it for what it was, he was saying goodbye.
After I had seen Dad and my family, all I wanted was to go back to school. I didn’t cry or breakdown like I thought I would, all I could think of was how he no longer had to suffer and be stripped of his pride. So I went back to school, after my family spent a long time making sure that I was fine to do so. When I arrived back at school my best friend was surprised to see me. It was apparent he had been upset, leading my other friends, who knew about my situation, to realise what had happened. When he saw me he got upset again, apologising for people knowing since I had told him not to say anything but I wasn’t angry, everyone was going to have to find out eventually.
That night I still attended my school dance with my friends and had a great time. Just like any other interesting piece of information in high school, it didn’t take long for the news to spread. However, my attendance to the dance made people believe it wasn’t true, so I didn’t have to put up with the pitying eyes or sad smiles and I was glad. Looking back I don’t regret my decision as it was what I needed at the time. I needed to be surrounded by my friends and have a night as a teenager before having to think about how I was now going to live without my Dad. It wasn’t until 3 days after my Dad died that I got upset for myself and my family, realising our family would never be the same. Up until that point all I felt was relief for my Dad knowing he was no longer in excruciating pain.
As I am writing this it has been just over 2 years since my Dad died and trust me when I say I have felt every feeling under the sun. There have been times where I have been so sad I never thought I could live without him, times where I have been so angry at the world for taking him from us yet times where I am so unbelievably grateful that I even got to spend nearly 17 years with him.
Grief is a complex thing and something you can’t understand fully until you have experienced it. It does not go away, it is something that you learn to live with. Some days you’ll feel it intensely and others it will just sit at the back of your mind but it is always there. Before my Dad died, when people said they thought of people who they had lost everyday, I struggled to believe it, especially as the years go on. However, I can now vouch for every person who has lost someone close to them that it is true. Whether you look at the photos still hanging on the wall or if in a conversation with someone, something they say reminds you of that loved one, I am constantly saying ‘oh yeah my Dad does that’ or ‘my Dad says that’ before realising that it is no longer ‘does’ or ‘says’ but now it is ‘did’ or ‘said’.
To anyone going through grief, whether that person is still sitting in front of you or they have passed years ago, everything you feel is valid and completely natural. For those of you lucky enough not to have experienced grief all I ask is that you are patient with those of us who have. No matter how happy or ‘fine’ we seem and can be, we are still processing and trying to understand everything we are experiencing. Grief is something that you can live with, it will bring good days and bad but it will never go away fully.
A Note From Me To You:
Writing this series has hugely benefitted my understanding of my own feelings and emotions surrounding what has happened to my family in the last 6 years. Although, taking my mind back to those times has been difficult it has brought me a sense of closure. Even if no one had taken the time to ‘click on’ or read this series it still would’ve been hugely helpful for me. However, the C Word series of posts have been some of my most popular and the feedback I have received has been heartwarming. My aim when starting this series was to help one person who may have experienced similar life events as me and for them to have someone they can relate to. I was recently approached by someone on a night out who is currently going through a similar experience to me and he told me that he could resonate with how I felt during my family’s illness’. Hearing him say that to me made me extremely emotional yet proud of what I have produced. Just knowing that one person was able to feel like they were not alone is more than satisfying for me. I can whole heartedly say I have achieved my aim.
Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read, like or comment on this post, it has truly warmed my heart.
Links For Grief Guidance and Advice