Life After Dad: My Grief Story, Three Months On

A honeybee in the centre of a pink cosmos flower

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 last time I found that writing about how I was feeling only spurred the grief on 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 about my Dad that you could love, both in 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 all planted up. I’m still undecided whether or not 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 whiole nine square metres of creaking wooden construction, but nonetheless, I love it. For me, it’s not just a garden shed, it’s more like a shrine – a temple of what was and all that remains. A place that I can go to connect with him, talk to him, be with him once again.

I do worry about gow I’ll cope in the winter months. As November rolls in, 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 be 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 for us to take some flowers to his Mum’s memorial tablet for Mother’s Day, then we’d spend some time with my Mum. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, 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 still go on. I suppose, we just have to be a little mindful of what the other is going through.

The tiny upside of loss – that nobody ever admits – is that you save time and money on finding gifts for difficult-to-shop-for people. Of course, nobody likes to think about or admit that there is even a remotely good side to a loss, and in hindsight I do wish that I had to buy a thousand more impossible-to-get-right gifts that to feel the pain that I feel inside Still, 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 still 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 when I was recently, innocently 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?”. the thought entered my mind.

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 right now, I believed 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.

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