Grief is a strange process, you have good days and bad days, ups and downs and rotate around a mix of every emotion going. I’ve being living by the mantra, one day at a time, waking up each morning and facing whatever particular feeling it is I’m faced with that day.
Sometimes though, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you wake up feeling strong that day, or you’ve plowed on through a day gradually feeling as though you can cope, then boom! It hits you, like a slap across the face and suddenly the sadness rises back up to the surface. Occasionally you can control it and suppress it, other times there’s just no stopping it. Sometimes you’re just caught off guard.
Last week I had to nip for a medical appointment and without realising it would happen, wander down the same corridor, past that same ward, that same place where I had last saw him. Thank goodness I didn’t have to walk into ICU, although I need to face that at some point as I have a thank you card and present for the staff as well as a donation for the ward from my Dad’s funeral. I know I don’t have to and that I could send it all through the post but some part of me wants to. Needs to.
Apologies, I’ve gone off on one of my tangents (you have to let me, it’s part of the writing/healing process). The point I wanted to make was that I nipped out from work to go for this appointment, wanting to dash in and out, then out of the blue, when I least expected it, I was right back on that day when I last saw my Dad. When I last held his hand, hugged him, kissed him and spoke to him. It was tough, I found myself wanting to run away and hide, only I didn’t, I had a teary moment as I went out to the car and drove back to work, then put on my teacher face and pretended everything was OK. One ironic thought I had though was that I was wearing the same t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms that is quickly thrown on to go to hospital that day-isn’t it strange how you think of these things during such intense moments.
Often I’ve been caught off guard at work, as I explained in a previous post I work in the same school as my Dad once did. This is comforting yet haunting at the same time. I’ve unexpectedly discovered more people than I realised that worked with him which is nice, especially when they make comments on how much he talked about me and my brother-something I never realised he did but then again what else did I expect from him, he was always so proud of us and in the words of one of my colleagues “he really loved you both.” I’ve also been caught off guard when staff members who I’m unsure as to whether or not they know, catch me and offer condolences and support. Most of the time these when I’ve been caught unawares I found comfort and been thankful, but sometimes it’s still be an overwhelming emotion, as if grief heightens your feelings, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative.
The other day my husband I joined some friends at an international food festival in a local park, the place was buzzing with people and as we wandered the stalls, sampling olives and cheeses, I thought I saw him, I even for a very small split second, did a glance back round to smile and wave him over, I know you’re now thinking I’m going mad. It was just a fleeting moment but it was enough to make my mood do a full U-turn. I was suddenly reminded of the Dad shaped hole that I cannot ever begin to fill. If I’m honest, I often thought I’ve heard his voice or seen him when I’ve been out and about which those spiritualists among us may say that was him, not that I’m not spiritual (my thoughts on the after life are for another time) but I’m sure it’s just people that sound like him, my eyes playing tricks on me and my subconscious trying to ease my pain.
This morning I was caught off guard immediately, I woke to my alarm and did my usual snooze for as long as possible, reading the BBC news headlines, checking social media whilst trying to motivate myself to start the day (a mountain of a task at the moment). I now must confess that as a true nostalgic that loves looking back at memories, I have that hideous timehop app, you know the one that reminds you of every bad picture/video you’ve taken and the drivel you’ve posted on social media over the years. So I opened timehop and was hit with the most adorable picture of good old Poppa M, playing with my adorable nephew Little L exactly one year ago. My Dad’s face oozing with pride and Little L sporting the true baby cuteness, brought that ever common feeling right now of my eyes starting to prickle and a lump growing in my throat, however there was an element of relief and joy mixed in, relief that I wasn’t hitting for a moment, the rough heart wrenching grief and joy that we have these wonderful memories and had these special moments with my Dad.
There’s also times when I get caught off guard for no apparent reason. For instance the other Friday evening when we were sat watching TV after a long week at work. We were quite happily watching soaps and films when my husband decided to go to bed and lent down to kiss me goodnight and the flood gates open, totally unprovoked, no known trigger, they just opened and the tears flowed out like waterfalls from each eye. I can’t even begin to suggest what caught off guard here other than grief.
And that’s just it. It’s grief, all these reactions and triggers that are catching me off guard are grief. They’ll never stop or go away, I’ll just learn to cope with them and even then they’ll still be difficult times, really difficult times, for the rest of my life, because I’ll always wish he was still here. I’ll just learn to be able to cope with the fact he’s not.
Because it’s all about learning to cope.