I am sat on the tube on the way to work ready to finish my third week interning at Cosmopolitan Magazine. I have finished my second year at the University of Sheffield with a healthy 2:1 and have a summer filled with lovely plans, so life is pretty sweet. However, this time two years ago I would never in a million years think I would be where I am now.
The summer before going to university, my dad died. It was sudden, completely unexpected and left a lot of us puzzled/ angry/ confused as to why it all happened. In that moment when my mum told me I thought that was it. I thought my life would be swallowed up by sorrow and grieving and I would never get to where I wanted to be. I physically felt as if someone had punched me hard in the stomach and that my heart had been ripped straight out. No words can describe the feeling when I knew I’d never see his smile again, hear his infectious laugh or receive one of his big bear hugs.
But today, I didn’t feel like this. I woke up happy and proud of myself in what I have achieved and I take great comfort in knowing my dad would be absolutely bursting with pride too. Today I felt like I needed to get a few things out and share what I have learnt from these weird two years of my life. I don’t feel sorrow or sadness, I feel incredibly lucky to have the people who are in my life. There is no way I would have been able to get through these past two years without my family and most importantly my mum. She is the strongest person I will ever know and I am in awe of her every day. She inspires me greatly. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by all the supportive friends I have, those who have been there throughout the past few years (you know who you are) and the amazing lifelong friends I have made at uni. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by such great people at my home away from home and I really can’t imagine not knowing them. Also at uni I met my wonderful supportive boyfriend who annoys me SO much, but I can’t thank him enough for the endless love and support. Although he wasn’t there when it all happened, he has supported me ever since we first met and I wouldn’t have been able to get through first year without him. Because of all of these people I feel happy today and thought I’d share some stuff I have learnt along the way.
- Life goes on. This sounds stupid but it is true. It may seem like you can’t picture your life progressing and that everything goes dark but I promise you things get better. I know this sounds so stupid, but this is coming from someone who has been there. Some were surprised that I still wanted to go to uni and in hindsight I am shocked at how I did it. Moving away from home and away from the people who understood and knew how my heart had been shattered into a thousand tiny pieces was unbelievably difficult, but it was the best decision I made and I would never forgive myself if I didn’t go to uni and carry on with life. Dad would never forgive me too.
- Time is the BEST healer. That sounds really cheesy but it is so true and is something I will stand by forever. Two years ago I would never think I would actually feel happy and optimistic again but I am so incredibly happy, content and excited for what the future holds. I no longer feel angry, I just miss him but that will never fade. The anger does.
- There are positives. I have always been an optimist but even for me the last two years have been a struggle. But, you have no choice but to try and see the positives and over time I have learnt that there are. I understand mental health a lot better, I have gained more perspective on life, learnt what is important and what really doesn’t matter and most importantly it has made my family stronger (if that’s even possible). I have also hardened up a bit and not let people walk all over me, I used to be a bit of a push over and I am so thankful that has changed for the better.
- You soon see people’s true colours. Sad, but true. I am not sure what it is about death but it can make people incredibly selfish. I am not bitter in the slightest as I have enough incredible support which I am thankful every day for, but throughout this some people have really shocked me. Those who you thought would be there through it all and not just the anniversaries, birthdays or whatever life event my dad has missed, surprise you and unfortunately let you down. But that’s life I guess, in a way you learn who your true friends and family are and treasure them even more than you did before.
- It is ok to be angry/ sad. This was probably what took me the longest to learn. I hate being upset in front of other people and very few people have seen me break down and cry. In fact, I hardly even let myself realise how upset I am. Which is stupid, but it is part of who I am. I always thought I had to stay strong and support my brother because he was the youngest and my mum because I never wanted her to feel she had to support us alone as a single parent. But through me keeping my guard up and acting that I was fine caused me to be overlooked in all of this as I was just labelled as ‘fine’ because I had moved away and got on with life. However, even if someone seems fine and if they are getting on with it (then that’s great), you should still make sure they are ok. It may not seem like a lot to you, but it means the world to them. It is ok to scream and properly cry until you can’t cry anymore.
- Perspectives change. I think I have always been able to distinguish between bullshit and what is actually a real life problem, but this has heightened my perspective on things even more so. Little petty problems become unimportant to you and that’s ok and it allows you to stop dwelling and actually start doing.
- People jump on your grief. This one was what surprised me the most. I couldn’t believe how many people suddenly cared because of a shit thing happening and I was quite taken aback by it all. Maybe it was just people feeling like they should say something or they were just nosey, who knows. Be aware of who you open your heart to.
- You’ll get ignored. This again really shocked me. Death does weird things to people and some would rather stick their head in the sand than actually acknowledge what happened, which absolutely astounded me. I think people are scared sometimes of saying the wrong thing or upsetting you further, but trust me, it is better than saying nothing at all because that really is a kick in the teeth.
- Everyone deals with grief differently. Sometimes I felt pressured to feel a certain way or to go and see a counsellor because it was ‘the thing to do’. It isn’t, I went once and felt so patronised that I vowed never to go to anything like it every again. I have learnt that we all deal with things differently and at different paces, there is no guidelines on what you should feel and when, so take every day as it comes and remember with every really really shit day, there will always be a good one to balance things out. Learn what you do to cope and what makes you feel better.
- Cherish memories. Whenever I think of my dad I think of all the wonderful things we did. Every adventure, every laugh and even when I would call him names because he was so annoying. But I loved him endlessly because he was my dad. I want him to be remembered for who he was, not how things ended.
- Life is too short. This is incredibly cliché but I couldn’t agree with it more. Life is so precious and we need to make the most of it. I couldn’t understand when I was expected to wallow in grief and just let it take over. If anything, this has made me more determined to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way. Not that I needed it, but death is certainly a wakeup call to make you realise that you only get one life, so make the most of it. Something I am so thankful for is that my mum and dad have always thought this. People always questioned how we could afford to go away all the time and to amazing places, but the reality is that they prioritised experience and actually living before all the boring stuff that doesn’t matter when your gone. I have been to so many amazing places and it is all down to my parents. Those memories will never fade and I am so thankful for each and every one of them.
So, even though you aren’t here you still manage to teach me things not only about life but also myself. Cheers to you dad, I will be having a pint for you today and I know you are doing the same, somewhere.