When grief and motherhood collide

My dad, brother and I 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.


    • Dawn, thank you. I really needed to hear that. I went through a period of feeling really switched on to my Dad and seeing signs from him everywhere (even an article in my office inbox about returning to work after maternity leave by a journalist with the same name as my Dad). Recently I’ve got a bit lost in grief, but I feel a bit better today and I feel inspired to start looking out for my dad again. Thank you, Nicky ✨

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