My Grandad died at the beginning of August, six weeks before my son was due to be born. He had been ill for a long time and in hospital so although sad, it wasn’t totally unexpected. “These things happen in families,” everyone said. “One person dies just as another is preparing to be born”. I believed them.
And then my Dad died.
Dad died of a heart attack very suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a strong outdoorsy man who worked as a walking guide across Europe for a travel company. He died in abroad and the paperwork involved in bringing a body back from a different country delayed the funeral until it became a race against time.
On Monday 19 September 2016, I gave the eulogy at my Dad’s funeral. Four days later, I gave birth to my first child.
This is my experience of grief.
- Losing a parent shakes the very core of your being. You lose your foundations and part of who you are. I felt like my roots had been torn from me and I no longer knew who I was.
- The concept of death is very hard to get your head around. It’s hard to understand that they’ll never get older and they’re stuck in time. I still struggle with it now.
- It’s true that grief comes in waves. Beyond that though, I was an empty shell of a person and just a body with nothing inside.
- I had guilt. Guilt of the impact the shock was having on my unborn child. Guilt when he was a newborn that I was failing him as a mother because I was so overwhelmed by grief and the damage this might do to him. And guilt towards the rest of my family because I had invoked the one in one out policy by selfishly deciding to have a child.
- I spoke to medical professionals because I was worried about postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety. Luckily, I escaped both, which is fortunate as I was offered a paper towel by a GP to dry my tears with and told to come back if I didn’t feel better in a few weeks.
- I was overwhelmed by panic. If this could happen so suddenly to my Dad, could it happen again? My heart would start beating until it was the only sound I could hear.
- Grief is really lonely and isolating even though you are not the only one going through it.
- I honestly thought I would never be happy again.
- Once the grief became less raw, I struggled with that too. It felt like my feelings and memories were fading and I was losing him all over again.
- I’m having to navigate a new normal. It’s hard to attend family events without the overwhelming sadness of there being one person missing whilst also celebrating my own new family.
- People deal with grief in different ways. This has caused issues in my family and arguments which I’m not sure will ever be resolved.
- Some family members have moved on quicker than me, whilst I’m still coming to terms with it all. I feel like everything is changing and I’m just not ready to yet.
- So I’m angry. I’m angry at Dad because he caused all of this and now he’s not here to sort it out.
- But beyond all of that, I look at my nearly 18-month old son and think how sad it is that he never got to meet his Grandad who would have loved him so much.