My dad was awesome, he taught me all I know about life, rugby, drinking bitter and knowing my own worth. I have been told that I look a lot like him and I know for a fact I act A LOT like him.
On May 17th 2010 at 10.17am he died.
My world fell apart.
Grief is a strange beast; it isn’t as simple as love or hate. There are no short cuts, no sure-fire ways to help ease the pain, you just have to go through it, like a tax return I guess. It’s something that we all go through, it our own way, in our own time. But what continues to surprise me is the sheer force grief harnesses. It takes no prisoners, it spares no one and its reach is far greater than the immediate.
He was ill, he had prostate cancer that had metastasised, it spread and slowly it killed him. He had a good life though, even when he was ill. We had time as a family, to come to terms with him no longer being around, but there is no planning that can help when you wake up in the middle of the night having had another dream about him dying, so exquisitely vivid it shakes you to the core. A dream in which I can feel his once muscular hand rest in mine, as he took his last breath. Nothing prepares you for that, ever.
He had a brilliant funeral, I would even say it was fun. No religion or service as such, just a chance for us as a family to talk about why we loved him so much. As well as us, we had his friends talk about him, share hilarious stories, remind us all that although a huge void had been blasted into our lives, his life mattered and he would always be remembered.
The grief wasn’t instant for me, instead my focus was my mum, keeping her sane, keeping her safe. As a child you never think that you will be the one offering the 3am chats about life to your parent, but you do it, without hesitation. I never understood the pain a parent must feel when their child is hurt, until I held my mum in my arms as she screamed tears of unfairness and pain at the loss of my dad. I think if I am honest the devastation my mum went through, and still goes through, causes as much grief as my dad dying. It took me 18 months before my grief set in. It hit me one boring idle Wednesday and for 3 weeks I hardly left my bed, I cried more tears than I thought possible. I bargained with “God” I promised I would be good, I would have done anything in those moments to simply no longer exist.
Things got easier, the wrenching pain in my heart dulled and glimmers of happy memories appeared, rather than the image I saw every time I closed my eyes, of my superhero dad laid in bed, frail, drugged up and dying.
It’s strange what you remember about people when they no longer walk the earth. I always thought I would forget how his voice sounded but all I have to do is close my eyes and think about some of the advice he gave me and I can hear it crystal clear. I miss his hands, he had great big hands, that fitted my tiny hands perfectly into. I miss his hugs, his huge enveloping all-consuming hugs, which I crave every time I have a bad day.
I miss his advice, last night was a bad night, I got home from a busy day at work and settled to watch Glee, when the scene opens with Kurt’s dad telling him he has prostate cancer. It was like a shutter slammed down, the tears are different these days, they aren’t the silent ones that stream down my face, instead they come from my gut, they consume me entirely and render me speechless. So that was that, the only thing for it was bed. A dark room and sleep.
The way people deal with grief varies so much, this post isn’t about telling you how to deal with it, I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that you need a plan, a steadfast plan of what to do when the devastating grief appears out of the blue at 7.15pm one random Monday night. Don’t fight it, don’t force yourself to do anything. Find something for you, that makes you feel safe, that gives you time to recover. For me that thing is sleep. I know that the sun will rise in the morning and that a new day will have begun and that new day will bring its own challenges and maybe it will be another day of sadness, but sometimes, like this morning was for me, a step closer to dealing with my grief.
It never leaves me, no day goes by without me thinking of him. But the memories are different, they are happy, they make me smile.