My personal grief story of how I’m coping, three months after losing my Dad to leukaemia, including the self-doubt that we went through.
I decided to start writing this update a little bit earlier than usual because I found last time that writing about how I was feeling only spurred the grief for me. While I am masochistic enough to keep writing my story for you all (because I feel it is important to help people acknowledge and understand grief), I am allowing myself more time to process and to write this post at my own pace.
So, where do we begin?
I can safely say that the tears are more free-flowing now. I get episodes, usually of 10-20 minutes or so, of inconsolable crying, followed by a sort of… emptiness, then a clenching stomach, then more tears, and repeat. The smallest things can set me off, memories of my Dad’s beef curry and minted lamb curry, his use of “tissies” everytime the dog kissed him, the way he taught me to DIY my way around almost any problem I had or the way he loved Halloween. There was so much to my Dad that was to love, both who and how he was. Dad was the kind of man who had time for anyone, right up until they started bullshitting him, and then Dad would turn the other cheek. He was only good to people for as long as they were good to him.
The bee conservatism project is generally going well. The Sweet Williams are gradually starting to bloom and the Cosmos are planted up. I’m still undecided whether I want to fill our front garden with equally bee-friendly plants. On the one hand, it feels like it would be right to carry that theme through, yet on the other, there is such thing as overkill. Unfortunately, the beekeeping for my family has been a little less successful, with agressive bees and hives which are so strong that they threaten to swarm. The decision has now been made to release two of the nucs to tbe British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) and to seek professional help and support with taming the remaining three.
One of the most bizarre things I’ve been going through is conversations with Dad in my head. I almost hear him, telling me it will be okay and not to worry. I hear him guiding me and advising me, telling me what plants look good, or how hardy they are. I’d like to think it was some sort of telepathic connection, but sadly, I’m not so sure it is.
If there was ever a spirit presence, I feel his strongest when I go down to our shed. Our garden shed was a gift from my Dad, a 9 square metres of creaking wooden construction, but I still love it. For me, it’s not just a garden shed, it’s a shrine, a temple of what was, and all that remains. A place that I can connect with him, talk to him, be with him again.
I do worry about myself in the winter months. As November rolls in and the days become shorter and the nights become longer, suicidal ideation creeps in like a frost-hardy perinnial weed. There is a sense of longing to want to be back with Dad again, anything, anything I can have just to talk to him again, to feel him and hear him again. Unfortunately, all I have to date are a couple of voicemail messages from a very sick, confused and dying man.
I also dread Father’s Day this month. In days gone by, I’d encourage Matt to take some flowers to his Mum’s memorial tablet for Mother’s Day, then spend some time with my Mum. Now the shoe is on the other foot and I want to bury myself under the covers entirely. We’ve made a deal now that, in some way, we have to celebrate these occasions, regardless. We still have his Dad and my Mum, so regardless of how much it hurts, the show must go on. We just have to be a little mindful of what the other is going through.
The tiny upside of loss that nobody admits is that you save time and money on gifts for difficult-to-shop-for people. Of course, nobody likes to think about or admit that there is a good side to a loss, and in hindsight I do wish that I had to buy a thousand more impossible-to-get-right gifts to equate to the pain I feel inside, but having only one father’s day gift to get right means more money in the bank and less time stressing and fretting about finding the perfect gift. I know Dad would always tell me not to buy gifts if money was tight, but you just never know when your last gift shopping might be and so you make it count while you can. Now, I’m having a sort of love-hate relationship with the trickle of wealth that’s slowly filling my bank account.
Then there is also the sense that we gave up too soon. It was what I was recently, innocently enough, listening to ZAYN & Taylor Swift’s I Don’t Wanna Live Forever that it struck me as Taylor crooned “..wondering if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life?”
Did we just give up? Did we dodge a bullet? Did I just lose the love of my life, my Dad?
The thought and feeling that we just gave up on him is sometimes almost more than I can bear. He didn’t give up on me when I fought for my life in SCBU and yet, I feel like I gave up on him. After he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I found lots of survivor stories, at least a dozen of them, printed them and took them in for him to read to give hope and courage. At the bottom of the front page, in my own handwriting, I scrawled the message “I believe in you” and underscored it. If he’d believed in me, then I believed in him right now. I wanted to see that same fighter spirit in him.
After Dad’s passing, that booklet went in the bin, along with all of the other inspiring and hopeful pamphlets dished out by Macmillan and Myeloma UK. The whole family, battered, exhausted and defeated, were left with the heart-wrenching realisation that we had lost the very first thing we clung on to – hope.