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One year on

One year on

Today is a day that a year ago, I couldn’t imagine coming. A year ago today, we lost our darling Dad. Suddenly. The pendulum swung, in a moment. In those few weeks following Dad’s passing I searched for answers. For someone to give me a reason why it was ‘his time’. I learned so much in that time, but most of all, I learned that searching for answers that don’t come is hard. It’s really hard. So I stopped after a while. There was no point, and it was not helpful. It’s hard on the brain to try to rationalise loss, particularly when your loved one wasn’t really ill. Whilst my Dad did have a heart condition, it was managed and he was in great shape. That moment of receiving the call, was the first time in my life where I really felt out of control. I tried to slam on the breaks and stop time. The problem is, time doesn’t stop. The sun rises, the sun sets. People get up, go to work, come home, go to sleep. Life moves on. However it is really hard for those who are left behind, wanting the world to realise that there is now a huge hole in the world. A loss that cannot be described.

I’ve found it better to simply focus on the positive. To try to laugh and smile when I think of him. To talk about him. To see his presence through everything he has left. It doesn’t bring him back, but it keeps his memory alive.

It’s been a really hard year for my family. I felt in those early days, that we simply didn’t know ‘how’ to be a family without our Dad. We have, however found our way and whilst we are still grieving each day, we have continued to laugh, continued to smile. We have stuck in there for each other. Each of us has grieved in our own way. Each of us dealing with our own feelings and trying to look out for each other. Dad would be so proud. So proud of each of us, and especially our Mum.

So this day, one year on we continue to celebrate the memory of our beautiful Dad. It’s hard because I won’t be there with my family. I WILL be with my own, flying home from our family holiday. I will toast to him on the plane. I take comfort knowing however that there will be many friends and family, celebrating and commemorating with my Mum, my brother and sisters. As my Dad would want, they will be having a Crownie which should be ‘free and compulsory’.

There are so many things I miss about Dad. When my siblings and I had to write down our love for Dad in his eulogy, surprisingly we found it easy. It was easy to come up with a million things that we adored about him. Like his infectious laugh. The kind that made him almost pass out from not being able to breathe. His clumsiness. His funny language that he made up (long story). Singing in the kitchen. His obsession with North Melbourne. His love for us all.

Dad…..a year on we still love and adore you and will continue to keep your memory alive each day. This poem was used at the end of the mass booklet at his funeral. The words speak so true to me. Now and always.

We do not need a special day to bring you to our minds.

The days we do not think of you are very hard to find.

Each mornign when we awake we know that you are gone.

And no one knows the heartache as we try to carry on

Our heart still aches with sadness and sectret tears still flow.

What it means to lose you no one will ever know.

Our thoughts are awlays with you, your place no one can fill.

In life we loved your dearly; in death we love you still.

There will always be heartache, and often a silent tear.

But alwyas a previous memory of the days when you were here.

If tears would make a staircase, and heartaches make a lane,

We’d walk to  the path to heaven and bring you home again.

We hold you close within our heartsl and there you will remain,

To walk with us throughout our lives until we meet again.

Our family chain is broken now, and nothing seems the same,

But as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again

 

(aka Snake as Dad would call me)

Losing Dad : Six months on

Losing Dad : Six months on

It’s been six months today since we lost Dad. Six months feels so long, and yet it feels as raw as ever. It’s such a long time to not hear someone’s voice or see them smile.  I’m writing this today because I find it helpful to write it down. Helpful to share how I’m feeling with others. Sometimes I receive messages from others, sometimes total strangers, who have walked this path too. T Sometimes I get messages from people who have read my posts and they say it has helped them. To feel as though they are in this with someone else. That they are not alone. People sometimes ask me why I write this blog. I write for many reasons. Today I’m writing because I feel proud of our family for getting through a really, really hard time.

These last six months have taught me a great deal. When Dad passed away it was the first time in my life that I truly felt like this was a problem that  I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t find an answer, a solution. I couldn’t see how it would be ok. Losing your Dad, especially when you are so close has effected me in so many ways. It’s made me grow up even more, and yet it’s made me feel as though I’m a kid again. No matter how old you are, when you lose your Dad, you are taken back to those childhood times where you truly just thought he would be here to protect you forever. These six months have taught me that we truly never really grow up. Grief knows no age. It knows not maturity. It makes you face your fears, stand up to the challenge and stand up to the plate. And yet it can strip away everything that has made you feel all grown up, and leave you wanting your Dad like you did when you were five years old.

losing dad six months on

These last six months have taught me that grief takes time to overcome. A really long time. IT has taught me to see life through a new lens. A new reality where we need to both remember, cherish and lean on our wonderful memories, and yet at the same time, create new ones to help us see that life can bring us all happiness again. That it WILL be ok. Whilst we often feel at a loss to fill the giant void in our life, that we have enough love around us to help us feel whole. One day we will. I know it. Sometimes you feel at an utter loss which direction to take. In the end I’ve learnt that it doesn’t really matter. Just try your best to keep going and be happy.

These last six months have taught me how loved my Dad truly was. Not only by his family, including his beautiful Grandchildren, who only this morning spoke about their darling ‘Pa’ after looking at pictures on our fridge. A double edged sword, these moments bring me both tremendous relief to know that they remember him, and yet I feel a sense of pain that they won’ know him more. I’ve learnt from people, far and wide, familiar and unfamiliar, that he left his ‘mark’ on their lives. Ironically.

I’ve learnt the power of positivity. Of smiling through the pain. Of the need to let yourself cry when you need it, but the feeling of joy rush through your body when you laugh and allow yourself to really smile.

So with the ticking of the clock, and the dawn of a new day, today we will toast to our Dad. With a crownie tonight: free and compulsory as he would say.

Dad we are doing ok. We miss you more than words could ever describe. However we’ve got each others’ back, just like I know you would want. You’d be so proud, especially of Mum. We all are.

Grief at Christmas & lessons of hope

Grief at Christmas & lessons of hope

Grief is like Melbourne weather. Four seasons in one day. Sometimes you start out the day feeling fine, and then it can quickly turn nasty. Sometimes it feels still and calm, and others it’s like your stuck in a torrential down pour, and all you can do is ride it out. These last four months have taught me a lot about grief. I thought I new. I’d experience loss before. Losing close family friends, and family members. I knew it was hard. I knew it would take time. But gosh, I’ve felt as though I knew nothing. It’s as though I’m a preppie in the school of grief, as I went back to square one. As though I might as well be learning a new language.

The past few weeks I felt as though I was on top of things. I felt a sense of wanting to be happy, and really try to make this up and coming Christmas a good one, as much as it could be. I’ve often heard in previous years, people reminding others that whilst Christmas can be a great time of happiness and joy, it can also be a time of immense sadness for some. For me, Christmas has always, always been the happiest time of the year. These last few days have actually had me realising that this is true, with the loss of our precious Dad. The thought of walking into my parents house on Christmas morning with my children in tow is both something I’m looking forward to, and yet it is a day that I’m sadly anticipating with a sense of trepidation.

I’ve learned a lot about grief these last four months. There are things you are told about grief that ring true, much of it weeks after being told. However there is much I’ve learned that I have found is helpful. Stuff I’ve been told, and stuff I’ve discovered myself. You see my brain is very scientific, and I’ve fond that I actually need strategies, phrases and sayings to help me make some sense of it all, and rationalise the loss. Especially because ours was so sudden. So in an attempt to try to help others who also may be stumbling and fumbling their way towards Christmas this weekend, feeling a little lost but wishing they could feel a bit better, I thought I would share some of the lesson’s I’ve learned about grief. I can only hope they help. Heck, I just hope it’s bloody useful really. I’ve just realised it’s also my 300th post on Happy Ella After. Quite ironic!

 

grief at christmas1. Grief if the price we pay for love

A few days after Dad passed, my Mum told us this: ‘grief is the price we pay for love’. Apparently the Queen actually said it. When you think about this it actuall resolves itself. In an attempt to make the loss ‘not happen’, you would never, ever choose a life without love. Love is in fact the meaning of life. A life of love is a life of happiness. So therefore, grief is an unfortunate, but very rational consequence of loss. This saying has helped me realise that whilst our grief is so intense and at times hard to bear, you in fact wouldn’t want it any other way.

2. Helpful and unhelpful emotions

A friend who lost her Mum whilst we were teenagers told me about helpful and unhelpful emotions. Some feelings can help you through, and some feelings can make you feel worse. The trick is knowing which ones to acknowledge, and which ones to ignore. Sadness, for example is hard to face, but it is in fact useful. It is something that we NEED to feel when tackling grief. Guilt and trying to find answers on the other hand are not useful. They actually cause your brain to stress, releasing cortisol and causing you to physically feel worse. They do not help to keep you calm and feel safe. You can also go out of your mind wondering ‘what if’ and ‘why has this happened’. It’s something I’ve tried to notice and explicitly stop myself from thinking. It has helped.

3. Let it come and go

In a similar way, you also need to let emotions come and go naturally. Don’t fight it, or dwell on any one point. My sister’s Godfather told us to treat our grief like a wave, ride it when it is high and when it is calm. Just let the waves come and go, and don’t try to swim against it. Everything will in time, calm down and the storm does pass.

4. The new reality

I’ve been seeing a psychologist to help me deal with the loss of Dad. She has helped give me some specific strategies to help me process how I’m feeling. She talked about sufferers of ‘grief’ dealing with needing to create a ‘new reality’. In times of loss, we live in our old reality, but without the person we love. We live in our houses, travel to the same places, carry out every day routines. All reminding us of that person. It isn’t until we create a ‘new reality’, one which involves memories of a new life, new experiences, new adventures that the old reality becomes new. The problem is, this takes time. But knowing this in itself actually helps. Time can’t be rushed.


5. It gets a bit easier

 

They say that the grief doesn’t go away, you just learn to live with it. I have found this to be true. However initially, when I was told t

his, I saw it as a life long curse of being sad . However it’s not like that at all. Four months later, I still feel incredibly sad. I still at times, fall apart and cry my eyes out. But I CAN talk about him sometimes without welling up. I CAN look at photos and smile. I’ve recently been able to look at videos and have a laugh. Someone once drew me a diagram to help explain this:

grief at christmas

In the beginning, grief consumes you. It is the centre of your life. It’s all you can think about and feels overwhelmingly huge. Every thought is about your loss. It’s hard to see anything else.

However over time, the grief is surrounded by new experiences, happy times, love and hope. In time the grief is still there, but it feels smaller and smaller as it is surrounded by new memories. You feel stronger and more able to tackle life and the new reality because it is enveloped in love. I have used this diagram several times to help me realise that everything will be ok.

6. Everyone is on their own journey

This is a hard one, but one that everyone in a family needs to realise. I am one of four children, and we have all lost our Dad, but we are all different and dealing with it in a variety of ways.  Our Mum has lost her husband and those feelings are very different too. We all have to just care for one another, and we do. Just because you are feeling sad, doesn’t mean that others are feeling that way on the same day. In other ways, you may also want to do something positive or happy, but it doesn’t mean that others are ready. We are all different and it takes time. We all need to be respectful of where everyone is at.

7. Sometimes the build up is worse than the actual day

Since losing Dad we’ve actually had a few ‘firsts’. Fathers’ Day, his Birthday, Mum’s Birthday, their anniversary. For the most part, the build up to the day, the anticipation is actually harder than the actual day. You think about what it will be like, you dread it in some ways. But then the day comes, and you realise, it is just another day. You can get through it. You will get through it. Yes you might cry, but that is ok. But you might laugh and smile to. And that feels really good.

7. Hope

There is always hope. There are not always answers to all of our questions, but there is always, always hope. Hope is a good thing. It helps us strive for positive and know that there will always be something happy around the corner. Life is too good not to be cherished. We need to be hopeful that there are better things to come.

grief at christmas

So this Christmas, if you or someone you know is feeling really heavy with the loss of a loved one, then know you are not alone. We are all doing our best to get on with things, keep our chins up and just live a happy life in their memory. At times it really sux, but just know that time does tick over and good things happen all the time. We owe it to them to be happy as much as we can be.

Losing Dad: Two months on

Losing Dad: Two months on

This weekend will mark two months since losing Dad. To be honest, if feels like two decades since I last saw him. The intense pain has started to ease in some ways, and yet in others it is actually worse. It’s worse because two months on, it is starting to feel real. The world that stopped momentarily in dismay to digest the news that Dad had been taken so suddenly has been replaced by a reality that everything and everyone still carries on, and yet we feel so left behind.  Time ticks over, people go back to work, the flowers wilt. It’s a harsh reality for us at the moment as we try to rationalise his absence. It’s impossible. The calmness of a steady world, rhythmically moving from day to night, night to day is far from the reality of our chaotic world, hit like a tornado. Everything is the same, and yet everything is so different.

It’s left me feeling lost about many things, big things in life. Is there really a heaven? Where DO we all go? People say that in times of great loss you really cling to your faith. In some ways this is true, and in others it leaves you questioning the very essence of what you believe. I’ve prayed. Day in day out. I’ve gone to church and lit candles. I’ve looked for signs. I’ve waited for him to come to me in my dreams. But nothing has brought me comfort. Not really. I’m left wondering about the meaning of life when someone can so suddenly be erased. How the world can simply delete the presence of such a magnificent man in so many ways, and yet he is everywhere. How can we ever reconcile this is a destination that is a little beyond our understanding right now. I’m hopeful that we will get there one day.

What has indeed helped and brought great comfort is the support of family and friends. What I’ve come to know about people who are dealing with intense grief. What we all need is different. Some need space. Others need to be close to others. I’m of the later kind. Phone calls, messages, cards, food, hugs and more hugs. Flowers sent two months later from a friend, just so I would know that my family, and more importantly, My Dad are ever present in their thoughts. A simple gesture with profound meaning and impact.

losing dad

I’m holding on desperately to the sound of his voice. The image of his hands. His somewhat aged and disfigured fingers after suffering years of arthritis. Yet still so precious. You feel like stopping everyone in the street, to make sure they know / knew about this wonderful human being. What he did, how he lived life. I’ve covered my fridge in photos so that he is ever present in my childrens’ lives and thoughts. I just miss him. His ability to make anyone smile, just by walking into the room. The laughter that he infused in my children. The way he called me Katie. There are yet a handful of people who do that, and I wish I could hear it one last time.

losing dad

So two months on I think that as a family, we are doing remarkably well. We are doing our best. We have amazing people around us. It’s tremendously hard to transform and reshape your family unit. To try to fill in the vast void that is left both physically and emotionally. As a friend who recently also passed away said each and every day, hug your loved ones. There is so much truth in that it hurts. I know that one day I will be able to look at the thousands of photos and simply smile without feeling a lump in my throat. I’m not sure when that will be, but I know it will happen.

Grief is the price we pay for love. As hard as that reality is, we wouldn’t therefore want it any other way.

kate