My personal experience with grief
Losing my step father
When I was 10 years old my step father died in a tragic accident. It was sudden, horrific and altogether heart breaking. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to a really loud noise; Someone banging on the door and calling my mums name. I sat on the second to top step on the stairs gazing at the door as my mum hesitantly asked who was there. My brothers both came out of their rooms and were telling mum to be careful as we were scared we were being robbed. After mere seconds, mum realised it was my grandma.. she was screaming “He’s dead. Chris is dead”… My mum screamed, my brothers were pacing the hallway with their hands on their heads in shock and I sat crying and shaking on the stairs. It was the most traumatising evening I have had and I remember it every single day.
Being 10, I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening and it was the first death I’d really experienced. The days that followed were quiet, full of sadness and our home with all of the curtains closed. Every song reminded us of him. Every laugh would be met with sadness and feeling bad for feeling anything but awful. It was so confusing for my little brain. I went to school shortly after and I remember being briefed by my support teacher at school. He told me “If you need to come out of lesson to talk or have time out, let me know” and “We are all here for you. We know how tough it’s been so take your time” amongst other things. I was confused as to why I was being treated differently. A lot of it is blurred now, other than the funeral planning, choosing a teddy to put with him in his coffin and then laying him to rest.
Being 10 and in year 6 at school I put all of my feelings and thoughts away in the back of my mind, locked the key and threw it away. I didn’t grieve and I learnt to not think about it.
Losing my best friend
At the beginning of year 11 in secondary school when I was 15 my best friend who was also 15 passed away. She had Cystic Fibrosis and went on a severe downward spiral for around a month or so before she finally took her last breaths. She was my everything. She was kind, beautiful, full of life, inspiring, funny and just pure wonder.
The day she passed we were about to go to the hospital with a homemade cake that said “Keep going Lucy” on it. Shortly before we were to head to the hospital, her family called my mum to tell us she had passed away early hours of the morning. When my mum told me, I was in shock. I felt numb and didn’t shed a tear. Instead I went to our town centre and walked around like a zombie before realising how silly I was. I knew I needed to be home with my best friends so I called my friends and gathered them to our local pub so we could sit, talk and be together. As soon as it was announced she’d died on social media, all four of us (Myself and friends) broke down completely. We went back to my home and all made a cosy little sleepover space in my bedroom where we sat, watched films and just remembered Lucy whilst cuddling her jumper.
The day after I was asked by her family to see her in Acorns Hospice. I was petrified but knew this was the last time I could see her looking relatively peaceful, since the last 5 months of her life were painful, scary and consisted of her crying every day, fighting for air and hooked up to machines with a bipap breathing machine on her. She was 3 stone the day she died and she looked awful, so her family wanted me to see her one last time with no machines or pain.. I’m glad I did but it has haunted me also.
After her death I was taken out of school and had to be homeschooled. I was so ill and my mental health declined hugely. One day I was sat down in my lounge and an episode of New Girl came on. It changed my life! It made me pick myself up and start being me again. It was refreshing! It helped me so much whilst I was trying to come to terms with what had happened and how to go forward.
Almost losing both of my brothers
In 2018 my brother attempted to take his own life. We could not put into words the feelings and thoughts that we experienced. It was the kind of thing where you can only understand if you’ve been through it. We had to have my brother live with us again so we could get him back on his feet. Trying to remind someone that their life is worth living is difficult. We were so scared he would attempt again and we were constantly keeping an eye on him whilst also trying to keep a relatively normal life with work and such.
Fast forward to 2019; In January my brother attempted suicide again. In March, my other brother attempting suicide as well. It took us months to even feel again. We were so numb and petrified of what could have been had we not found my brothers when we did.
Having a family member attempt to take their own life is an indescribable event. The emotions you harbour are unfathomable. During my brothers first attempt I felt like I lost my mum. She had a mini breakdown and it was one of the scariest things I have witnessed. My partner woke me up one morning as he had got out of bed for work and my mum was just standing in our bedroom shaking and touching her hair and saying things like “I want to go back to the place”, “What am I doing”, “It was nice there”, “What’s happening to me?” all whilst tears streamed down her face. I could see her slowly slipping away into darkness as she had tried to be strong for way too long. I became the rock and have had to remain that way to keep my family safe. Luckily after some help, mum became herself again but I will never forget that feeling inside of me that morning. My world was literally falling to pieces.
Losing an animal
Some will say it’s not a big deal, but if you’re anything like me, you class your animals as family. They are the pure hearted, never complaining best friends that make our lives brighter. I have always been an animal person and have had so many cuddly friends throughout my life including degu’s, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and terrapins. In 2019, my best friend and doggy Maxwell passed away. It was the most awful year and his death made coping with life so much harder. I couldn’t think about him without breaking down and still find it hard even talking about it now almost a year on.
Losing a pet isn’t easy. Whether you have had them for a short amount of time or a long time, you form a bond with them that no one can describe. They become part of your life so perfectly and you find it hard to function without them. Not everyone will understand what it’s like, but never let that determine how you should feel or cope. Your feelings matter just as much as they would had it been a family member passing.
Losing someone in other ways than death
Someone leaving the family
In 2019, my nieces and nephews were removed from their home by social services and put into foster care under police protection. We didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t get to hug them for the last time. We didn’t get to fight for them. They were just here one minute and gone the next with the click of a finger. It took us 3 months to fight to see them and it was the hardest three months we’ve been through. My nieces and nephew were so close to me and I’d give anything for them, hence why I’m currently fighting to become a connected foster carer to gain custody of them.
There is a possibility some or all of them could go into either long term fostering or adoption and the thought kills me. If they go into adoption we will not see them again until they are old enough to know and find us. If they go into long term fostering we will have extremely limited contact with them. The thought of them going into long term care hurts my heart so much. These emotions are something I never thought I’d feel. It’s pretty much describes as pure heart break and hopelessness. The worst thing is, we may lose these children, and due to someone else faults. We have done nothing wrong and we feel us and the children are paying those prices and suffering. It is truly a situation you cannot understand unless it has happened to you. It is sickening and heart wrenching.
Friends and family coming and going.
I have experienced loss in friendships and family so often and It is so painful.
I have had family members come and go through marriage and such and it is a shame when you build a bond with them.
My most heart aching experiences with losing friends is being left suddenly and not knowing why. When you have a beautiful bond with someone and you go through school together and then they slowly drift away and soon enough you realise you aren’t friends anymore. It’s painful because there doesn’t seem like a valid reason and it’s a confusion and ache that can’t be explained. When they just stop replying to your messages or not answering your calls or responding to invites you just feel it in your gut that the connection is gone. It’s a very emptying feeling and it’s like losing part of a puzzle. It doesn’t feel right and you just want it back so badly but you know it’s more than likely lost.
It’s important to realise that friendships do drift apart and it won’t always be anyones fault. People grow apart. People go through mental illness and will distance themselves from those they once had a connection with. People will move city during university or just in general and you will feel that connection slip away. It’s good to realise that these things happen. It doesn’t help you feel better but just keep in mind that it’s not you or your fault. What is meant to be, will be.
Having a family member with dementia is an ordeal. It is such an awful illness that takes its time with the people who suffer with it. It debilitates them, makes them lose their identity and dignity and can strip them of everything they once were.
Loving someone with dementia is a heart breaking process. They may forget who they are, who you are and who their closest family are. They lose lots of their personal traits and their independence. They can lose the ability to talk, walk, eat and it can really take its toll on the person and become so painful for them to go through and for those who love them to see.
I lost my uncle last year to dementia and I have another uncle and an aunt who have it too. My auntie is within the worst stages now where she has a liquidised diet, has lost use of her body and is forgetting the world around her. She forgot who I was when I visited her and I had my glasses on. It wasn’t until I took my glasses off that she realised who I was. For that brief moment of her forgetting me, I felt a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye and an ache in my chest. She is my god mother, aunt and practically raised me and now she is slowly forgetting who I am.
If you’d like to know in depth about dementia, head over to my post on the Share the orange campaign. Together we can do the research needed to find cures and ways to improve this illness.
When we lose someone through illness or just in them moving away, we all have our own ways of coping and getting through it. Some of us will openly grieve, posting on social media and talking often about it whereas some will completely shut off and find it easier to not talk at all. I am the kind of person who holds it in and copes when I’m alone. It can be hard for others to understand you when you’re grieving in your own unique way, so hold tight and do what is best for you.
- Keep a folder, album or box full of memories in a safe place where you can go to or leave it. Having a place to reminisce in your own time is a great way to cope in small amounts when you feel you can do it. When you are done, simply close the album or box and walk away until you are ready again.
- Find solace in a feel good show, film, music, podcast, book or activity. I find that when we are going through something difficult it is always good to have something to do to take our minds off grieving for some time to aid us through the process. For me I found the show New Girl, my love of baking and cooking and a new found hobby in makeup and blogging.
- Write a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Draw them, bullet journal them, write them or even blog about them.
- Offer love and then leave it. Friends will come and go. Those who choose to leave may be struggling. Offer your love and help and then leave. They will respond when and if they want to, don’t lose sleep over it. You will do more emotional damage to yourself.
- Get some professional help from a counsellor, bereavement counsellor or online mental health or samaritans services to talk through how you are feeling.
- Talk to friends, teachers, mentors and family members about your feelings. It’s good to get your emotions out instead of festering them inside. Talking is good in moderation.