Losing a Dad
At some point in our life, we have all lost someone close to us. It’s a logical fact that as we are born we will die someday. The older I get the more comfortable I am with my own mortality. I try to live each day with as much joy, laughter, and happiness as I can.
It’s almost 52 years since my father died. We always had our differences of opinion. We were at loggerheads with each other sometimes, but that is all part of growing up. I still wish he was alive today to see his grandchildren and hold his great-grandchildren. One consolation is that my mother is still alive at the sprightly age of 101 years. Although we live on different continents it’s become a ritual for me to phone her every Monday morning.
Honouring your Parents
She is partially deaf but mentally sound with a fantastic memory. My sister fills in the blanks when she says she can’t hear me . I have the deepest love and admiration for my mother who raised us on her own. She refused to marry again. She would always say to me, ” Your father would have been so proud of you”…and I reply, ” I would have been proud of him for the values he instilled in all of us”.
He was a brilliant musician a great conversationalist, a man with quick wit and very dry humour. He passed all these gifts on to us. I am grateful that I was at his bedside when he passed away. Spending time with him in those short few months before he died, I caught a glimpse of the real Dad.
I was in my early twenties when he died and my younger brother was only ten years old. We all grieved in our own way. Bereavement counselors were unheard of in those days. My Dad is still around today especially when I visit a certain city, read a book or listen to music. Dads do leave imprints of themselves in us.
According to Bereavement counselor Sarah Smith, she states that the death of a loved one can be devastating. She describes some of the feelings that can arise from losing someone, and where you can go for help and support.
Bereavement affects people in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. “You might feel a lot of emotions at once, or feel you’re having a good day, then you wake up and feel worse again,” says Sarah, who works at Trinity Hospice in London. She says powerful feelings can come unexpectedly. “It’s like waves on a beach. You can be standing in water up to your knees and feel you can cope, then suddenly a big wave comes and knocks you off your feet.”
Experts generally accept that there are four stages of bereavement:
- accepting that your loss is real
- experiencing the pain of grief
- adjusting to life without the person who has died
- putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new (in other words, moving on)
You’ll probably go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next. Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense. Give yourself time, as they will pass. You might feel:
- shock and numbness (this is usually the first reaction to the death, and people often speak of being in a daze)
- overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
- tiredness or exhaustion
- anger, for example towards the person who died, their illness or God
- guilt, for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or didn’t say, or about not being able to stop
You entitled to Grieve
“These feelings are all perfectly normal,” says Sarah. “The negative feelings don’t make you a bad person. Lots of people feel guilty about their anger, but it’s OK to be angry and to question why.”
She adds that some people become forgetful and less able to concentrate. You might lose things, such as your keys. This is because your mind is distracted by bereavement and grief, says Sarah. You’re not losing your sanity.
The GOV.UK website has information on what to do after someone dies, such as registering the death and planning a funeral.
Coping with grief
Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Don’t go through this alone. For some people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope. But if you don’t feel you can talk to them much (perhaps you aren’t close, or they’re grieving too), you can contact local bereavement services through your GP, local hospice, or the national Cruse helpline on 0844 477 9400.
A bereavement counselor can give you time and space to talk about your feelings, including the person who has died, your relationship, family, work, fears and the future. You can have access to a bereavement counsellor at any time, even if the person you lost died a long time ago
Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. People in your life might not mention their name because they don’t want to upset you. But if you feel you can’t talk to them, it can make you feel isolated.
Anniversaries and special occasions can be hard. Sarah suggests doing whatever you need to do to get through the day. This might be taking a day off work or doing something that reminds you of that person, such as taking a favourite walk.
If you need help to move on
Each bereavement is unique, and you can’t tell how long it will last. “In general, the death and the person might not constantly be at the forefront of your mind after around 18 months,” says Sarah. This period may be shorter or longer for some people, which is normal.
Your GP or a bereavement counselor can help if you feel that you’re not coping. Some people also get support from a religious minister. You might need help if:
- you can’t get out of bed
- you neglect yourself or your family, for example, you don’t eat properly
- you feel you can’t go on without the person you’ve lost
- the emotion is so intense it’s affecting the rest of your life, for example, you can’t face going to work or you’re taking your anger out on someone else
These feelings are normal as long as they don’t last for a long time. “The time to get help depends on the person,” says Sarah. “If these things last for a period that you feel is too long, or your family say they’re worried, that’s the time to seek help. Your GP can refer you, and they can monitor your general health
Do we need this crutch?
Some people turn to alcohol or drugs during difficult times. Get help cutting down on alcohol, or see the Frank website for information on drugs.
If someone has an incurable illness, they and their loved ones can prepare for bereavement. “Practical things can help, such as discussing funeral arrangements together and making a will,” says Sarah.
Bereavement counselors also offer pre-bereavement care, helping patients and their family cope with their feelings. This can be especially important for children, Sarah explains. “Children’s stress levels are at their highest before their family member dies, so support during this time is important.”
Find out more about children and bereavement from the Childhood Bereavement Network.
Watch Video – Adult bereavement