Grief is a funny old thing. Everyone will experience it at some point. No-one wants to. But we all know it’s coming. And no-one talks about it. Everyone deals with it in a different way, yet we rarely share our experiences to help others. This blogpost is an attempt to change that. An attempt to get conversations going.
My Dad died a year ago. It’s been a mad, old, crazy kind of year. I went from having what I thought was a good, solid, professional job, doing something that I thought I wanted to do, to a complete change of heart of what is important in my life.
Dad died completely out of the blue. In the middle of the night. Totally unexpected. We woke up on a Sunday morning and the phone rang. It was my sister in tears, telling us the news. They were waiting for the ambulance to come to the house. It wasn’t needed as he was dead, but those are the rules. We put an overnight bag together and quickly phoned a friend who had a spare key to feed the cats. We got straight in the car and began the numbing journey across the country from Somerset to the south east. I remember stopping at a service station for coffee on the way and feeling different to everyone around me. We were all on a journey, but I was going somewhere different.
We got to the house, my family home, the place we had moved to when I was eight. And things were different. It wasn’t the same and it would never be the same again. My Mum and my sister were as shocked as I was. The day was spent making cups of tea and keeping ourselves busy about the gap in our lives.
I returned home to Somerset the next day. There was nothing to do and I needed to get on. That’s all I remember feeling. I allowed myself a week of grief, of doing what I wanted and needed to do. I built Lego models, read books, watched TV, made jigsaws and went for walks on the beach. I went back to work the following week and slotted myself back into the routine with this gap in my life. I needed the routine, I wanted to go to work. I needed to do something and feel useful.
Everyone at work kept saying you’ll need time off. Have a break. You need time to come to terms with everything. I needed to work. I needed to keep going. And I kept going. Until juggling everything with the gap in my life got too much.
I left work and had some time off. When I went back, work had got even more hectic, more farcical, more removed from my new reality. I left again, this time for good. I remember my friend asking me whether I wanted to keep going on that fairground ride. I didn’t. My union were brilliant and got me out of my contract. I got signed off sick and that was that.
I now had time on my hands. Time which I needed, but didn’t want. Or did want. I wasn’t sure. And that’s what grief does. It makes you unsure about everything. The first important dates passed. My Dad’s birthday, Father’s Day, my birthday, Christmas and then New Year. And now the anniversary of his death and then funeral.
I realise now that the difference I felt in that M4 service station was my induction into the club of having lost a parent. The club no-one wants to be a part of, but one we all know we’ll become part of one day. Life rolls on.