I was 14 when my dad passed away suddenly with no warning after a day where he had seemed totally chilled and relaxed, spent at home with the family doing the things he loved most. Pottering about in his greenhouse and then off down to the local pub with his friends for a few pints. Returning home happy around 10.30 pm and sitting down with a nightcap with my mum.
Half an hour later as my mum followed him up to bed, he was making funny noises and she realised something was drastically wrong and rang 999. My older brother and my mum went with him to hospital whilst my two sisters and I stayed at home waiting, not fully understanding how critical things were and ironically to distract my younger sister we played a board game “The Game of Life” Unfortunately, my dad didn’t make it to the hospital alive.
We found out when my mum and brother arrived home several hours later and one look at my mum’s face was enough for us to know the worse had happened.
Twelve months earlier my dad had been ill and over a period of weeks, he had steadily got worse ending up being admitted to hospital which no one, not even my dad expected for him to return home. This was the one and only time I saw my dad cry as he was leaving to go to the hospital and he hugged us and said his goodbyes to us all.
Over the next few days he deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t speak properly, his words were garbled and irrational and none of us expected him to survive.
Then, one day as we arrived home from school starting to get ready to go and visit him, my mum said I have a surprise for you tonight, I couldn’t have wished for anything better. When we got to the hospital that night my dad was back, sitting up, laughing and joking with us, telling us off for being too noisy - it was a miraculous change.
What had happened? How could things change so dramatically in such a short time?
The hospital was treating my dad for liver and kidney failure and during the morning a Consultant came to examine him with a team of student doctors and when he asked them to examine my dad and tell him what was wrong, one of them identified little black flecks on his nails which is a sign of heart problems. This triggered some different tests and X-rays which confirmed that it was his heart that was the issue not his liver and kidneys and the treatment was changed immediately. The results were miraculous. He remained in hospital for about another week before being discharged and coming home.
He had to take tablets for life and see a doctor regularly but after a few months was doing so well they agreed his appointments could move to quarterly. He continued to enjoy his garden and watching sports mainly Rugby and Cricket and even managed a trip to Sri Lanka to see England play. Everything seemed to be going well. Until, that night a year later when he suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was only 54 years old. That night my mum lost her husband of 25 years, we lost our dad, I lost the person, the hero I worshipped and idolised.
When I was younger, I use to be his shadow, I was the one who followed him around helping him (probably hindering) fix or make things, I use to always sit on the floor hugging his legs watching television, I was never far from his side. I was a tomboy but I was definitely a daddy’s girl.
The night he died we (my elder brother and sister and I) agreed we would do what we could to support my mum and protect my younger sister so would try to be strong in front of my mum as we could see how devastated she was by the loss of my dad.
His death affected me in ways I would never have expected, I was angry at my dad for leaving us, angry with myself for being angry at him, angry at a God that could take away someone we loved so much, scared about how I would cope without him to make everything better, guilty for feeling the way I did as I knew it wasn’t his fault.
In order to cope and to fulfill my pact with the family, I buried my emotions and feelings deep down, I didn’t process them, I didn’t talk about them I shut myself down. I taught myself how to disassociate myself from them. I could support others, listen to what they needed to say and I could empathise with them, and say and do the things they needed from me to help them. I just couldn’t do it for myself at the time.
It took several years for me to have a real conversation with anyone about how I really felt about losing my Dad and recognise deep down how it was affecting me. It all came tumbling out late one night having
got in from celebrating my 18th birthday with friends, I got home and sat up for several hours with my mum, talking properly for the first time sharing how we both felt about each other, the family, the loss of my dad. We cried we laughed, we sat in silence, we hugged and I started to release some of the emotions and feelings I had held inside so long. It was a start, it left me drained but it also started to give me some peace and allowed me to start to build a better relationship than I had ever had previously with my mum.
Starting the journey
Over the next few week’s I did a few other things that really allowed me to process my emotions and feelings and start to let go. I started a journal using it as a space to download and dump my innermost thoughts and feelings, allowing it to help clear my head. I wrote letters to my dad, saying all the things I felt angry about not being able to do with him or say to him, releasing the anger at the fact he had left me, telling him I loved him and always would.
I found a peace that had been missing since he had gone.
I learned then just how much talking and letting things out can help and over the years since have tried to ensure that I don’t hold my emotions and feelings in and bury them, I try to ensure I acknowledge them.
I wish I had recognised back then what a difference just saying things aloud could make but also how much just writing it down gives you a space to think and see more clearly what you really mean. it would have helped me so much to just acknowledge how I was feeling and what I was really thinking at the time. Doing this has helped me in so many situations in my life since and I expect will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
What things in your life are you holding on to?
What situations and emotions are you burying and not acknowledging?
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