It’s coming up to the one year anniversary of my father’s death, and I can’t lie, I’m panicking. Sometimes I manage to forget about it almost entirely and then it will suddenly come crashing down on me when I’m at my least aware and usually in the middle of something crazy important. It’s terrifying because on one hand it feels like it’s been maybe a few months, or maybe a few years. Just not one year. One year ago is 365 days which means that on the 19th May 2018, 365 days ago I would have been standing over my father’s hospital bed watching him die, and that’s not something that I’m yet equipped to deal with, or possibly ever equipped to deal with. I have been so so lucky in that both my new and old friends have stuck by me through all my changing emotions and developing grief, along with my family supporting each other every step of the way.
Grief is just one of those things. Sometimes it’s instant and obvious and sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason, and it hits you at the most unexpected times in the most unexpected places. It’s even possible to grieve people before they’re gone, when you know that somebody only has a matter of time left, you can’t help but take that into consideration when seeing and spending time with them. It’s only natural.
There’s no right or normal way to deal with loss, especially that of a close friend or family member. I’ve known people who’ve dropped out of university for a few months to cope, some who’ve stayed at home for a week and then returned and kept themselves as busy as possible. Some who do not under any circumstances want to talk about unless they’re completely prepared for it. Some who feel like they cannot stop talking about it and the memory of that loved one. And here’s the thing. All of that is fine.
However, although obviously everybody grieves in different ways and at different times, there are healthy and helpful ways of coping. Not all of them will work for you and what you’re going through, but one of them might just get you through it as best it can.
Go and see someone. It doesn’t mean that you’re making an overly big deal of things (which is what I fixated on for a while), and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. It just means that you’re talking to someone and keeping the memory of that loved one alive. It’s never as pressured as you think it will be, and going to somebody completely removed from the situation does help a lot more than you’d think in terms of expressing your emotions without any fear of judgement.
Write. This might not be your thing at all but it doesn’t need to be creative. Sometimes it’s just writing down your favourite memories with somebody or certain quirks that they had that you’re desperate to keep in your memory. It’s all too easy to forget things about somebody, especially when you have no way of seeing them again.
Mark out special days. One of the most helpful things that I was advised to do by a friend was to commemorate some of their significant days. On my dad’s birthday this year I was away from family but made sure to make it a special day for me as well and ended up sending a balloon up with a note to him on. At home, my family made him a birthday cake. They were such small things to do but did make the difference in getting through the day.
It’s easy for somebody (me) to tell you to keep busy or to take time for yourself, all of which is kind and considerate and helpful advice, but the truth is that there’s no way to get through it neatly. Grief is a journey and it does come in waves, it’s completely usual to be feeling fine one day and falling apart the next. That’s what’s expected.
One of the things that I was once told is that death is one of the only fixed things in life, it happens to everyone and it’s just that it happens to all of us at different times. I think that’s important to remember. It helped me at least, I hope that it helps anyone reading this going through anything similar.
By Emily Goulding