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Grief and me – losing my Dad

TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of grief and loss. 

As I write this blog, a notification popped up on social media that a friend of mine from back in the day had passed away. It brought back those initial feelings that I associate with grief. Denial that it has happened, and then anger that cancer had taken someone so young.

When my dad passed away in 2001 after a brief battle with a brain Metastasis (secondary cancer) at the age of 61, my life changed forever.

Up until that point I had no idea what mental health was.

I was 36, and I thought therapy was only for Americans – and I didn’t know about the five stages of grief. But a year after he’d died, I found myself being diagnosed with depression. My GP suggested counselling may help.

Talking it through

Talking to my counsellor I realised that I had not accepted that I needed time to grieve.

I’d spent a lot of time caught up in caring for my dad and being distracted by all the practicalities following his death. I hadn’t given myself the time and space to process a mixture of emotions. On reflection at this point I was just stuck in anger. Having the chance to sit with my therapist, who knew nothing about me or my family, and bring everything to the surface and talk it through was the breakthrough I needed.

In some sessions I just sat and cried. I wasn’t judged, it was a safe space and it felt so much better afterwards.

It was lovely to talk about my dad, as one thing I’d come to realise was that people didn’t ever talk about him. I know now that it was because they didn’t want to upset me. But it was so nice to share my thoughts, hopes and fears and come to some kind of acceptance about what had happened.

I’m sure this also included a lot of bargaining with myself and coming to a place of acceptance – which for me is ever evolving.

Grief is personal

The one thing I have come to understand is that grief is unique and affects us all in different ways.

We should be mindful not to judge anyone in the way that they process it. It’s important to know that we don’t just grieve for the loss of loved ones, including pets. We might grieve for the loss of relationships, friendships, jobs we have lost. And having lived through a pandemic, many will have grieved for the loss of their freedom.

Even though it’s over 20 years since my dad has passed away, I still have moments when I burst into tears. Normally it will be a song that triggers it, but I don’t bury it away anymore. I sing along, sob and soon I’ll be laughing, and I feel tons better after.

Talking about him has been key and I heard a quote recently, I can’t remember who said it or if I’ve remembered it correctly, but it was “grief is heavy but as time goes by you just learn to carry it better” and I think that’s true for me. Seeking help if you’re struggling is something that I would strongly recommend.

I dedicate this blog to my friend Matt. He was larger than life, made me laugh out loud like no one else and will be missed by family and friends. RIP.

Our Guest Blogger: 

Our ambassador Sarah wrote this blog, sharing her experiences of losing her Dad and what she’s learnt over the years through talking therapies. She’s identified her feelings and reactions to the five stages of grief. This helps illustrate that there is a process – although it will not feel the same for everyone.

Further Support:

If you feel that your need support with grief, support services include Dorset Open Door and Cruse. Mosaic specifically support young people in bereavement.

If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123.  

Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalising conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. You’ll find links for 1-2-1 and groups mental health support we offer here. 

Our Training Team also deliver a Grief, Loss and Big Change Course for individuals and businesses.

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