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How I Survived The First Year Without My Dad

by | Nov 13, 2018

A Year On …

365 days without hearing your voice. Without seeing your name pop up on my phone list of recent calls. Without hugs, hearing your laugh or seeing you smile. A whole year since my dad was here and everything was ok with the world. 
Losing you has been like someone flicked on the HD button in the grief setting I never knew existed. Hurt in multi-colour. On the 15th November 2017 I wanted the world to stop with me. Hearing people laughing and living when I had just experienced the fragility of life in such a sudden, heart-wrenching way made me feel like I was existing behind a pane of glass – a feeling that has been hard to shake. 
You were here in the morning. We had a cup of tea and a chat about where to go for dinner that evening. I dried my hair in your spare room as you played with your granddaughter, Everleigh, laughing at her gurgling on the play mat. I was rushing out the door to meet John for a coffee. I never knew that quick hug in the kitchen, that final check making sure Everleigh was strapped into her pushchair, and that ‘see you later’ as you headed to take her for a walk on the routine you loved to share, was the last moment we would ever have. By teatime you were dead. A whole life and an exciting future gone in just a few short hours. 
I can remember it like it was yesterday but it wasn’t yesterday. 
It was a whole year ago. 
How can that be? 
I’ve learnt so much about myself during this rollercoaster year. The main thing is that I possess a deep resilience to keep going and to get up every day to be mum/wife/sister/daughter/friend/*insert identity as required* despite wanting to sleep for a million years and for it all not to be true. 
I’ve stopped stressing the small things that got me down before (there’s also now a Before Dad and After Dad) but at the same time I find myself anxiety ridden at the what-ifs of situations way out of my control. I’m so much stronger but also a lot more fearful – that doesn’t make sense but none of this past year makes sense. 
Add to this deep grief a hormonal pregnancy, a house move and a strong willed toddler and you can understand why some days I’ve felt like I’m barely surviving. I’ve even managed to write a whole novel and had the courage to speak up that the other book I was working on, well, wasn’t working. Some days I’m doing fine, juggling those balls and even, gasp, feeling close to happy. 
I’ve realised that the small things matter, kind gestures from friends and family mean SO much. During this past year I’ve also discovered who I can (and can’t) rely on when it all hits the fan. A true life lesson that grief brings out the best and worst in people. Of course, it’s hard. No-one knows what to say or do but say something, anything, rather than let it be an elephant in the room.
What’s helped me to understand my grief and I get some sort of control is to drown myself in literature on mourning, death and loss. Cheery, I know! Desperately turning pages to discover something – I don’t really know what – possibly that I’m not alone, that I’m not going mad, that this is all ‘normal’. It sounds bizarre but it has helped lift some of that brain fog. (Scroll down to see the books I’d recommend). 
I’ve now survived a whole year of firsts. My first birthday without you was hard, especially when I was convinced you had simply forgotten to call. I heard my phone ringing as I was in the bath that evening and my heart leapt for joy that it was you. The crashing low when I remembered was horrific. 
These tough firsts are heightened with a baby. You missed your first grandchild’s first steps and her first words. Everleigh has changed beyond belief since you saw her last as a smiling, chubby-cheeked five month old. Each of her mini milestones has been unbelievably bittersweet. You’ve also missed seeing the scan photos and hearing all about how baby number two is growing in my tummy, you won’t get to feel the wonderful kicks or roll your eyes at my pregnancy cravings.
The final ‘first’ to tick off is that we’ve ‘survived’ the first year without you. A horrible, looming date that has crept up on us. It’s happening if I like it or not. I can’t change things and I can’t stop time. 
On Thursday 15th November 2018 I’m going away with John and Everleigh for a mini break. I know I can’t escape the anniversary but I can at least spend the day being looked after, hanging out with my faves and being kind to myself. The first year has almost passed and I’m still here, breathing and smiling and living despite the sadness I carry with me … you would be proud of me for that I’m sure. 


Books that have helped me through:
Joan Didion – The Year Of Magical Thinking
Julia Samuel – Grief Works
Megan Devine – It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok
Also the podcast Grief Cast.


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