An update to A journey through grief: a daughter’s love
It’s been a while since I’ve written a post and I thought I owe you an explanation.
Last week was mental health week and there were so many great posts on Instagram that got me thinking…Not everything is always as it seems. There are so many people out there with seemingly perfect lives on the surface but that are really struggling underneath and that really struck a chord with me. I have a wonderful life and I have so much to be grateful for. I am lucky in so many aspects and that is the version of my reality that I let most people see.
But I have a dark shadow hanging over me. The death of my dad last October and the recent six month anniversary of his death have hit me hard. Outwardly I might look like I am handling it quite well, but the truth is I’m not. My dad was one of the most important people in my life. He was the person I would call when things got tough or I needed to talk. He was one of very few connections to my childhood and my past and other lost loved ones. We had such hopes for the things we would do together with Hugo and Isla and for the all things my dad wanted to do in the future.
The fact that I live in England and he lived in New York didn’t diminish our relationship in any way; we were still very close and I spoke to him regularly throughout and almost every day towards the end. It might have been from afar over FaceTime, but I watched the cancer slowly eat away at him during last two years of his life until nothing was left but a shell that once held the essence of my dad. The last time I saw him (before our final trip to New York to say goodbye) I spent the week desperately trying to put on a brave face for my dad and for my children, whilst my heart broke to see my brave dad suffering so intensely. When it was time to leave to go to the airport, my dad was sitting on his front porch on that hot summers afternoon holding a beautiful dandelion paperweight that I had bought at Kew Gardens for my stepmother some years earlier. As we studied it’s delicate structures together I caught a glimpse of sadness and pain on his face and I told him I didn’t want to leave. He said, “It’s only a few months until Christmas, Honey, I will see you soon. I will be ok.”
I did see him soon, only he wasn’t ok and he didn’t make it until Christmas. I flew to be with him in his final hours at the end of October and I am still haunted by those last moments and his final breaths. It has shaken me to the very core and made me question everything I ever believed to be true about life and death. And it has left me with a gaping wound in my heart where my dad once lived.
It might not be a perfect coping mechanism and maybe it’s not even healthy but the only way I can deal with this intense grief when I have two little ones to look after is to carry on with business as usual – the essential aspects of normal life continue (I look after and play with my kids, I take Hugo to school, I take Isla to toddler classes, I interact with other the other mums and dads, try to arrange playdates, post on my Instagram accounts as usual), but once I have done that I am completely and utterly spent. And that means that I tend to (unintentionally) filter out anything not essential to getting through the day. That includes writing and responding to emails (I find writing emails an almost insurmountable task at the moment, especially emails to anyone who knew my dad), making personal phone calls, finishing projects I’ve started around the house, writing my blog and even the weekly online grocery shop. It’s not that I don’t want to, but honestly I just don’t have the energy. It’s like my brain shuts down once the bare minimum is complete and after that I cease to function. The number of times that I have sat down and started an email or a blog post and not been able to finish has become countless and the number of people I feel I’ve let down is growing by the day.
So why am I telling you this? I guess because I want you to know that if you’re one of those people that I’m not doing a great job of keeping in touch with; or you’re waiting for my next blog post and wondering where I’ve been; or you think I’ve been quite scatterbrained lately – just know that I’m here and I’m thinking of you but I am still hurting and I haven’t even really begun the process of healing yet, whatever it might look like on the outside. But I am trying my best and writing this post and admitting my pain must be a step in the right direction, right?
Finally, I want to remind you of the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s something I try to remind myself of on a daily basis. Sometimes the sharpest pain is the one that goes unseen and sometimes the simplest gesture or word of kindness and understanding can brighten someone’s day immeasurably.