Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Good Grief

 I don't think that there is a good way to die, but at times I think that my Dad's was the worst. He had early on set dementia (like Alzheimer's for younger people) and it took years to watch him slide towards death. It is hard to say when charm turned to eccentricity and eccentricity to inappropriate behaviour, and likewise his stuttering became aphasia and then he just forgot how to talk.

As he got more ill I decided to give up my job and study for a Masters as I could study from my parents home and be around when I was needed. As his health deteriorated by personal life seemed to be on the up. I met the Provite and two years later he asked me to marry him.  It has great to have something positive to think about to distract from the illness - and  I realise how important it is for me to know that the two men I love the most got to meet while my Dad could still just communicate.

We could not really predict the trajectory of the illness so we set the wedding date for two weeks after I handed in my long study for my Masters in September and the planning began.  Sadly my Dad did not make it,  he died six months before our wedding.

It was great as we had something positive to focus on after the funeral, we had the reading that included 'A time to weep, a time to laugh' at both funeral and wedding as a poignant reminder of the tumultuous year.

But maybe we focused two much on seeing the good side and glossed over the need to weep. I remember after the funeral everybody came back to the house; I was walking in after the private family burial and being accosted by someone who was insistent that we talked as his son was getting married in September - I remember repeating calmly to him that I wanted to put down my coat before talking, time after time when he did not listen until I finally just fled upstairs. That seemed to set the tone for the mourning. 

All seemed to be going well and it is now eight years since his death. This year my usual calm has been shaken, as readers of the blog may have noticed. After reading 'They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life' by Oliver James I was determined to unpick my past so that I could be a better parent to the Pickle.

This dredged up so much! My parents had a simple facade - if there was a duff decision, it was my Mum's fault and if anything was cool that was because of my Dad. Nobody presented it that way, but folklore is often based on prejudice and this myth was built up. I do have a rocky relationship with my Mum but I have been forced to accept that it may have been a little unfair.

Then my Father in Law died...he was the most amazing man and his death came as quite a shock even though we knew that he had terminal cancer. He just seemed so strong and indestructible. My first concern was the Hubster, then his Mum and my step children. But why was I finding it so hard to keep it together?

I was crying when walking the dog, crying at my desk, generally crying when the Hubster was not around to see me! I felt like an Oscar Wilde character "To lose one father, Ms Dawnay, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness". I was not sure if I was crying for my Dad, for Leon, for the miscarriage, depression that was settling on me from general life  - but I was sad and I was crying!

I survived the funeral - thanks to my amazing sister in law's gentle comforting. I was not a soggy mess, just a few appropriate tears (although what is appropriate is any body's guess) and I was strong enough to be there for the Hubster.

I am now feeling strangely free - I have cried away so much past hurt. I feel as if I am starting to move ahead and can look more clearly to my future. After a year of feeling blocked in my issues beyond my control, I can now start to plan again. I appreciate that this is the resolution of over ten year's grief.

As I feel stronger this weekend was a stark reminder. Our lovely friend Rob was building us some gorgeous book cases (that we originally commissioned about 3 or 4 years ago). I was thinking of Leon as previously he has done built all our amazing furniture, I realised how hard it must have been for the Hubster. As my grieving comes to an end, I hope I can be truly strong for the Hubster - as trust me, it is shit, but sooner or later it does get better!


  1. This is a very powerful post. I'm glad you wrote it. Sounds like you have done a lot of very worthwhile 'working through stuff' here. Grief is a tricky thing. Although there are the supposed different stages, we all need to deal with it in our own way and own. At some point we need to cry but that is so often not in the early stages after a loved one's death. It sounds like you are in a good place to start digging out the memories that make you smile now. Good for you.

  2. Thanks, Dawn! Your comments yesterday were a real spur.

  3. I found that difficult to read, as I've been through it/am going through it.
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    It sounds like you have been able to let out a lot of grief and can now move forward. This must be a good thing.
    Much love to you x


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