At some point you have to get back into ‘normal’ routine, at some point you have to stop living in a grief bubble and you have to go back to work, back to routine, back to hobbies, you have to get back on with ‘normal’ life. Only it won’t be normal (what is normal anyway-I could digress) it won’t be the same, ever. There’s now something different, someone missing and yet for me my day to day life won’t change given that my Dad lived thousands of miles away. So surely going back to reality should be quite straight forward…
I’ve been back at work following the summer holidays for a week now, I was lucky (I use that word lightly as its not something I really class myself as at the moment) in that the first day back was a teacher training day and then the second week of term also a 4 day week, so I could ease myself back into the daily grind.
Wrong! The first day back was tough, I had to approach it minute by minute: Climb out of bed, check! Get a shower, check! Walk out to the car, check! I felt a mixed up bag of nerves on the verge of tears and the simplest of tasks seemed a huge mountain to climb. I didn’t want to have to face things, I wasn’t quite sure what but I didn’t want to face something. However, I made it through the door and was shortly after faced by a good friend and ex-colleague of my Dad’s who gave me a friendly hug, patted me on the back, helped me fend off the tears and face the day, ‘because he’d have wanted you to.” So I ploughed on throughout the day, in a bit of a fog, being approached by those that knew and having stilted conversations with those that didn’t, sometimes having the guts to tell them sometimes not.
My Dad was also a teacher, and it just so happens that he taught where I now work and despite the 10+ year gap between our employments there, there are still staff and ex-pupils that remember him and not only offer condolences but seem to be able to help me find comfort whilst at work, sharing memories, anecdotes and similarities between us as father and daughter.
Yet despite all this, facing reality and getting back to ‘normal’ has been crap.
Yes that’s right, crap! Totally #&@*! if I’m honest. Not just the return work, but the return to everyday life in general. Until you’ve been to every usual place and seen most people, you still have to keep repeating the same awkward conversations for a few minutes and then get on with whatever job/journey/meal/activity *delete as appropriate is at hand. All the while really deep down, I don’t care. I never thought I’d say that, I’m naturally quite a passionate person-particularly about dancing and my job, but during those first days at work, it was clear more than anywhere else, I didn’t care.
I never thought I’d say that about work and it shocked me to feel it, I’ve always loved my job and prided myself on prioritising it and aiming to always do the best I possibly can. But I thought I didn’t care and as the last week progressed, I’ve struggled and stressed. I’ve started the school year having not done the usual prep work I normally would and as the pressure builds, I can feel everything starting to pile up on top of me and I’m not motivated to sort it, I’m dragging my feet and taking far too long over simple tasks. As people discussed the academic year and priorities the department and school are to make, I couldn’t help but think, “so what” and “how can I care about this” at times I’ve wanted to scream, “this is trivial, I’ve just lost my Dad, what’s more important than that!!” Of course I didn’t and I also know that it’s not trivial, it’s children’s lives and education but I just didn’t seem to have the usual buzz or bounce about me, as if I didn’t care.
This is just it though, I do care, a lot. It’s just my focus has shifted, I’m having to focus a bit more on me, I’m having to look after myself and my grief in order to allow me to care about others things. I’m having to focus more on how I’m feeling and where normally I’ve sometimes put my own needs on the back burner to ensure I am still performing at my optimum. Now I can’t do that, I cannot put on my work/teacher face and pretend everything is ok, I have to admit to myself more than anyone that if I don’t shift my focus and work my way through this cloud, looking after myself and taking time to do things that get me through this bizarre mix of emotions, then I won’t be able to work at my maximum.
I do care just as much as I always have and that’s why it bothered me that I thought I suddenly didn’t. That’s why I was conserved that I seemed to not care, that’s why I could feel the pressure building and it worried me that I had work and responsibilities piling up. I don’t want my job, my students, classes and colleagues to suffer. My Dad was always proud of the successes I’ve made in my career and I loved talking shop with him. However, he always reminded me when I got worked up over work and school, that it is just a job, I need to leave work at work and that I can only ever do my best. I guess losing him has altered my perspective and that if I don’t look after myself properly, if I don’t make my physical, emotional and mental well being a priority then I won’t be able to do anything at my optimum and therefore things will suffer.
I think what’s happened is that I’ve had to start getting back to reality and normality but that actually that isn’t whatever it used to be. Yes, my day to day life hasn’t changed in that my Dad wasn’t always physically a part of it so my routines etc are the same, but my reality is different. I don’t have a Dad anymore, not in the physical sense, which has altered my perspective and brought about a change in me. I guess one that I’m not quite sure exactly what it is yet, but a change.
So I’m struggling to get back to reality and approach day to day life in the same way for two reasons. I’m having to look after myself more and focus on this bizarre torrent of different emotions called grief. Secondly, I’m having to adjust to the change, the difference that losing my Dad has brought about, even though I don’t (and might never really) know what that is.
So right now I’m just looking after me and my feelings, doing what I need to do to keep everything ticking along as best I can. I might not be at my best with my usually bounce, but I’m plodding on, keeping everything ticking over as I work myself back into reality. I’ll keep plodding along, working myself back into reality as I learn to cope.
Because it’s all about learning to cope.