“Loss felt like I was gasping for air and my lungs were filling up with water.”
Some say it hits you like a ton of bricks, that it becomes ‘easier over time’. I figured that loss for me didn’t come in any of those waves, instead it was a dull ache that never left.
There was so much I needed to say to my Dad before I even considered standing at his funeral but unfortunately, I was left feeling shocked after a brief phone call in January of 2013. Even though our relationship was broken and practically non-existent, I was not mentally prepared for the battle that came after the 11th January. I felt that I had abused the time I should’ve spent with him. Instead of creating memories, I spent my time arguing. Why do we feel like we have all the time in the world? I left things too late, the words I needed to say were hanging off the tip of my tongue, clinging to my teeth but never did they have the chance to come out.
Shortly after the news was broken to me I decided to take a long, painful coach journey five hours up to Wales, where the rest of my family lived. For a while my world felt slow and quiet and days were merging into one another. Most were a blur, half-hearted smiles that faded as backs turned, most nights I turned to a bottle until I was able to fall asleep without being woken up by nightmares and images of my dad. The pattern was unhealthy, but I guess there was nothing pretty about dealing with death. Was I supposed to be taught how to deal with losing someone when I was younger? Was there a ‘right’ way to grieve without adopting so many bad habits in the process?
I remember after the funeral I spent a long time wondering when I should stop grieving. Why was everything put against the clock? Being aware of time is important but to have a time limit on my emotions was wrong. You don’t have to forget it, you don’t have to clear out the memories to stop the sadness, you just need to ride the wave and eventually, without telling yourself you need to move on, you’ll be wondering when the transition even occurred in the first place.
Dwelling over something for an extensive amount of time will only damage you, but ignoring what I was feeling at the time, has taken a chunk out of me that I don’t think will ever come back. I was trying to convince myself that I was okay, but my mindset was caught up on the many daunting questions surrounding my dad’s death that only came spewing out in a therapy session I had two years prior to my loss.
For someone who believed they had their shit together, loss really knows how to knock you off balance. It is both a blessing and a curse. For me, after opening up in those therapy sessions, I was able to come to terms with it, and for the first time I walked out of that room I dreaded going to, feeling really, and I mean really self-aware. My mindset shifted, so unexpectedly but more importantly with ease. I was able to see much clearer after many months of trying to peer through the thick fog.
It was a beautiful quality to have some naivety and purposeful ignorance about myself but once you experience personal loss, this gets taken away…at least for me it did. I was learning though.
Loss changed everything. The way I thought, the person I was, how my relationships with others were. Now, although those things do not pose as negatives, it’s the questions I began to ask myself that surrounded those things which really impacted me the most.
Although my dad’s times on earth was short, he helped me understand that I was not loving the way I should love. For the best of my life I always felt trapped in a box, confined in a space I was yet to call my own. I was conflicted with showing emotions, and ‘wearing my heart on my sleeve’ did not come naturally. A moment that will always stay with me was when I asked myself if my life was to be taken away from me at this very moment, how many things would be left unsaid. To no surprise came my answer; everything.
The lesson: take loss as a reminder.
A reminder of the things that exist in your world today.
Of all the words or actions that might not be able to be said and done tomorrow or next week.
Take loss and remember the right now.
Written by Rhea Marsden