What a word.. Grief. What does it mean? Because during our time on this planet we each have to suffer grief in one form or another. So what does it mean? Well according to dictionary reference dot com, it means:
- keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.
- a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.
And my god is it a mental suffering when you lose someone you love.
I too, have suffered grief and none like when I lost my father. In fact I was a daddy’s girl. Talk about twisting someone around your little finger, I could twist my dad around my little finger. Yes there were times when he would draw the line. But my dad, was always there. Whenever I needed him, no matter how old I was, he was there.
No matter how cheeky I was or if I did something he didn’t approve of, which we all do when we are younger, he never held it against me and he was there at the drop of a hat, offering that shoulder to cry on, or just giving his opinion.
If I wanted advise, yes dad gave it, freely and lovingly and if I needed picking up over something going wrong in my life, I knew where to turn and who too.
I am close to my mum and I love my mum to bits but my dad and I held a special bond… something that was ripped apart in 1988 on the death of my dad.
I was reading what Kevin Wells was saying in the Daily Mail about the loss of his daughter and it got me thinking to when I lost my father.
Kevin Wells said:
Time lessens the acuteness of effects such as despair, confusion, anger and loss. Time is no more than an anaesthetic.
How true. Time doesn’t heal, it just allows you to learn to live with things and numbs you to the pain of what you have suffered. It doesn’t take away the longing to see a lost loved one and it doesn’t take away the deep rooted pain that you can still feel when you think hard enough.
My story started on Monday 23rd May 1988, 9 days from my 30th Birthday. My son and I went out with my parents shopping.. Dad wanted to buy me something nice for my 30th, but like a typical woman, I didn’t know what I wanted. We had been planning a party to celebrate on the weekend after and we were going for a meal on my actual Birthday.
Plans were in full swing… everyone knew and my house was going to be the centre of the festivities. My son who was just 4 was getting excited, I think he had visions of ice cream, Jelly and party games, like we had for his Birthday, which of course I was planning for the little ones that were coming.
Well that shopping trip wasn’t successful, the only thing I found was a pair of shoes, that I knew would cripple my feet my the end of the evening, due to height of the heels. And Dad managed to get his hair cut.
As I went home and he and mum returned to their house, we each did our dinners and sat down to watch the TV. I remember this so vividly as we were talking about watching the Barbara Graham film ‘I want to live’ starring Lindsey Wagner.
I was just getting ready for bed after watching the film when the phone rang.
You know when it rings that time of night, you immediately think that something is wrong… and my god how true that is.
It was my mum… she was frantic and had said an ambulance was on its way and she had rung the doctor who was on his way… something had happened to Dad.
Before I knew it, I was in my car, racing to my mum’s home.
I arrived just in time to see the Doctor resuscitate my dad on the lounge floor. I will never forget it. My mum’s dog wouldn’t leave my dad’s side and that night my whole world started to fall apart. The Doctor who was local was doing all he could whilst they were waiting for the ambulance. It seemed like we were waiting for an eternity for that ambulance to arrive. Moments seemed like hours.
As we raced to the hospital, with sirens blaring in the silence of night time and the blue lights were flickering through the darkened out windows of the ambulance, we just couldn’t believe what was happening. There was nothing wrong with my Dad during the day, he was the epitome of health. Admittedly he was awaiting a gall-bladder operation, and had high blood pressure, which was under control, so the Doctors said, so how could this be happening? He had only been to the Doctors in the last week to have his BP checked and everything was fine, he was healthy. He had been laughing and joking earlier on in the day.. how could this be happening? How come we are now racing to our local hospital with my dad in such a state, where he needed mouth to mouth resuscitation?
When we finally arrived at the hospital my father was rushed into the resuscitation department and again the medical professionals fought to save his life. We were told he had suffered a major stroke and was now in a coma.
Coma… isn’t that something that you only hear about in the papers? It never happens to someone you love, does it? My god it does. But hold on, we have all seen the films, the patient laying in bed in a deep coma and someone says something and they awaken.
That is what will happen to my dad, I thought. He will hear us and wake up and tell us everything would be OK, just he had told me and my Mum, so many times in my life.
My god he was only 63 year old. He had only retired the month before. This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be happening. It shouldn’t be happening. He should be enjoying his life with my mum, not laid there on some trolley with doctors and nurses fighting to save his life.
As they stabilised my father and then transferred him to a side ward in the hospital, it was the very early hours of the morning before the sister told us to go home and get some rest. They would ring if they needed us.
“Go home and rest?”
Rest.. you expect us to rest.. my dad is laying there in a coma and you expect us to rest.
The days that followed were getting no better, we would arrive at the hospital and stay all day as we had been given permission to visit my dad as and when we liked. Nothing changed.. he still laid there, in this deep sleep.
On Friday 27th May the phone rang… We had been staying at Mum’s, it was far easier than travelling to and fro to pick her up to take her to the hospital. Our hearts sank as the phone rang… “Please God, don’t let this be the phone call we were dreading,” thoughts were going through our heads as we answered.
Yes it was the hospital, saying even though my father wasn’t out of the coma, there were signs of improvement and could we take this up… as they had previously told us not to bother bringing anything in for him at the moment. Thinking back now, even they were not expecting my dad to last as long as he did.
At last signs of improvement, I was going to get my Dad back and my Mum was going to get her hubby back home.
Mum and I looked at each other across the table and cried a million tears that had been pent up inside us since this happened. You know the good old British stiff upper lip came into play that night of the 23rd May and now we had news of hope, we just couldn’t hold back the emotions any more. No longer could we keep the stiff upper lip and we cried with sadness, feeling sorry for my dad having to go through this. We cried with joy that at last we had turned the corner and things were going to be OK. Every emotion that you can possibly think of swept over our bodies. Even anger.
We raced, yet again, back to the hospital, this time with a bag of toiletries, pyjamas, dressing gown and hope in our hearts. Even though they had told us Dad was still in a coma, there were signs that the deepness of the coma were lessening.
For the first time we mentioned my Birthday, which I had completely forgotten about, with Mum saying, “You are to go ahead with the party as that is what your Dad would want. Even if he can’t be there he would still want you to celebrate your Birthday.”
Our neighbours had been brilliant, when we needed to go to the hospital, they would look after my son.. to them I will be forever grateful to, especially the couple on the end, that let my son play with their daughter and do sleep overs, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
When we walked into the ward, it seemed as if nothing had changed. He was still lying there, not saying anything, motionless. But they spoke to us and told us to keep talking because they have seen a slight improvement. All that weekend, we talked utter rubbish.. especially me.
I was yacking and yacking away hoping frantically, hoping and waiting for the moment that my Dad would wake up and say, “For Gods sake, shut up.”
Then Monday came, it had been an entire week since this ordeal had started and I had promised my son that I would take him to the Dickens Festival in Rochester, before this even happened. And Mum and I decided to take him to the Dickens Festival.. as she said, “It would be what your father wanted.” Just like my Dad idolised me, he also idolised my son.
As my little four year old, went on the fairground rides and watched the street entertainers for that split second, our hearts lifted and we found happiness once again as we watched a little boy enjoy himself. It didn’t last long, before we came crashing back down to reality with a thump, but for that one brief moment we felt good. To be perfectly honest I can’t even remember what was there and what wasn’t. It was and still is a haze.
I remember walking though the crowds on Bank Holiday Monday, holding firmly onto my son, feeling totally numb as if I was dead inside. And at one point this numb feeling was overtaken by such anger as I saw people around me laughing and joking. This anger grew and grew and I felt like screaming at these happy people, “Why are you like this why are you laughing, don’t you know my dad is laying in a coma?” Then as soon as that emotion reached a crescendo it evaporated as quick as it had arrived, and I was back to feeling numb.
I felt as if I was going through a routine without even being there. It was like being on the outside looking in and not understanding what the hell was going on.
As we left the Dickens Festival, we drove then to the Hospital to see Dad… As we arrived, the nurses faces told us immediately, that things were not good.. he had deteriorated again. He had sunk even deeper into his comas and now there was no signs of improvement.
How could this happen? He was improving the day before and the day before that. What the heck was going on?
Again we were told to go home and they would call us… but this time there was no hope in their voices.
On leaving the Hospital we decided to drop in and tell a friend of my Dad’s who we couldn’t contact before, that my Dad was in Hospital. We stayed for a few minutes just enough time to tell them what happened and have a cuppa and then we left for home.
As we entered the front door of my Mum’s the phone was ringing… It was the Hospital telling us to return.
My friend and neighbour, said I wasn’t to drive, and she took charge of my son and told me not to worry and that her husband would take us back to the hospital. As we walked back down that ward corridor, the sister came up and hugged us… and told us he had suffered another massive stroke and there was nothing they could do now.. it was just a moment of time.
As a young trainee Doctor entered the room to take blood, I remember telling him to leave my father alone, and to let my dad die in peace without being a medical guinea pig or a pin cushion. In fact I think I told him as there is nothing you can do to leave him in peace and if he doesn’t he could find that needle somewhere he didn’t want it to go. The realisation that this was the end was overpowering, frightening and dreaded, it was beginning to sink in what was actually happening. My father was going to die.
My Dad never gave up easily, he was the fighter he always was, but at 12.15 pm the following day, the day before my Birthday, my father lost his fight for life. He passed peacefully away in his sleep and his best mate, who we had only told the night before, had managed to come and visit and have a chat with their best friend, my Dad.
On the day I should have been thinking about what to wear the next day, or about having my hair done and getting excited because I had reached the big three-0, I found myself arranging a funeral. My dear friend, did all the phoning to let my friends know what had happened and that the birthday celebrations were off, whilst mum and I told the family that my father had died.
I sat there numb. I had to be strong, for Mum’s sake, whose whole world had now fallen apart. I had to be the one to take control… and I had to do the best for my Dad, the man who I would never see again and whose voice I would never listen to again. How I so wanted to hear his voice, just one more time..
Fate plays an awful hand at times… My Dad lost his mother on his Birthday during the early hours, and I lost my Father the day before mine.
Birthday’s have never felt the same since. Where my people think, “It is my Birthday tomorrow.” I think “My dad died today.”
For 18 months, after my father’s death, I could not accept what had happened. For 18 months the only way I could cope is to act as if he never existed. When people spoke about my dad, I left the room. Not because I didn’t love him, but because I knew that if I started to talk about him, then I would breakdown one more time. The only way I could deal with the hurt was to put up this brick wall and keep this hurt on the other side of that wall.
For 18 months I lived with the attitude life went on, no good dwelling on the past.. stay focussed, keep yourself occupied, don’t think about the past.. look forward.
It took me a good 18 months to get back to near normality where I could start to talk about my dad and the good times we had. People deal with grief in different ways and believe me no way is the easy way. We have to do what is right for us and not what is right by others.
My coping mechanism was like the ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude. At times I know it must have hurt my mum that she couldn’t speak to me about my father in the way she wanted.. but being a true mum, she knew I would come to terms with my loss eventually.. so she gave me the time and space I needed.
People have asked me why I believe in euthanasia, and I know for a fact that should my dad have survived, like Tony Nicklinson survived his stroke, he wouldn’t have wanted to be trapped in a body that did not work. At the time though, I wanted him to survive, I didn’t care what disability he was left with we would cope. We would get through it.. now looking back, it was selfish, because it is not what my father would have wanted.
I know if he had been dependent on carers to feed him and care for him, it would have destroyed him inside knowing what life he had and what little bit of life he had been left with. It would have destroyed him mentally knowing that he could never drive again, and be the father and husband that he was.
I am just grateful to the years I did get to spend with my Dad. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.