Monday 22 January 2018

Dealing with Bereavement: 'Sometimes at night I would creep out of bed down to the kitchen to wail out loud where I wouldn't wake anyone'

Bereavement and loss is isolating and difficult to overcome, and no one should suffer it alone

GRIEF: There is counselling available if you’ve lost someone. And if needed, there’s medication too. You should talk to your doctor. There are no prizes for struggling endlessly. No one should. No one would want you to
GRIEF: There is counselling available if you’ve lost someone. And if needed, there’s medication too. You should talk to your doctor. There are no prizes for struggling endlessly. No one should. No one would want you to
Dr Ciara Kelly

Dr Ciara Kelly

Bereavement is a universal experience, so how can it be so isolating? I've only ever been truly bereft once. I'd lost grandparents and aunts and uncles, but not until my father died was I truly grief-stricken.

I had, like all of us, always known that over the course of my life, I would lose people; but even though you know that in the abstract sense, you don't really understand what that will mean to you until it happens. I'd also always thought that as an adult, losing a parent would be tough but manageable. I was not prepared for the depths of my sadness, my grief. My fear.

That night in the hospital, I was alone, as I was the only family member nearby when the unexpected call came in that Dad had taken a turn for the worse. I arrived - tense with fear - to the closed hospital at 2am. The door porter asked "Kelly?" which felt ominous.

When I entered the ward, a kindly nurse unsuccessfully tried to bring me into an office to impart the news. While I obstinately stood my ground in the corridor insisting she let me see him. Eventually she told me right there, that he had died. "Can I see him?" I repeated without reaction.

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He looked asleep under the night light and I put my hand on his arm which was still warm. "Daddy, don't go." I whimpered. I hadn't called him Daddy in 25 years.

The funeral was a blur, and then after that flurry of activity ended, there was simply nothing. A yawning emptiness, a ragged hole, filled with the loss of him.

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The first couple of weeks after he died were okay. I remember being at brunch with friends, when he was dead three weeks and thinking, I was a bad person because I'd enjoyed myself - I thought I'd gotten over it - but I was still in shock. The truckload of pain hadn't hit me yet and when it did - it floored me.

Grief was ever present for the year after he died. Casting a pall over everything I did. Everywhere I went. Even going out and about doing nice things it was there, like a knotted ball in my chest.

The first few months were the worst. Sometimes at night I would creep out of bed down to the kitchen to wail out loud where I wouldn't wake anyone. I believed if he could, he might send me a sign. So I looked for him in the shadows at twilight, in the back yard. I strained to catch sight of him in milling crowds and out of the corner of my eye. I never saw him.

It went on and on. People asked how I was. "Fine" I said. "Good," they said, relieved. Other people move on so much quicker than the family of the dead that it becomes difficult to inconvenience them by telling them you're devastated. Hollowed out by loss. Unused to dissembling, I felt a gulf emerging between me and other people. I had heard it took a year to get over a death properly. For me it was much longer. Two years in, I still mourned. It took three to feel myself again.

Looking back, I really should have done something to help myself and not let grief consume me for so long. But truth be told, I was afraid. Afraid of living my life, without the man I had relied on for everything important, for as long as I could remember. And afraid to let go of my grief because that allowed me to still feel connected to him. Still feel his presence.

Read more: Norah Casey: How Richard’s passing was a good death

There is counselling available if you've lost someone. And if needed, there's medication too. You should talk to your doctor. There are no prizes for struggling endlessly. No one should. No one would want you to. I wish now that I hadn't.

Sunday Independent

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