Tuesday, 10 July 2018

How I'm grieving one year on since my fathers death

I thought we'd got through all the 1sts since my father died suddenly on July 11th last year, until my birthday on June 26th, the moment my mum walked into the coffee shop that morning. Last year my father was with her. Of course there is still the anniversary of his death to get through and then the funeral 2 weeks later. Then we're done or are we?

For me, my start to the summer is mimicking last years UK trip. Helping the teen find somewhere to live, visiting child 4 in Belfast to say good bye before his overseas posting and typing up 1000's of names on a data base for a charity in South Africa. Mum and I even visited the Speech House for afternoon tea where I took this photo.

The same place this one was taken 3 days before my father died.

As an expat my greatest fear was not being able to be there for my parents and my children should there be an emergency and not being able to get there in time to say our last goodbyes. Travelling for nearly 20 hours back in 2012 from South Africa with no way of communicating was traumatic, not knowing if by the time I arrived at the hospital my father would've have survived his surgery or not.

After that trip, every subsequent trip I made then became my most feared trip. As much as I enjoyed the time with the family, the moment I arrived I was fully aware that I was already dreading the goodbyes, the last hugs, the last kisses and the last words, knowing that at some point in time and soon, I would be coming back to the UK with the full knowledge that my father would no longer be there.

My father was a very opinionated man and ran commentary on every situation in life, he would wind me up to the point of an argument, with neither side backing down. We both viewed the world as explorers, we shared a love of sport, particularly football, but we viewed life from different vantage points, his mostly from the 'good old days' mine from the present.

The last few weeks of my fathers life were special, we talked so much, we did things together, we always did, there were arguments of course during that time, but I have no regrets, no words left unspoken, no words spoken regretted.

On the night my father died, I said to the teen 'come on we're going to Nanna and Grandad's, be a good grandson and come with me' my niece was there with her 3 boys also. We had a drink and my father started on one of his favourite topics, yet rather than have an argument I just simply said 'I'm not doing this' we said our goodbyes, nicely and left. 3 hours later, I was back sitting at his side as he lay in the hallway, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

That night I sat with him, I was relatively calm, I knew there was nothing I or anyone could do. When the paramedics took over I collapsed, I couldn't breathe, I phoned my husband and a friend. I stood on the street with the neighbours, then I spent several hours going over all the details with the police as it was a sudden death at home.

The following days I didn't wash, eat or sleep. I couldn't talk to anyone without gulping huge intakes of breath. I walked round the town asking in my head 'why are you smiling? don't you know my father just died' It's a small town and I wasn't able to go far without someone offering their condolences, many times I held it together, said 'thank you' often I fell apart, leaving people staring at me blankly not knowing what to say or do.

All of a sudden I went from saying 'my father died last night' to 'last week/month/year' Mum moved during this period. I returned back and forth to my home in Dubai. My father was a hoarder, thankfully everything was labelled, but trying to sell it all has been a battle. A challenge I've accepted, willingly. I shout at him for leaving me all this crap to sort/sell/donate/throw. I look through his things and wonder why he never showed me this stuff when he was alive. I get angry with him for leaving us like he did. I get emotional, I cry. I can't watch the World Cup without crying, or pass merchandise in the shops without automatically wanting to buy him something. I can't attend a sporting event without getting upset, as he'd be back at home trying to spot me on the TV, while mum relayed the information via face book. I can no longer argue with him, tell him he's wrong and I miss all that.

But as time has gone on, I cry less, but I never stop thinking about him, good or bad. I cried as I wrote this sitting in a coffee shop in Belfast, people were looking at me, I didn't care. Because I fear the day that I don't cry for my father, the day I no longer shed a tear.

There are days, whole days when he doesn't enter my thoughts, but they are rare. He'd be so proud of the teen with his new job, he'd be excited for child 4 as he heads off on another tour with the army, he was so excited when child 3 told him he was going to Australia a couple of weeks before he died, he'd be so looking forward to seeing him come back in October for a visit. He missed child 2's wedding last month.

He's missed by us all, he'll never see Thing 1, 2 & 3 grow up, his great grandchildren, or the great children my mum will get to know. Thing 1 who is 4 said to me the other day 'My grandad died, your daddy died, do you miss him? I do'

This is the post I wrote marking the end of 2017. Managing grief 5 months on.
Although i am not my mother's carer, I do need to support her with stuff while she adapts to life on her own after 53 years of marriage. Living in a different country is challenging and our story appeared in the Daily Mail, you can read about it here.


  1. What a bittersweet post. Handling death is different for every person and every relationship. Hope you're finding ways to keep his spirit and memory alive so you can tell your kids about him!

  2. My Dad had an accident in his garden on 18th Dec, he never regained consciousness and we were with him when they turned life support off the following day. Shock doesn't even cover it and we are still limping through the "firsts". I think process exacerbated by having to attend inquest at end of April. I do feel we are turning a corner now over six months on but the waves of grief are just a blink away some days. I still have his last words in my head day of the accident 'Ok sweetheart, I'll take a look at it, see you tomorrow' (he was coming to do some jobs). Even this morning I found myself thinking 'ooh must ask dad about...' Big hugs to you xxx

  3. You got me with this one. I feel for you and then of course my grief for my own late Dad kicked in. I liked learning more about your Dad. I can see you are his daughter and that is lovely to know we integrate some of our lost loved ones as we move on through your life and that will go down the generations too so he will always be here really. I don't think the 1sts do ever end. My Dad would be 91 in 5 days and he would be loving the World Cup. He died in 2012. The other day I asked my eldest why he did not watch football much or have much apparent interest in the World Cup. I added that he used to watch footie with my Dad in the annex he lived in next to our home. Cav would go through with a pizza and they had quality time together. Cav just replied to my question "because he died". We all grieve in our own unique ways but how wonderful that people come on the Earth and are so loved and missed in due course. Thinking of you #TriumphantTales

  4. I've been thinking of you and your Dad a lot this last week. You lost your Dad 5 months before my oldest friend last hers and you've both made me realise more than ever what I still have to come. You with the issues of distance, and her as our fathers are so alike. I've felt so useless for you, never really knowing what to say, throw in the fact we are rarely in the same country to pot. But you are in my thoughts even if I don't always let you know x

  5. This is such a beautiful and courageous read to mark the end of your first year without your Dad. It must have been so gut wrenching to make that long journey when he was first ill with your mind racing through all the possibilities. I've been reflecting a lot this week on loved ones who are sick and the pain of relationships that have drifted and this quote really spoke to me. “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go” ~ Jamie Anderson.

  6. What a moving post and what a tough year you’ve had. I love that you shared so much about your dad’s personality here and I’m so glad you have no regrets about your last conversation with him. This post is an important reminder to those of us who are still lucky enough to have parents that they won’t be here forever and we need to make the best of the time we have with them. X

  7. Sending massive love. My Dad died in 2007. I was 23, and he was 53. It was a total shock. My mum died in 2016. She was 64 and a massive hoarder. Your story reminds me so much of my own, except my dad never got to meet his grandchildren. Cherish the memories. I'm sure he'd want you to remember the good, not dwell on the void he's left behind. XX #BestFootForward

  8. Sending big love. It sounds like you're doing really well, all things considered XX #BestFootForward

  9. What a moving post. I am filling up as I read this. I can not imagine my Dad not being around :( It has been a roller coaster with my Dads health over the last few weeks and it is times like this I feel lucky to still have him with us

  10. What a moving post and one I could have written. I lost my father over 10 years ago now and it’s still painful but now, not everyday. It’s a process my dear and one that just needs to be worked through. It’s difficult when it’s sudden too as I often used to think, “well, where did he go??’ One minute he’s there and the next not. How can that be? I feel for you living abroad; that must have been and continues to be tricky. I hope your mum is Ok. Take care. Xx #pocolo

  11. I don't think firsts will ever stop, there will always be reminders and days where you carry on like normal then it hits you that you haven't thought of them for a while. Its only natural, but it doesn't make it any easier.
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

  12. What an insightful and honest assessment of grief. It can never be easy, it'd be strange if it was but you are made of the tough stuff. Just because you are, though, it doesn't mean it would hurt you any less. Thinking of you - I hope Belfast & Germany were welcome breaks and you're still looking after you as well as everyone else x

  13. I think there will always be disagreements in families. It sounds like despite this love conquers. #BestBootForward