When your father dies you are losing one of the most important relationships of your life. In this blog Jabz shares some of her experiences of grief, how Cruse helped her come to terms with it, and how Father's Day is now a chance for her to remember the happy times with her dad.
My dad passed away six years ago. He was a missing person for six weeks, but he was then found drowned in a river in Leeds. He’d been drinking and he slipped and fell. The drinking had been an ongoing problem throughout my childhood.
What were those first few days and weeks like?
The first few days and weeks I just remember being on autopilot. I kept active socially, with friends, and also had all the funeral planning to do. That side of things is something no one really talks about when they talk about death. Yes they talk about the grief and the loss, but they don't really talk about the administrative stuff. So I was helping my Mum a lot with closing the various accounts, sending emails every day saying “this person doesn't exist” and then sending the death certificate. I had never really thought about those things until then.
Initially I was dealing with it quite well, but then when the loneliness kicked in, my mood sank, very, very low, like depression. I found it hard to wake up for work and stuff like that. Work saw me struggling and it was them that suggested I go for counselling. And that's where I found Cruse.
Did you get much support from family and friends?
People didn't want to talk about it, or thought I should be over it. They also didn't want to upset me, so everyone was just really avoiding the subject. And then I became scared to bring it up because I didn’t want to look like I was complaining, or make things difficult for them. Some people became very awkward, and I lost a lot of friends.
I was feeling so lonely that I just needed to speak to someone.
How did you feel before and during your first session?
I felt I felt a bit nervous, but actually I was looking forward to just talking. I felt a bit apprehensive, but my Bereavement Volunteer put me at ease. The first session was just me explaining everything that happened.
Having someone validate your feelings or help articulate your feelings was amazing. For me, it was the first time someone had said “Oh, wow, that's a lot to go through”. And that helped me to understand why I was feeling like I was. Why I was so low. And they explained that grief isn’t linear, that it comes in waves. It's not like some structured timeline, where after this certain amount of time you should feel like this. It ebbs and flows. All that really helped me understand everything better.
How did you feel after the sessions finished?
I did feel better, I felt like I wasn’t crazy. Before I started receiving support from Cruse I felt like I was a weak person, because I couldn’t deal with it. I thought, “well bereavement happens to most people, so what’s wrong with me?” You really compare yourself to how other people have handled it.
But afterwards I understood that my feelings were normal. And that this process is completely normal. And it's different for everybody.
My Bereavement Volunteer also helped me to understand the circumstances around how my Dad died. It was very sudden, and so I couldn’t say goodbye. I was also questioning how he actually died. Obviously, there was a whole investigation, and all the other stuff, and she helped me understand how that could have made things more traumatising.
Do you think you have a better understanding of grief now?
I definitely have a much better understanding of grief. I think now, if I had someone close to me who was going through the same thing I was, I would know what to look out for, all the cues etc.
I also now understand that everyone deals with things in a completely different way. Personally, I now feel like I'm actually glad I went through the roughest part of the grieving process at that time. It's helped me to start a new life, just move forward and push towards my own personal goals.
Going through what I did, feeling some of the worst of feelings and going through that depression, it helped me better articulate my feelings. I've used my experiences to share my story and to reach out to others. It’s actually led to some charity work that I am doing, around alcoholism and how it affects families, and the mental health issues.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about coming to Cruse for support?
I would definitely recommend anyone to make that contact. There's no shame to admit that you need help.
It's an objective space. Privacy is kept, you will not be judged. You will not be told what to do, or how to think or feel. It's like a sounding board, to help you reflect on how you feel, and your actions, and kind of talk you through your experiences or your stages of grief. It can help you just understand yourself better.
Sometimes people tell us they find the run up to Father’s Day very difficult if they have lost their dad. How do you find it?
Personally for me it’s nice to remember the good memories I had with my dad. When someone passes, people are scared to talk about the person so as not to upset you. This makes them seem like a distant memory or someone that never existed. Times like Father's Day, Christmas, etc seem to make people more comfortable sharing the memories we had with him. I really appreciate this – I mean he was there for most of my life!