You know how people say he dropped dead with no warning? Well I had a warning... Three months before his death, my strong, capable, vibrant father, informed me rather calmly that he wasn't long for this world and he would probably be taken by heart failure in the near future. When the time came, I was 700km across the country... Every detail of that day is etched onto my mind and branded on my heart. It was quite simply, the day that I died.
Gone was the girl that had a full family and along came the birth of the young lady without a father. A mum to two little boys with no daddy to ask; it still hurts, of course it does. But it does dull and fade and eventually leave space for memories of shared laughter. I can't tell you what I did correctly to arrive at my place of healing, I can tell you what not to do. Here are ten mistakes you can make when dealing with grief.
Don't start smoking
I had never smoked cigarettes. An hour after hearing the news I started smoking and didn't quit for a year. I didn't enjoy it, not once did I feel the calm that smokers claim to feel yet I just kept smoking. Crutch much?
Don't go into zombie mode
Yes, it hurts! Sometimes more than we think we are capable of bearing. Sometimes to the point that self-preservation kicks in and we go into a sort of 'autopilot'. That too is ok for a while but this too will pass. This too will heal, it just feels impossible right now. Switching off one's feelings may come naturally to some but it is not an indication of strength, even the strongest of minds needs an outlet for the depth of emotion that comes with losing a loved one. Feel, cry, mourn then dig deep to find you again.
Don't stop listening to music
During my grieving process, the one thing guaranteed to push me over the edge was music. Beautiful music formed the soundtrack to my life with my dad. This is with reference to my entire childhood and every good memory I have ever had with him. There was always laughter, love and music - the triangle of happiness. With one angle gone the happiness was gone too, how could I enjoy music when my heart was a bloody pulpy mess? Thank heavens I recovered from that perception, now music forms the soundtrack to the life I am building with my children instead.
Don't go into insane planning for your death mode
Yes, it is fine to make a will and take out a few additional policies. There is nothing like the loss of a loved one to remind you of your own mortality. The instant you let it overshadow everything you do though, you have a problem. 'If I die tomorrow' should be a phrase that spurs you to be the best version of yourself every day and to do everything you have ever wanted to. It should not be a lock on your ability to experience new things and live your life. You are entitled to live the life that you have been given.
Don't isolate yourself from loved ones
Chances are they are grieving too. Adding distance in your time of need is a giant disservice to you and those around you. There are various reasons for pushing loved ones away and the big two are the fear of being too attached and fear of feeling too much. The fear of becoming too attached is a natural defence mechanism when you lose a loved one. The trick is to recognise it early and stop that feeling in its tracks. You need the people that love you and whom you love in return, their very presence in your life should be a reason for celebration and for expressing love at every opportunity granted to you. After all, you know better than anyone that life is short. And as for feeling too much, if your greatest flaw is feeling too much then consider yourself a lucky sort.
Don't curb your grief too soon
Your healing time is important to your body and mind. News of a death jars a person out of one reality and into another. You are allowed to be sad, hopeless and lost. The ability to experience extreme emotions and eventually recover from them, curbing this ability and not allowing it an outlet only serves to compound the pain.
Don't forget how to be you
Have no doubt that your loved one loved who you were to them and whom you are to the world. Be yourself in honour of their memory.
Don't forget to notice the beauty of life
Consider yourself lucky to have known the beauty that was your lost loved one. What if past grief had shadowed the beauty of your time with them? Each moment is precious, therefore you should make them count! It's a sad truth that life gets in the way of your relationship with those you love. There are so many distractions be it a busy work/family schedule or simply that you were to lazy to charge your phone. Trust me when I say, nothing else will matter when you dial a number that comes naturally, when you hear a voicemail of an echo that has almost faded. Why wait until all the echoes of those you have loved has faded? Love now, enjoy the beauty of life now.
Don't let grief deprive you of your right to heal
You are entitled to stop grieving. Let it consume you for a while, that's ok, however, once it starts to feel better, you will inevitably find yourself able to laugh spontaneously. Allow that laughter and celebrate the gift of being alive, for enjoying life should never be the issue. The issue should be making the best of the life you have been given, after all, you are still here because your purpose is yet unfulfilled. What you do with the extra time is up to you. How you make it count is dependent on how much you have learned from the loss of your loved one, be it through death or even just a breakup or the end of a friendship, The rules still apply!
Don't be afraid to seek professional help
Been through all the stages and yet here you are a year later with no hope in sight? Seek professional help. Reach out and don't allow yourself to sink into an endless pit of hopelessness and grief. You are never completely alone. If by nature you are just not the professional help sort, the alternatively, find a confidant and get help! If all else fails, google how to deal with grief - chances are you might find this very blog and maybe, just maybe it will help in some small way.