Grief and mental health

I originally wrote this blog in November 2014, 5 months after my dad had died. I was shocked at the level of despair I was experiencing and so felt unable to share my thoughts at that time. Now, on the eve of the anniversary of my dad’s death and to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, I have decided to release this blog to help others who are feeling as I did to know they are not alone and that, with time, hope returns.

5stagesI lost my dad on 6th June 2014. He had been ill for a long time but he always recovered and came home from hospital, and I think I fooled myself into thinking that he always would. This meant that I was not really prepared for the impact of his passing.

On the face of it, I was the same. I came to work the day he died and every day after, apart from the day of his funeral. Work is who I am and the only thing I knew how to do in the midst of all that fog and confusion was to get out of bed and go to work. My dad went to work when his mum died, and I did the same.

Now, though, nearly 6 months later, the fog has cleared and the confusion has gone. I am left with the reality of his passing and the need to make decisions about how I choose to manage the grief his death has left me with.

So on 18th November I went to counselling to talk about my feelings to a perfect stranger who I hoped would help me find some answers about what I was feeling, enabling me move through the grief cycle to acceptance and, hopefully, renewal.

At first I didn’t know that I was on a pre-destined journey of grief – a journey many millions have been on before me, just as millions more will experience it long after I too have gone. I was interested in knowing that people had worked out the five stages of the cycle and had named and described them in full. I wanted to know where I was currently at and where I would go next before acceptance became my norm.

I could relate to the shock and denial stages. I really had believed my dad was there with me weeks after his death, when fact and rational thought gave lie to this fancy. I knew that I was in deep despair and was experiencing episodes of depression that I couldn’t control, and didn’t really want to. The anger and guilt stage, however, were alien to me. I did not think I had been angry (others may wish to disagree) and I certainly felt no guilt.

I loved my dad and had shown that love in every way possible whilst he was alive. I took him on holiday every year for nearly 20 years. I kissed him and told him I loved him every time I saw him for the last two years of his life. I took care of his practical and personal needs with the rest of my family with a glad heart and no feelings of resentment. I laughed with him and made him laugh. In fact, it is because I have no guilt about what I did or did not do during his life that the pain of his loss has been magnified so much – he was not just my dad, he was also my best friend.

So acceptance of my loss may be a long time coming. I understand a bit better now what to expect on this terrible journey, but I have a lot more grieving to do yet before I am ready to move on. In order to accept that my dad will not be coming home to us, I need to first accept the pain of his passing, choose to honour him through that process of grief and despair and, in the end, remember him with love, smiles and gratitude for the gift of love that he gave to me. Thanks, Dad.
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