Grieving the loss of a loved one is one of the hardest things we have to experience as humans. Whether it’s expected or unexpected, having the bond we have built with someone we love severed is unexplainable. Grief is a shape shifter, a dark presence that can overwhelm us at the strangest, most unpredictable times. People say it comes in waves, to me that makes it sound quite peaceful. I think it’s more like a full on shit storm of memories hammering down on you and at times you really do feel like you’re drowning.
I lost my father to suicide nearly 2 years ago. It’s honestly very difficult to know where to begin with explaining how this experience changes your life. I am not the same person I was 2 years ago. Losing my father so unexpectedly, in the way that I did, made me rethink my whole world view. Though it has been an incredibly bumpy road, full of panic attacks, screaming into darkness, wanting to punch every happy person in the face and feeling so lost at times… It’s slowed down now.
It took a lot of time. People say time is a healer. I think some of that is true. But I also think it’s important to not underestimate the sheer willpower and determination needed to get through tough experiences in life. I distinctly remember walking aimlessly one day around the fields in my village, just utterly confused at how I had got there. Completely lost. But in this moment I realised I was at a fork in my path- I had 2 options:
- Self destruct, hide, push down everything painful.
- Surrender, feel everything, stay open.
The first option is only possible for a while, eventually things have to come out. So I decided I will just dedicate all of my time and energy to myself. I welcomed every horrible emotion I didn’t want to listen to and said ‘hello, you’re a bit annoying but I guess you can stay for a while, but please don’t outstay your welcome, I’ve got shit to do’.
After this, I went through a stage of trying to be incredibly controlling and independent because I was too scared to rely on anyone else. But healing is not something we can do alone. We need to fall back on those around us. On the other hand, trusting yourself and how you feel is a good starting point. Follow your intuition.
I’ve learnt so much since losing my dad and for that I feel very grateful. It’s odd how when you lose someone you love, you sometimes reconsider how valuable everything around you is. In doing so I have created my own sort of mantras/affirmations/things to remember when I am feeling wobbly. Here they are:
- Feel whatever you want, whenever you want. If you feel like shit, be an absolute slug around the house for as long as you need. You deserve it.
- Take your time, it’s ok to be slow. I know it’s a busy world, but don’t let anyone tell you you’re taking too long.
- Remind yourself you are safe, you are here and you are ok. Not lost, just allowing yourself to feel.
- Listen to yourself! You know yourself better than anybody else. If you don’t feel like going out with your mates, or seeing that person you agreed to see- don’t. True friends will give you time and be there when you need.
- Equally, try new things. Since losing my dad I have tried everything to make myself feel a little better. Most of it didn’t work and I still felt shit but at least I tried something new and learnt something.
- Get outside. Even if you walk for 15 minutes of your day by yourself, you’re clearing the cobwebs away
- Build a strong network of people who will have your back. Some friends are for having fun, some for talking deeper about things. Identify who helps you in different mental states.
- PLAY! As adults we forget that we actually need to have fun. Ride a bike, climb a tree, swim in the sea and/or build a fire. Frisbee has been a life saver through my depression (call me a child all you like but frisbee is a game changer)
Side note: feel free to IGNORE ALL OF THE ABOVE. My experiences are mine, not yours. These are just some of the things that have helped me along the way, but they are not prescriptive. It’s just that in my experience, I really needed some guidance or some confirmation that it was ok to feel what I felt and do what I needed to do.
For additional support:
Cruse Bereavement Care offer free counselling. Not for everyone, but did help me.
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)– Find a local support group if you have lost someone to suicide. It wasn’t for me, but I know my mother found it useful. I did find meeting other people good as I felt very alone in my experience. On the other hand, it’s also hard as you may be triggered by other peoples experiences. It’s up to you whether you’re ready to handle the triggers or whether you need more time.
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I look forward to hearing from you. Sending blessings to you all,
PHOTO CREDIT: CAROLYNE LANE