How To Deal With The Anniversary Of The Death Of A Parent

by - March 02, 2018

The day seems to take ages to come around even though you're so f*cking aware of the calendar. It's the anticipation. You know you're going to feel shit and even though you make plans to do something nice, such as something you love, or a treat for yourself, grief can totally blow it all out of the water and render you useless, bed bound and as if you're back at day one. 

Today marks the second anniversary of my dad's death. I hate this time of year because it is just a portal to that time that I still remember clearer than any period in my life. That month that seemed like forever. Going back to the hospital everyday, sometimes with cans of gin and tonic in my bag to try to self-medicate from the hopeless pain of knowing that this time he was really going to go. 

Seeing him getting weaker each time I visited. Suddenly losing his mind, that he wished he would never do and trying so hard not to let him see that I was upset or that he was incoherent. Trying so hard to be strong for him so that he wouldn't be scared. Feeling so f*cking helpless. The kind nurses offering me tea. Holding his hand. Not knowing what to say. Him asking me how my new flat was and then saying no place would ever be good enough for me, for his daughter he was so proud of. That was the last coherent thing he said to me. Watching him try to eat that f*cking shit hospital food. Being strong for my brother. Feeling sad for him.  Knowing he was being even stronger, as my older brother, for me. Being told he's been moved to another ward. Knowing what that means. Being told he's being made comfortable. Not knowing what that means. Not wanting to believe what I think that means. Being told that it's getting quite serious now. Being called and told that he probably won't make it through the night and asked if I want to come back one last time. Saying no. Because it's so f*cking shit to go there again and again and just see him like that, so weak and small and pale. With oxygen masks all over his face drying his eyes out on so much morphine that he's barely even conscious. Wondering how he is inside, how scared he is. What comfortable really means. The doctor asking if I want them to call, later. What? OK. I mean no, of course I don't. I don't want that phone call, ever. How can you ever prepare for that. And then the waiting. All evening. Waiting for the phone call. And then it comes and they ask you if you're sitting down. And then they tell you. And then you lose your shit like you've never lost your shit before. 

The next months that follow vary. But the anniversary is the day that marks a lot of emotions. It's the day he passed. It's the day he no longer was here. It's the day you say goodbye to hope and also the day you welcome relief that he's no longer in pain. 

So what do you do with yourself? I'm new to grief like this but I want to tell you that from what I've learnt and have been told by other people who've been through it is that it's OK to do it all in your own time. It's the only way to do it. It's OK to wallow and cry and ponder a thousand "why" questions. It's OK to feel guilt, sadness, fear, hopeless, pain, despair, loneliness and like a massive piece of you is missing. It's how it feels. It's OK to feel angry. Not angry at them for leaving, no. Angry that the other parent isn't able/doesn't want to support you through this. Angry that they might have even been responsible for some part of it. That they might even feel happiness from this. Confusion.

You can try to have a nice day. I tried to go to a coffee shop and have some cake and a coffee because it would be a 'nice thing to do' and he loved coffee and chocolate cake too. 
It's also OK to come home because you can't hold the tears back cos all your doing is staring into space.

It's OK to get mascara all over your white bed sheets because you don't give a f*ck about them and want to just curl into a foetal position. It's OK to resort to that little girl you were and always will be around him and miss him. It's OK to feel lonely. People won't remember the date like you do. Some might but mostly they won't. Be prepared for that.  Someone told me recently when relating to their own difficulties, "The bad news is, no one is coming to save you and the good news is no one is coming to save you" - It's resilience training.

But if you know anyone who's got a dying loved one or someone's died recently, do make a note of the date and try to remember to reach out to your friend on the anniversary next year and for the next few years because it's going to be shit for them, wherever they are. Whether they are alone in a new country where they don't know anyone and can't speak the language (that's me!) Or if they're surrounded by friends or family, reach out. 

And if it's you who's going through this shit today, it's OK to be vulnerable, it's OK to be selfish and tell people you're sad. It's one of the most difficult things you'll ever have to go through. Whether it was a sudden death or more delayed. They are all difficult. 
Allow people to send some love your way. My very kind housemate gave me a bowl of chicken pasta which was exactly what I wanted. I was eating a lot of pasta with butter and black pepper around the time my dad died, it's as comforting as it can be and I shared with him what was going on for me. He then told me his dad passed away when he was 16, 13 years ago, and that it gets easier but that the first few years are difficult. It felt good to connect and feel a network. That's one good thing about death, it brings people together. If you feel alone now I want you to know you are not. Even if people don't remember, they are there and they care.

So do what you need to do. If you want to distract yourself, you can but remember it's easier to not resist it. On the other side of resistance is flow. Like a wave. Plus tears are healing. They contain something in them which actually heals you. Cry, breathe, eat - bread and butter, pasta, chocolate, whatever you damn want. Just don't drink. No alcohol. No. It's a time for self care. Take the day off work. Turn off your phone if you want. Write/draw/channel that energy into a positive way to help others. Close the curtains if you want during the day and have a bed day. Support others feeling the same on the same day if you can. Celebrate their life, if you can but maybe this comes at a later stage. Remember that tomorrow will be back to normal. It's normally just the build up and then the actual anniversary day that suck the most as they echo the worst times. You'll be OK. 


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