The Ugly Face of Grief & a lesson from a flight attendant

Next week will mark three months since my Dad passed away suddenly at the age of 60. I can’t believe it will be three months already! He died 86 days ago. Every single day I miss him, I mourn, I grieve and I’m not ready to accept he is gone. You may be thinking that I am delaying the grieving process for we all know the final stage of grief is Acceptance. 

The thing is, I have an awful relationship with grief albeit healthy. Ive been dealing with grief for most of my life. Grief is essential and if we never loved then we’d never have to grieve. I have grieved too many times. The death of relatives; My uncle, My Nanny, my dog etc. Ive grieved my former self, the person I was before I was sexually assaulted, the person I was before my MS diagnosis. I’ve even grieved most of my life for other people that despite trying everything, I could not change. The thing is when my dad passed away, I knew in that second when I picked up the phone and heard those words, that I’d never be the same again. Losing my father has been the most pain that I have ever felt. During Covid just made it so much worse. 

They say, “Time is a healer”. I am struggling because although I know that is true, I can’t seem to get my head around not seeing my dad anymore in this life. My Dad struggled a lot, he had an awful upbringing in the Catholic institution he grew up in.I hate what happened to my Dad there because it affected him so badly. He was the most anxiety riddled person that I’d ever met. He couldn’t deal with life sometimes and developed an unhealthy way of coping through addiction. He was suffering so much and over the years, I’ve hated so much that despite everything, I could not help him or make it better for him. Believe me, it’s hard to help someone when they think that they don’t need the help. Despite everything, my dad and I had a mutual understanding and got on so well, most of the time. As a daughter, I loved my dad so much. I would have done anything for him and he knew it. 

The past few months I have been struggling with my beliefs. I always thought that God was real and heaven but now I am not so sure. Science would have me believe that there isn’t life after death and somehow I don’t want to take their word for it. I can’t not believe in anything because that would mean that I’d never get to see my Dad ever again and I refuse to believe that. I feel like I don’t know myself anymore, I used to have such great faith but now I barely recognise myself or my beliefs. 

This blog post probably seems very angry, I struggle so much because I always want to be that positive person in everyone’s life and right now I feel like I am a big let down. Since March I’ve been dealing with chronic nerve pain in my face, neck and all over my head. It’s been so debilitating, yet I still try to smile through it. Thankfully after three months, my MS team have brought my MRI forward to this week so hopefully I’ll get some answers or treatment for the pain. The pain has made grieving harder because when I cry it makes it worse. I’ve  gone through so many of the stages of grief and find myself stuck between anger and bargaining. 

This is gonna sound crazy but I could safely check off the denial straight away because my dad’s death was sudden and so I was in shock and denial for the first few days until I seen his body in the funeral home. Then bargaining came along for a few weeks. It was the most crazy feelings I had. I’m gonna sound like a mad woman but I convinced myself that maybe my dad hadn’t died at all and that maybe he seen a crime and the guards pretended he died to put him in witness protection. Like talk about being bat shit crazy! As if I was living in an episode of CSI Miami. Few weeks after I had my dad’s phone and I called it on my phone and I ran out the room to see if his “spirit” would answer me back. That was when I realised I had reached a new level of crazy 😉

I’ve been struggling the past few weeks because I’ve realised that the check in texts are getting non-existent. The first few weeks after someone dies, everyone wants to check in but after a few weeks everyone’s lives get back to normal. And why shouldn’t they, but I think it’s the months after that you really need your friends and family around. The moments when you forget are so difficult too. Last week I stupidly said to my wife, “I must meet Dad, I haven’t seen him in ages.” 

Forgetting that my dad had passed away and in that moment I just broke down because everything felt so real then. I miss him so much, I miss his laugh, I miss his stupid dad jokes and I miss everything annoying about him too. 

I feel like when you are grieving you expect to go through the different stages and finally get to the stage of acceptance. Truth is, it doesn’t work like that. Some days I am good and other days I am so angry and sad. I’m angry at stupid things, I am angry at people who never reached out to say I’m sorry for your loss and I am angry that my dad died and there are plenty of evil people out there still alive into their old age. There was even a stage that I was angry at people because they were happy and I was not. I didn’t mean to be like that but my wife reassured me that it was all part of grief. 

My whole life, I’ve been a little ball of anxiety and a worrier. I worry all the time about everyone else. As I often said to my wife, “that’s just how God made me.” As I mentioned above, I’ve been suffering with nerve pain, well that’s what my ms team think it is. Obviously my anxiety is telling me that it’s a brain tumour or cancer or my blood vessels are going to pop. It’s so hard not to suffer anxiety and panic attacks when the pain can become so severe, especially at night. I’ve been struggling because I find it difficult to put myself first. I always want to make sure everyone else is okay but I never make sure that I am okay. Recently I’ve tried to look after myself because since my dad passed away, I haven’t been. Ive been eating and sometimes I haven’t been. I’ve been trying to work and act normal. I’ve realised something through this, if I keep going this way, who is going to look after me?. MS is so unpredictable and I am most likely going through a flare up and so I thought I’d take a leaf out of any flight attendants book. When you are sitting on a plane and they are showing you the emergency plan, they tell you to put a mask on yourself first before you put it on a child. This made me think.

If I don’t put a metaphorical mask on myself first, then how the hell am I going to look after anyone else. If I don’t take care of myself first, then I wont be any good to anyone. I know that I will struggle with this because I feel like my whole life, I have never actually put myself first. I never cared about my MS or asked anyone for help because I was too worried about everyone else and I’d never want to worry anyone. I feel like I took on a parent role in life yet I don’t have any children. I was so busy taking care of others but who was taking care or supporting me?. I don’t even know what it’s like to look after myself because I’ve spent so long looking after others. I guess this realisation put my own health into perspective. I matter too and it’s critical that I start to look after myself physically and emotionally. If anyone reading this resonates with not having time for yourself and constantly caring for others, please know that you are important too. It’s okay to have “me” time.

Where am I going with this? Grief is difficult for everyone and it can be different for everyone too. Grief comes in many waves and comes in different forms. I like to call it the ugly stages of grief but you can heal by going through different stages. Grief is a journey, it takes you through so many emotions you never even realised you had. As I said above, I have gone through the anger stage and most people know how I love to laugh and I guess I am a kind and gentle soul. I am a big baby, if I killed a spider, I’d cry. So you know it’s bad when my sister and wife actually thought I was a bit scary when I was angry. LOL. 

 Grief is the cost we pay for loving someone so much. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll get to the stage that I’ll look back and remember my Dad fondly and all the good times we shared. I’m not there yet but hopefully one day I’ll get there without crying and say, “I’ll see you again one day Dad.”


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