It’s December, you may not want to read this now, but Christmas is hard for people who are bereaved and the grief is strong so I’ve decided to publish it in case it helps even one person.
My Dad died in June 2019. He died quickly, but not suddenly. He’d had lung cancer for five years but it got worse in his last month and what we thought was months left turned into weeks and then a weekend and on a Monday afternoon, with his wife and children around his bed, he died. And that’s when my grief experience began, I was forty three years and three weeks old.
There are things you know, and things you don’t know about grief. Things you think you can understand until you actually live through them. That was the first thing that I learned when I experienced true grief for the first time.
Here are some other things that I have learned since my Dad died, some about grief.
1. If you get to say goodbye it’s a gift. (We did, I’m glad)
2. If you get a last chat while they can understand you’re one of the lucky ones. (I did, I didn’t know then that it was our last chat, but it turned out to be)
3. Funeral arranging is just as weird as you would expect (or maybe even more).
4. The outfit that you wear on the funeral day will remind you of that day forever so choose wisely.
5. Sleep doesn’t happen at the times it should when you’re grieving.
6. You’ll wish you had more photos and videos of everyday things, a sideways look, a mischievous grin, a wink. Videos in particular are precious, hearing their voice,
7. When you say to someone “I can’t imagine” you’re right, you really can’t until you’ve lived it.
8. Cousins are the ones who are there, doing practical things like making tea and sorting out stuff that your grief fog just can’t see. (Thank you to all my cousins)
9. When someone sympathises with you who has felt loss you know by the way they look at you, you can feel the pain in their eyes.
10. When someone dies you still expect them to walk through the door.
11. Grief is so incredibly exhausting, it’s like no other tiredness I’ve felt, not even pregnancy tiredness.
12. The funeral feels like a play, it doesn’t feel real. It won’t ever I think.
13. Irish people are fantastic at funerals, we talk and chat and tell stories and it makes everything so much better to do that.
14. Everyone brings lasagne. It is then referred to as “funeral lasagne”.
15. It’s OK not to save every morsel of food that people bring, you don’t have the bandwidth to deal with that on top of grieving. (The cousins might though)
16. Soup is the most welcome thing in the world.
17. Dishes with people’s name on them save a lot of time later when you’re trying to return lasagne dishes,
18. Triggers are in the weirdest places, like supermarkets when you see a walnut whip and go to buy it for them and it hits you like a ton of bricks.
19. You won’t just remember the good stuff, you’ll still think about the bad, that’s OK.
20. You will hug people you’ll never in a lifetime have imagined hugging (Covid notwithstanding)
21. Offering “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” is too much for someone to process when they are in the depths of grief, they need specific offers of things that you will do for them.
22. Bouncing back to normal takes time, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t still laugh or smile, you can feel joy while grieving.
23.The ball and the box is a perfect way to explain how grief works.
24 In the earlier days grieving people feel sad all the time and then if they feel happy they feel sad that they can feel happy but their deceased can’t. Let them feel sad when they need to, don’t tell them to cheer up.
25.Lifting of the cloud doesn’t happen suddenly, it’s very slow and you don’t even realise that it’s happened.
26. When you think it’s lifted a stupid trigger or anniversary will come around or a Facebook memory will knock you over. You’ll get up again though.
27. You’ll help others. And possibly bring food but probably not lasagne.
28.Sometimes, you just won’t be able to help them, it’ll be too much for you, and that’s OK.