Trigger warning: this blog post contains references of suicide
Have you ever noticed when something is on your mind, you seem to see subtle signs of it everywhere? Whether it’s someone talking about it, the news reporting on it, or you stumble across a book that catches your eye, it seems to crop up everywhere you go. Recently for me, that has been grief and vulnerability. For someone who isn’t afraid to share the highs and lows of life, this blog was one of the hardest to write and it’s taken a lot to press publish but this week I felt so strongly to share.
On the 1st of July 2016, I received a call that will forever be etched in my mind. My mum called asking where I was and if she could meet me at my house. I was at the gym at the time but stopped my treadmill and left straight away. I immediately called my best friend who was staying at my house that night and was already there. “Something is wrong,” I said in a panic. She reassured me that it would be ok and probably nothing. My mind settled for a moment by her reassurance. I know I can catastrophize situations so perhaps this was one of those times where my mind was playing tricks on me. I got home and sat at the window waiting. My mum only lived 15 minutes away but it felt like hours that I was waiting at the window. I was pacing up and down the living room, my best friend telling me it would be ok. I was doing my best to believe that was true. My Mum finally pulled into my drive with my uncle and at that moment I knew something was off. We all stood in my living room, and I asked her what was wrong. After what felt like the longest few seconds of my life my mum said something that would change my entire world in less than 10 words. ” Your dad is gone, he’s killed himself”.
A nightmare that you desperately want to wake up from. I still can’t comprehend it, so many questions, “no no no no no” is all I could respond with. How could he be gone? How is it that I’ll never speak to him again, never see him again? I still ask myself those questions 5 years on. Do you know what’s so hard for me about grief? It’s not just the death of that person it’s what dies in you when they go. A whole chapter of my life ended in less than a minute and I wasn’t prepared for it – I still grieve that now.
I spent a long time afterward in denial, not in denial that he was gone but denying myself the ability to feel the emotions that come with such a sudden death. I spent years on the outside looking like I was coping with the suicide of my dad, when in reality I’d never let myself face it. I kept busy and took my mind off it by throwing myself into self-improvement. But two years of suppressed emotions was going to come out at some point, right? And one day it did. I woke up and felt like the whole world had been taken from beneath my feet. I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t see the wood through the trees, and I also couldn’t understand why I felt this way.
I felt embarrassed to admit that after 2 and half years of seemingly being ok with what had happened, I’d found myself in a pit of depression. How was I not over my grief? And worst of all, I felt as though I couldn’t use my dad’s death almost 3 years later as an ‘excuse’ to explain why I felt on the verge of tears every single day. I finally spent 6 months in counselling and it helped immensely. But I wish I’d been more open about it.
That’s the thing about grief it can be so isolating. I still find myself struggling to talk about my dad’s death to others now. I’ll ask my myself “have I gone on about this too much? Am I bringing the tone down? Do I sound like I’m playing the victim? I’ll then compare what I’ve gone through to others and convince myself that others have it worse than me. However, I am trying to let myself accept that life is not a comparison of who has it worse when it comes to grief and loss. I’m allowed to admit that what I went through was a huge deal and was pretty f***ing bad. I heard a quote recently that resonated with me when it comes to owning my grief.
“The worst loss is always your own”
Accepting my grief has allowed me to process it too. It’s helped me find a way to live with it. It will always have a place in my life but it’s now tucked neatly away with all my other emotions. It still comes out sometimes, it’s just not weighing so heavily, suffocating me like it used to. Therapy has helped with that.
There’s an analogy on grief called the Ball & The Box that has also helped me.
Coping with Grief: The Ball & The Box | Grief, Complicated grief, Grief healing (pinterest.co.uk)
Imagine your life in a box, and the grief you feel is a ball in the box. Inside the box, there is also a pain button. When the grief is at its peak the ball fills the box and is hitting that pain button constantly. As time passes the ball gets smaller and hits the button less frequently, but when it does it hurts all the same.
This has been the best way to describe grief for me. Not seeing my dad’s name on cards still hurts and I’ve not even brought myself to delete his number from my phone. However, the ball inside the box has got smaller.
There’s a saying that goes “life doesn’t throw at you what you can’t handle” and although I believe this to be true, life also has the ability to crush you, and you’ll have to pick yourself piece by piece off the floor. However, I do believe life does go on, and happiness can be found again and that’s what’s given me hope over the last few years.
I guess I now see life as a book. I still sit and revisit previous chapters often, especially those with my dad. However, I’m trying to live more in the current ones and get excited for what’s ahead because there’s so much happiness to be found in new chapters, only if you allow yourself to turn the page.