Coping with grief, the ultimate shapeshifter

Coping with grief Silver Magazine

There is relief and comfort in accepting grief, and I’ve put my grieving off for too long

My dad died last year. After the next few days, I won’t be able to say that anymore. It’ll be ‘the year before last’, or ‘in 2021’. And it will sound like it was quite a while ago, and I don’t want that to happen. Because it feels like he’s getting further and further away from me.

In reality, he died at the beginning of last year, so it’s already coming up for two years. By now, perhaps, one would imagine that the grief is lessening, but it isn’t. Last Christmas, I was numb. This year I feel an enormous sense of visceral, angry loss. Grief does not go anywhere; it just changes form. Grief, the ultimate shapeshifter.

Grief does not go anywhere; it just changes form. Grief, the ultimate shapeshifter.

This season I am crippled by grief, it overwhelms me. I ditched the Prozac a couple of months ago and the deep dive my serotonin levels have taken has surprised even me. I wanted to stop taking the pills, because I felt like I’d been putting off the inevitable, which was my ability to mourn him properly. I felt I’d been cushioned from my own sense of loss – from feeling everything properly, actually.

Read: When my dad went into hospital

Don’t get me wrong – antidepressants have been a bit of a lifesaver; enabling me to get on with, well, life. And I am grateful for that. But it was time to feel real again. As they say – be careful what you wish for. I’m really mourning; it doesn’t get much more real than it feels right now. I’m really bloody sad.

Holiday at Camber Sands, 1977

It’s been interesting to see how friends have reacted to this. I know everyone has got their own shit going on, and I’m not angry with anyone. But I’ve had friends make my grief about themselves. I’ve had one friend tell me to grow up. The cliché about clichés being true is, it seems, also true. You find out who your true friends are when the chips are down.

I miss my dad and I wish he hadn’t died. I wish it so much it actually hurts in my chest.

Happily, there are a lot of them who are true blue, for which I am grateful. I’m not a brilliant friend to have right now, but I am eternally thankful for the ones that chip away, keeping in touch. Same with family. I expect people have forgotten what I even look like; I’ve been hiding away, not able to do much except function. But they’ve been there, checking in. I see you. Thank you.

Loving mention must also go to Alice pug, who hates it when I cry; she sits as close as she can, leaning into me, trying to help. I’ve soaked her fur with tears on many occasions. I don’t know how people manage without dogs, I really don’t.

I think, also, from the outside I probably look alright. Chugging away at work, walking the dog, posting jokes on social. But I’m not okay, I feel very sad. I miss my dad and I wish he hadn’t died. I wish it so much it actually hurts in my chest.

The five stages of grief are set out thus: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Arguably there are seven stages but five will do, frankly. Regardless of how many stages there are, I feel as though I’m experiencing them all at the same time. It doesn’t feel linear to me.

Dad lived every second of his life with the same gusto as Oliver Reed going at a bottle of scotch. It’s not fair

I wail and keen in desperate sadness, and simultaneously am furious this has happened. I make bargains with the devil; I have wished, for my sins, that my 101-year-old grandmother had died instead. Why should she live? Her life is comparatively grim; my dad lived every second of his with the same gusto as Oliver Reed going at a bottle of scotch. It’s not fair.

I feel like he is with me though. I take measures to keep him close. I drive his car; I wear one of his jackets. Today, after stomping around the park with Alice in the driving rain and hanging out said jacket, I discovered a hidden pocket. And inside it was a spare carrier bag Dad had stashed, ready for a spot of spontaneous shopping. It was from his tiny local supermarket and was the most Dad thing I’ve seen for a while. It made me sob like a baby, but it’s good to know he’s still got my back. Especially if I need to pop to the shops. Thanks Dad.

Ironically I have today received an email from Sun Life, with some helpful tips on managing grief at Christmas. Some of it is useful, such as ditching expectations (yours, and other people’s); creating new traditions; limiting the booze; ensuring you communicate with people. All good advice. But probably the best tip is about allowing yourself time to sit with grief, and to feel it.

Ray Harrington-Lowe. Gone but not forgotten!

I’ve done a lot to put off this grief. Literally two days ago I found myself thinking of having a good old cry as being a luxury. I’ve wanted to cry a lot, but I’ve had shit to do, I’ve avoided giving in to the crying. It was a strange revelation, to realise I felt it was an indulgence, something to treat myself to. But that’s what it’s become for me. Gotta hold it all together, gotta keep going. It’s time to stop that now.

Solstice, Yule, Christmas, the New Year; times of rebirth. I’m taking the time for myself, to ensure I give myself the gift of grieving. Grief won’t go away, and I know it’s not something I can tick off a to-do list. But immersing myself in it for a while has been a long time coming, and I want it. I need it, or I’m going to get stuck here.

Cheers Dad! Happy heavenly Christmas xxx


Help is at hand

If you’re grieving or affected by this article, you’re not alone.

Here’s that helpful article from Sun Life.

Thanks Mind for this list…

At a Loss
The UK’s signposting website for the bereaved. They can help you find bereavement services and counselling. They also have resources on coronavirus pandemic bereavement.

Bereaved through Alcohol and Drugs (BEAD)
Information and support for anyone bereaved through drug or alcohol use.

Blue Cross
Animal charity that helps sick, injured and homeless pets.

Child Bereavement UK
0800 028 8840
Support when a baby or child of any age is dying, or a child is facing bereavement.

The Compassionate Friends
0345 123 2304
Provides support to bereaved families after the death of a child.

Cruse Bereavement Care
0808 808 1677
Information and support after a bereavement.

Dying Matters
Coalition of individual and organisational members across England and Wales, aiming to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.

The Good Grief Trust
Charity run by the bereaved, helping all those suffering grief in the UK. Can help you find reassurance, advice and support. They have a detailed page of coronavirus bereavement advice.

Hub of Hope
UK-wide mental health service database. Lets you search for local, national, peer, community, charity, private and NHS mental health support. You can filter results to find specific kinds of support.

Mood Diaries
Some examples of mood diaries – many more are available. Silver/Mind doesn’t endorse any particular one.

116 123 (freephone)
Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

0808 164 3332
Information and support for anyone affected by the death of a baby.

0800 2600 400
Support for people bereaved by sudden death.

Sue Ryder
Supports people living with neurological conditions and terminal illness, and for anyone experiencing bereavement after losing somebody.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
Emotional and practical support and local groups for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide.

Widowed and Young (WAY)
Offers a peer-to-peer support network to anyone who was aged 50 or under when their partner died.

Mind’s services

Mind’s helplines provide information and support by phone and email.
Local Minds offer face-to-face services across England and Wales. These services include talking therapies, peer support and advocacy.

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About Sam Harrington-Lowe
Sam is Silver's founder and editor-in-chief. She's largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.

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