This is a subject that I have been unsure about talking about... bereavement. Everybody has a completely different experience of bereavement. It depends on the relationship you had with the person, the circumstances, the aftermath, your view on death and so many more factors. So the only way I can do this is to explain how I felt. Some of you will agree, some will disagree and some just won't understand or have anything to compare this to but that's fine, we are all individuals. Here's my story...
In January 2011 I lost my dad. My dad was my whole world, my hero, protector, best friend, teacher, the shaper of my personality and the man who helped me find myself and my beliefs. I have his hair, nose, smile, sense of humor, taste in music and a hell of a lot of memories.
We knew we would lose dad and watched him go very quickly from a strong 42 year old man to a lifeless shell in a chapel of rest within the space of 5 months. I'm so grateful we knew it would happen. It meant I could be there. It meant when he passed I was holding his hand at home. I sat with his body and talked to him about how proud I was of him and that he would be ok while we waited for the funeral directors to come. I visited him in the mortuary to make sure he was 'ok' and I was able to be involved in his funeral and attend. Some people don't get some or any of these opportunities.
Anger at everything. Anger at the overweight, heavy smoking, drinkers outside the pub that should be the ones who had dad's illness, not someone so healthy. Angry at the people that had disappeared after telling me how they'd do anything to support us and come and visit regularly but didn't come once. Angry at the amount of messages I was receiving from other people telling me they're not coping but they were never that involved to begin with. How dare they! Of all people to say that too. Angry at myself for not somehow knowing he was ill sooner. Even angry at people for being near me. Angry at the ones who wanted me to explain my feelings because they thought I was 'coping too well.' For me this was the most destructive and heart-wrenching part of bereavement. Beating yourself up and hating everything. Everyone who said I was taking it too well made me want to lash out at them or shout them down but I didn't have the energy.
After this phase came great sadness. I had accepted quite quickly what had happened and that it was part of life. I have a very matter of fact view of illness, life and death when I'm thinking clearly. No matter how unfair it seemed we had lost people in our family at younger ages, children have diseases and don't survive, fatal accidents and disaster can happen to anyone. It was unfair but something that at the same time is natural. We live, we die.
I found comfort in knowing that many people live till old age and die without having the amazing relationship we had. I became very grateful. I had an amazing dad for 22 years of my life and many people would cry out for either that amount of time or that kind of relationship. I felt pride. Proud of him for everything he achieved in life. Proud of him as a dad and a husband to my mum. Proud of the friendships he built with people. Proud of the way he held the family together.
At first it was hard to know what I was 'allowed' to do. Can I feel happy? Can I enjoy life? It took a long time to come to a point where I was ok. To be able to have a good night's sleep. To wake up without feeling fear. To not feel guilty for laughing and smiling and wanting to go places or do something I enjoyed.
Now I talk about dad everyday and think of him more than a few times every day. I smile at his photo's. I remember times and suddenly smile or laugh because they were hilarious! I have days where I crumble and just need him with me. I constantly wish he was with my mum. If I could bring him back just for her and not get to see him myself I would. I know he would be very proud of what I do and if I really think about it I know what answers he would give me and what advice he might say for the majority of times I wish I could speak with him.
Bereavement is a very personal journey. For me this bereavement was worse than my lowest point of depression or any anxiety I've felt or any panic attack I've had. It is probably the most physically unwell I have ever felt and the most exhausted I'll ever be. But it is something that I have come through and so will others.