Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Death is shit. Inevitable and shit.
It's a harsh reality but at some point in our lives, we will all lose someone we love and care for dearly, whether that be a beloved family pet, a close relative or a dear friend. I'm sure we all agree that our first great experience of grief had to be when Mufasa died. I still can't watch it today without welling up. I know you are the same so don't even lie.
I made a conscious decision a few years ago to move away from working in a hospice environment to escape death. Granted, hospices are given a bad rep. They are far more inviting and warm than they'll ever be given credit for. People continue to believe the grim reaper is genuinely sat at the reception desk to check you in. I hate to disappoint anyone, but it's not quite like that.
Despite my experience of just how positive hospices can be, talking and writing about death all the time was getting a bit much. Despite my attempts to remove myself from it's needy grip, death just keeps making an unexpected and unwanted appearance, like that loser who ghosted you asking how you are late on a Saturday night. Aren't I a lucky sod?
Sadly (and I really do mean that in the strongest sense), just over a month ago, my wonderful grandpa passed away. At 8.30am on Saturday 1st June, I got the devastating news that one of the people I cared for the most in this world had gone and a little light in my life turned off. I always grew up believing I would be subconsciously prepared for that day, but it turns out I am and was far less prepared than I thought I would be.
Grief is something we will all face at some stage, if we haven't already. Sadly, my family and I have had our fair share of loss over the last 6 years. All of them have been very challenging for different reasons. Anyone who knows me knows that my dad died 6 years ago this year, and there is not a day that goes by where I don't think about him. If you ever had the privilege of meeting my dad, you'll understand why. I even miss him looking at my face with no make up on and asking if I'm ill. Only dad could get away with that one. Anyone else who makes such comments will get a slap.
The problem with grief, I have found, is that it is completely unpredictable, a bit like the M6 motorway. One moment, your day is going swell and you almost have a little skip in your step, and the next minute, grief comes along and shits all over your day. All of a sudden, you're consumed by the want and need to see or speak to the person you miss and you wonder when the bloody hell you'll stop being hijacked by such intense emotions. This is pretty much how the last few weeks have gone. Within the space of 60 seconds, I have consistently gone from one extreme to the other. From laughing along to memories of grandpa asking me what the time is and pressing his talking watch as I'm telling him anyway, to crying over the fact I won't ever hear him ask me if I can hear the TV when he is the one wearing the headphones.
As I've mentioned many a time before, I think self care is important 365 days of the year. However, I am making an effort to take extra care of myself during a period when, quite frankly, I feel a bit awful at times. I’m no expert, but hopefully at least one person finds it helpful to find out what I've been doing to make sure I'm the best I can be during a bit of a crappy time:
Making time for you Understandably, the day grandpa died, my family and I assembled, a bit like the avengers do during difficult times. I am lucky enough to have very supportive relatives, especially my brother and sister, so it was really reassuring to have each other to lean on. We are a bit like the power puff girls- always there for one another and taking on everything together. My brother will really appreciate that reference.
Despite how close we are, as you can imagine, emotions were high. Now, I can throw my hands up and admit that sometimes, I do not beat around the bush and I can be a bit of a sass queen. It's what makes me who I am. On the other hand, I found it hard to control the emotions I was feeling and found that heading back to Manchester for a few days to really absorb what happened in my own time and in my own way was really important. Everyone grieves in their own way and you can't expect everyone to be at the same level or respond in the same way. So, I buggered off back up north and took some time to think things through, on my own.
Talk, talk and talk some more I'll probably say this, on average, 5,634 times whilst writing these blogs but I really am lucky to have the friends I have. Knowing I can talk to them about anything and everything really is a blessing (just let me be a #blessed basic bitch for two seconds, please). Being able to talk to someone outside of the family about just how much I miss my grandpa has been so therapeutic because I do not have to live in fear of upsetting them. Sometimes, you just need one person to be your go-to. I'm lucky enough to have at least 4 (beat that, Taylor Swift! Who has more friends now?)
Enjoy yourself When someone dies, or even when someone is ill, it can be hard to enjoy yourself without experiencing feelings of guilt. There is an expectation put upon us that we simply cannot do anything other than rock in a corner, crying hysterically whilst helping Kleenex to reach their annual target within a matter of hours. That is an unfair and unhelpful expectation. I've found that grief is very much a rollercoaster and you should enjoy the highs whilst they last. Get dressed up and go out with your gal pals. You go on that holiday and soak up the sun (with factor 50 on, obviously). Or, in my case, take a 4 hour car journey down to Cardiff and go and stand a couple of metres from your favourite artist OF ALL TIME and, most importantly, enjoy every single second. We all need a little escapism in our lives and there is no shame in enjoying those moments of peace.
Be selfish I often feel under pressure to never let anyone down, both in my personal and professional life. Need someone to take over a training session for you first thing tomorrow with no time to prep? Up my hand goes. Need someone to travel to London at 6am and get back at 10pm? Here I am! Want me to meet you half way down the country to come so it's then only a 30 minute drive for you? Of course, no problem. It's something I am getting much better at but I appreciate it is just part of my character and what makes me both a good friend and colleague. However, at a time when I have a lot to think about, I have no shame in saying no to things that perhaps might take a toll on my mental health or wellbeing.
I am one of those people who absolutely HATES taking time off work when it isn't necessary. But on this occasion, I took a days worth of compassionate leave and accepted the fact that I go above and beyond every other day in my job so I was probably owed just one day to mourn my grandpa. This day gave me the much needed time to really process my emotions rather than burying myself in an avalanche of emails. Did anyone suffer because I took a day off? No. No harm done.
My grandpa was one of the most caring, charming, funny, resilient and selfless men I could ever have hoped to have in my life. He really was a true gentleman and possessed so many characteristics I wish I had. I don't know how I move on from here and when the pain will cease, but what I absolutely do know is that he'd want me to take care of myself, so that's exactly what I'll do. A girl never disobeys her grandparents, after all.