Death is often seen as a taboo subject. Something which many of us are reluctant to talk about. But it’s a sad fact of life. We live and then we die. But how do we cope after the death of someone we love? Today, I will share my story with you about coming to terms with the death of someone I loved dearly – my dad.
Five years ago today, my dad passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest at home. He was 56, I was 24. That day began for me (and him) just like any other. I went to work as usual thinking it was just a normal day. I left off work, got home, started cooking my dinner and then I received a phone call from my brother that would change my life forever… My dad had suffered a massive heart attack and had died. He was only 56 and seemed in pretty good health but his heart had gone into cardiac arrest and despite an amazing effort from paramedics, he couldn’t be revived. He had died almost instantly. I remember the surreal moment of listening to one of the paramedics talking to me down the phone and telling me that he ‘didn’t suffer’ and thinking to myself ‘this can’t be happening’. I cannot even begin to explain what it’s like to receive news like that…
Five years on and life has gone on. Myself and my brother have both got married and dad now has a grandchild. I know he would say to both of us that although his life is over, ours isn’t and it’s important to move forward. Losing an immediate family member can cause you to find inner strength that you never realised you had. My mum in particular has been truly remarkable at being there for me and my brother despite fighting her own serious illnesses. Despite not being here in the flesh, I truly believe that dad is still with us in some way and watching over us all.
As anyone who has ever experienced the death of a loved one, particularly an immediate family member will know, you don’t ‘get over it’ but time does make it easier to deal with. You get used to no longer having that person around anymore. I have lost people close to me before and those deaths were ‘expected’. Personally, I found them slightly easier to deal with. Not that an expected death is any less upsetting but you do have some time to mentally prepare yourself for when the time comes and to ‘say goodbye’. Even if you don’t say it out loud, inside you know that each time you leave them if could be the last. In a way, you had already begun to grieve so when the time of passing comes, it doesn’t come as a shock.
With a sudden death like dad’s though, you don’t get that time to prepare yourself for when the time comes. I will never forget the moment I found out about dad’s death. I literally collapsed from shock. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact I would never see him again or hear his voice. As well as sadness, I felt angry that he had been robbed of his life at a relatively young age. How he would never see myself or my brother get married, never see his grandchildren and they would never meet their grandad. Bereavement is an experience that leads to all kinds of emotions and thoughts. Most of which aren’t pleasant.
My advice to anyone coping with the death of a loved one would be firstly, do not hide your feelings. Talk about how you feel. If you are not comfortable talking with family and friends, talk to your doctor or talk to a bereavement charity such as Cruse. Have a good cry, don’t bottle things up and try and ‘stay strong’. You are grieving, you don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed about getting upset and appearing like you are feeling ok if you’re not. Don’t neglect yourself, eat properly and rest. Take care of yourself and talk to your doctor if you have a health concern. And never turn to drugs, alcohol or smoke to excess. After my dad died, I dreamt about him and he said in the dream, ‘do not try and come here’ and I knew what that meant – your loved one’s life may be over but yours isn’t. And they wouldn’t want it to be so don’t do anything self destructive. Don’t make any big decisions while you are still grieving such as business or financial. You still need time to adjust to what has happened and time to think. I returned to work after my dad’s funeral and I found that to be very beneficial. I wasn’t pressured into returning to work so soon but having other things to think about and to do and the support of my colleagues helped with the grieving process.
Above all, remember that you will get through it and come out of it as a stronger person. It’s a cliche but it’s true. Losing a loved one is one of the most stressful experiences that we will go through in life. Take each day one at a time. You will experience a rollercoaster of emotions and you just have to let each one pass. Bereavement is a difficult journey and there will be days where you will hit rock bottom and wonder whether you will ever feel ok again. But it’s a journey that you will complete and yes, you will be ok. I am speaking from experience and I promise you, it will get easier. You will never forget them and there will be times when you will still get upset but you will adjust to life without them. When you think of your loved one, one day you will smile more than you cry. RIP Dad… you are still loved so very much and never forgotten.
My thoughts are with anyone who is experiencing or has experienced the death of someone they loved. Please feel free to share this with anyone who you feel that it may help.